31 Teams and Counting: How Penn State Athletics Tells Their Story on Social Media

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The department relies on teamwork and a cohesive brand image to execute their plans successfully.

Penn State has one of the largest athletic departments in the NCAA. How do they create a striking and consistent look for all their sports on social media?

The average NCAA Division I school fields nineteen varsity athletic teams. As college sports marketers will tell you, creating a unified look, feel, and voice on social media for nineteen sports teams is no simple task. Now imagine doing this for thirty-one varsity teams at a school with the seventh largest enrollment in the country.

That’s exactly what Kristina Nauman, Associate Director of Social Media for Penn State University (PSU) athletics, and the rest of the creative services staff, with the help of Team Infographics (TI) have been able to do.

Nauman (above) has overseen Penn State’s social channels for the last 17 months. (Photo via Kristina Nauman)

Nauman is a 2016 graduate of PSU who earned her degree in marketing. During her undergraduate years, Nauman landed an internship in Brand Digital with Under Armour. That eventually led her to pursue her current role with the Nittany Lions, where she has been for the last seventeen months.

“I figured what better way to combine a passion I already have for sports with another passion for Penn State with yet another love that I found working in social media,” Nauman says of her career path. “I have been able to develop my role a lot since starting here a year and a half ago and I’ve been enjoying what I’ve been able to make of it so far.”

At PSU, two full time staff members have social media as their primary role: Nauman and a separate director, who oversees the social channels for PSU football. Nauman is the sole manager of content for the main athletics social channels (@GoPSUSports), but also oversees social strategy for all of Penn State’s teams and teaches best practices to all staffers who manage a team’s social media presence as part of their duties.

“I meet weekly with anyone who manages social media and instead of just using social media as click bait to get people to our website or just checking a box to post a certain announcement, I think we’ve been strategic in the message we’re telling on social media, what the cadence looks like, how we’re presenting our stuff visually.”

In the course of the past year, Penn State athletic teams have gone through a visual rebrand on social media. Previously, each team, more or less, created their own visual/aesthetic guidelines. Now, Nauman and company’s strategic efforts have created a consistent and cohesive look for all of their team channels.

“We have some teams that felt like they already had a really strong individual identity. Not just on social media, but in all of their creative assets. To present this to them in a way that helps them to understand this is bringing all of our teams to the design forefront and helping to create a stronger overall brand that lifts everyone up simultaneously was a challenge.”

“But our graphic designers and the creative services team did a really cool job of bringing some of the coolest assets to those people first, so you’ve got to present it in a way that shows each team that they’re going to be benefiting just as much as the programs that are traditionally more in the spotlight.”

Penn State’s talented graphic design and photography team do a spectacular job of creating and compiling assets to tell the stories of PSU’s student-athletes. However, with thirty-one teams to promote, managing busy game days gets tricky. That’s where Team Infographics come in handy, as Nauman can attest.

“Our designers come up with the look. They have all the elements in place, and then TI basically elevate that design to the next level by adding motion elements to it. We don’t have the time or resources to have motion graphics on our own for the eleven different teams TI helps us with.”

PSU’s graphic designers create stunning static graphics like the one on the left for the men’s hockey program. But with the help of Team Infographics, they can add motion elements that can be produced quickly and on the fly. (Images via Kristina Nauman)

With the creative assets and brand standards in the hands of TI and their products, any athletics staffer just needs to plug in numbers and information using TI’s interface, and high quality graphics are good to go.

“The biggest benefit of working with TI is how seamlessly we are able to pump out high quality content for our teams during a time when we can’t replicate that content on our own in game. We know it’s going to look the same every single time no matter if it is a graphic designer or an intern that’s assisting with creating some of that content.”

Even with the help of TI, the fact that an operation as large as PSU does such a thorough and superb job of promoting their fencing and wrestling programs with the same passion and attention to detail as the football program is a testament to the power of teamwork.

“We have a very collaborative environment here. If we weren’t in constant contact and we didn’t all share the same creative vision and goal, then none of this would be possible, especially on game days. We have 10–15 different people who are covering the game and maybe 3–4 of those people are dedicated to executing primarily on social media.”

“So, it’s really a beast that we put a lot of time and effort into because we recognize the value it brings to our fans and also the value it brings back to our athletic department in telling the stories of our student-athletes in a meaningful way.”

As a digital creative/strategist, Nauman has shown the importance of being able to learn and adjust with the volatile nature of the social media world. For those aspiring to work in this area of the sport industry, she offers these parting words of advice:

“Keep learning. We work in a space that is constantly changing. It’s like playing a game where they’re constantly changing the rules on you. So, if you can continue to educate and innovate yourself, I think that’s how you’re going to succeed in this industry.”

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

*Team Infographics is a proud Partner of Front Office Sports.

For more on Team Infographics and their products, check out our profile on the company and founder Joe Centeno.

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