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Saturday, May 18, 2024

How Kentucky Football’s Digital Team Creates Content and Empowers Student-Athletes

Kentucky - Football - Digital

*Team Infographics is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

For decades, the University of Kentucky has been synonymous with the sport of basketball due to the school’s eight national championships on the men’s side. For the past few years, however, excitement from the members of Big Blue Nation has been growing when it comes to the football program as well.

This is thanks, in large part, to the coaching tactics of head coach Mark Stoops, the electrifying play of running back Benny Snell Jr., and the digital prowess of UK Director of Athletics Communications and Public Relations Susan Lax.

After 22 years with the university and three in her current role with the football program, Lax claims to have seen it all with how much the Wildcats have fluctuated in terms of their on-field product. Whether it be good or bad, Lax can tell a fan and/or media member everything that there is to know about UK football.

“I’ve seen all the ups and downs of Kentucky football,” Lax said. “I know every player that’s played. I know how hard it’s been on our fans. I know how hard coach Stoops has worked in this last six years to grow to where we are right now. I take so much pride in it. This is what I wake up thinking about and what I go to sleep thinking about.”

Along with a crew of 11 staffers, Lax helps direct the handling of marketing and communications for the football program.

The team is comprised of photographers, graphic designers, and videographers telling the story of the program’s rise to a national top-20 ranking, which included the first defeat of divisional rival Florida since 1986 earlier this season. That helped UK achieve the fourth-most interactions among Division I athletic department accounts in September with 118,000.

Each week, that crew meets to find new ways to highlight how the Wildcats are continuing to improve.

“We have different designers design different looks each week, and so it’s been really fun because everybody in that room is creative and we’re just testing out ideas left and right. And it’s hard to keep up with them all.”

The Wildcats have already accrued enough wins this season to secure bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season. But both the football team and the digital team have no plans to slow down amidst rising expectations. Snell and linebacker Josh Allen have been big focal points for both.

“We know we have something special in this team. What we wanted to do creatively is take the personalities of these guys and pay it forward.” said Lax.

In addition to making Snell the subject of much of its marketing materials, the football communications team has taken steps to help the running back build his personal brand for the future. This is something the university strives to do with all of their student-athletes. With Snell, in particular, the communications team has begun the process of helping him acquire the trademark to the phrase “Snell Yeah,” which he has tattooed across his stomach.

SEE MORE: Michigan Athletics Turns to Facebook to Drive New Donations

The staff also helped Snell set up his personal website: SnellYeah.com. They did something similar for Allen with DraftJosh41len.com. Lax can attest that the power of personal branding has become a bigger emphasis for Kentucky football players over the last few years.

“We’ve always brought in speakers during the summer and fall camp to talk to them about building their brand using Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter,” Lax said. “Everything they do when they post is about their brand. We also brought in a company called Influencer (INFLCR) because we were spending so much time sending out photos and video to players who were asking us for it. Now, we use Influencer (INFLCR) so that we can get that content that we send out to our athletes faster. That it helps them build their brand so that you don’t see as many retweets of music or things like that on players’ pages. Because they have that content straight from us, their profiles are more on brand with Kentucky football, as well as their own personal brands.”

From an aesthetic point of view, the graphic designers have embraced the simplistic elements of UK’s branding, namely the colors.

“We really wanted the blue to pop in the images, so we limited the color palette to mainly neutral grays and blue,” said Kentucky’s Creative Director Brandon Kolditz. “The neutral tone helps take out distractions and puts the focal point on our Kentucky blue. We also focused on using no more than two fonts, primarily going with our brand font, Torque, and then using a script font for words we wanted to emphasize, such as the Get Up slogan.”

That enthusiasm portrayed in the graphics reflects how Big Blue Nation supports its favorite team.

“Like much of Kentucky, we are a blue-collar program that will build our success by hard work, grit and determination,” continued Kolditz. “We wanted a look that displayed that feel. We kept it simple and clean, not wanting a lot of elements or opponent colors to distract the viewer away from the powerful messaging that Get Up conveys.”

In addition to its on-staff designers, Kentucky has also begun using Team Infographics this year to supplement gameday content.

“We wanted to do something a little bit more flashy with movement,” explained Lax. “We wanted the stat information to be there, but we also wanted folks to instantly know it was Kentucky every time they see it.”

SEE MORE: Paws & Claws Club Provides Auburn Pets the Opportunity to Be Fans 

Not only has Team Infographics worked with Lax and her team to develop high-quality motion graphics, but the CMS allows them to produce these graphics easily and on the fly.  

“It’s just so easy to use, which is great for our students who help us during the game. We have the photos that we’ve taken all year already in the system. So all we need to do is make sure that the stat information is correct and, with the click of a button, we have a graphic.”

While the Wildcat football program ranks 30th in FBS with 330,360 combined followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, vanity metrics are not a primary focus for UK. The main focus is simply on quality.

While the team puts in the work to rise through the ranks of the college sports digital world, Lax reflected on putting in the work to get to her current role and the can-do attitude that helped her along the way.

“When I started, I was willing to do anything. I drove the track and field van to meets, I would open doors, I did public address for baseball; I was doing everything. I wasn’t entitled to anything and I just kept working my way up until now.”

Just as that attitude has allowed Lax to achieve her role, it has allowed the digital team to create excellent content for a football program undoubtedly on the rise.

*Team Infographics is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

See more excellent content from UK Football by following the program on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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