Inside The Huddle: Eric DeSalvo Breaks Down a Winning Platform Strategy

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In the buildup to the first of Front Office Sports’ Huddle Series on February 22, we’re introducing you to the huddle leaders who will be lending their expertise to the conversation.

Today, meet Eric DeSalvo, assistant athletic director for content at the University of Central Florida. He will be one of the leaders of the huddle, “Where to Post: Developing a Better Platform Strategy.”

The UCF Knights’ football team finished the 2017 season undefeated with a conference championship and a Peach Bowl victory over the Auburn Tigers. After that game, UCF Athletic Director Danny White declared his team national champions. DeSalvo and the rest of the department ran with it — and the result was one of the most successful marketing campaigns in recent history within college sports.

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“I put my phone in front of Danny White’s face at the Peach Bowl and he said three words that changed the landscape of college football,” DeSalvo recalls. “When he said ‘national champs, undefeated’ and walked away, it was one of the biggest ‘mic-drop’ moments. It shaped the conversation for the whole offseason, and it’s still going.”

From the national champions push, UCF gained well over $200,000,000 in earned media from news articles, social posts, and television coverage, increasing UCF’s brand exposure exponentially. That campaign and the last seven years at UCF have taught DeSalvo a great deal about being an effective marketer and content creator.

When developing a platform strategy, DeSalvo recommends digital marketing professionals keep in mind four words when deciding what content goes where.

“Remember the four E’s: engaging, emotional, entertainment, and educational,” DeSalvo said. “You should be trying to hit at least one of those four in a post. Which one you go for most often is going to vary depending on the platform. On Twitter, I’m focused on engagement, particularly one-on-one engagement, since it’s the most intimate platform.”

DeSalvo also heavily believes in focusing on engagement on all platforms because it goes a long way in building brand affinity.

“I always have felt that if someone takes the time to ‘@’ you in a tweet and it’s in a positive way, you should give them a response back because it can go a long way in building brand affinity. It can be tough during a big game when so much is happening so fast, but hopefully we can at least give them a like.”

Sometimes engaging content can also be emotional because it builds such a strong connection between a team and the fans. This past season, prior to UCF’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, the football team was able to connect via Twitter with a young fan who was unable to travel to the game due to heart complications.

DeSalvo and UCF tight end Anthony Roberson quickly assembled several members of the team to send a video out, wishing her a speedy recovery. The fan and her family were ecstatic.

“I think it goes to show that by taking action, one post can change the perception of these student-athletes and the team itself,” DeSalvo stated. “It also shows off their personalities and how much they care about the people who support them off the field. Thanks to social media, we can reach so many people so quickly with impactful messages.”

DeSalvo also recommends taking note of the differences in age demographics by platform. For example, Instagram typically has a younger audience while Facebook tends to be older adults.

“On the football team’s Instagram, it’s insane how many high school kids are on there. Most just want the attention. But I’m going to give some of them attention because it gives us attention back. So I’m keeping that audience on Instagram engaged as well as entertained. Meanwhile, a lot of Facebook for us is educational and entertaining as well. It’s going to be your oldest audience for mostly everybody, so you have to word things differently a lot of the times then you would on Instagram.”

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Throughout his career with the Knights’ championship athletic department, DeSalvo maintains that audience interaction is a major key to platform strategy, as well as good digital marketing as a whole.

“I take the most pride in our interaction percentage,” DeSalvo said. “Out of the top-15 most interacted-with FBS teams in 2018, UCF Football was second in interaction rate on Twitter and number one on Instagram.

“Interaction rates are always going to be most important to me because I know our UCF accounts may not be as followed as some of the blue bloods in college athletics, but if we can have the highest — or one of the highest — interaction rates, that means we’re creating content that is hitting a lot of those E’s I talked about.”

Meet DeSalvo and hear more of his thoughts on the current digital landscape at the Front Office Sports Digital Media Huddle presented by Opendorse in New York on February 22. For tickets and additional info, click here.