Facilities continue to get bigger, perks continue to get better, and apparel continues to get fresher, but the one thing that is catching the eyes of recruits and current student-athletes today is the ability for schools to help them build their personal brands responsibly.
From Instagram to Twitter, and even Facebook, highly-touted recruits like Zion Williamson have become social media sensations who have used the platforms to grow the hype around their game and their persona.
It’s this hype, and following, that student-athletes are no longer taking for granted, and instead, leveraging the creative ability and content generation capabilities of their respective schools to bolster their online brands.
For a player like Williamson, his athleticism and eye-popping dunks have allowed him to gain a following of 104k on just Twitter alone, a number that is higher than ten of the school’s team accounts that he will be competing against inside the ACC next year.
With an increased emphasis on not only growth inside of college digital departments, but ways to distribute the content that is being produced, some of the SEC’s biggest schools have turned to Birmingham-based tech company Influencer (INFLCR) to help them accomplish this task.
“Athletes want content quickly and they don’t want to have to do much to get their hands on it,” said Austin Penny, Digital Media Specialist for Auburn Athletics. “Before INFLCR, our process was lengthy and we weren’t able to get content to our players in a useable way very quickly or efficiently. Now, players can access all of the content from their phones through the app and get notifications when they are tagged in a piece of content. Plus, they can share the content directly from the app or save it to their phones easily.”
The ability to share content directly to the student-athletes has allowed both Auburn and Kentucky to see a bump in following across all of their platforms, which INFLCR’s metrics dashboards allows them to aggregate and measure.
“We have seen an increase in follower numbers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for both our player’s individual accounts as well as UK MBB’s accounts,” said Eric Lindsey, Kentucky’s Associate Media Relations Director for Men’s Basketball and Women’s Golf. “We’ve also seen better fan engagement and more engagement with the content from our players.”
Not only has the software been pivotal for helping the digital teams deliver content to their student-athletes, it has allowed for a simplified way for recruiting staffs to monitor their player’s social media accounts.
“Our recruiting staff, in particular, loves how it streamlines the process of monitoring Twitter,” said Justin King, Associate AD for New & Creative Media for South Carolina Athletics.
Whether it is a new videographer, a new designer, or 3 more interns producing high-quality content, without the capabilities and tools to distribute the content, schools and their student-athletes miss out on the opportunity to leverage both of their strengths to create a cohesive brand image across team and player accounts.
“We want these guys from day one when they get here to have the tools they need to brand themselves and use social media like a pro so they’re prepared when they make it to the next level.” – Eric Lindsey, Associate Media Relations Director for Men’s Basketball and Women’s Golf for Kentucky Athletics
As relationships have grown and the demand from the programs has continued to increase, INFLCR has had to scale alongside their partners, something that has been a learning experience for everyone involved.
“Like most young software as a service (SaaS) brands, we are learning a ton from our clients, and luckily we are nimble enough to provide them with everything they can ask for,” said Jim Cavale, Founder and CEO of INFLCR
For years, we have been told that content is king, and while that may be true, the opportunity to streamline distribution of content that has had countless amounts of resources devoted to it might just be queen.
With access to distribution funnels that now work across channels, Kentucky, Auburn, and South Carolina all have the ability to have their student-athletes become their biggest brand advocates while allowing them to reap the benefits of having high-quality content readily available, something that Austin Penny takes great pride in.
“Being able to tell these guys that coming to Auburn not only means they’ll get an education and get to play football, but also means they will have the opportunity to use their platform as a college athlete to grow their personal brand using the tools we have here is huge.”
As programs continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of their student-athletes, recruits and their families are looking for more than juice bars and gaudy gyms, they are looking for the tools that will prepare them and give them the chance to succeed whether or not they touch the field as a professional.
It’s this change, and the shift in mentality for recruits, that will shape the next wave of investments at the collegiate athletic level, and for Justin King, a movement that is already paying dividends.
“INFLCR has become a powerful recruitment tool for us. Being able to use the INFLCR app to show not only recruits, but their parents, how easy it is to receive and share content has been a huge selling point for our program.”
*INFCLR is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports.