LSU’s creative operation is truly an all-hands-on-deck affair.
The university has 21 varsity sports, six of which are ticketed (football, gymnastics, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, and softball). Each of the ticketed sports has several full-time staffers from LSU Athletics’ Creative Services — all of whom pitch in for the department’s crown jewel: the Tigers’ football team.
Having so many creative staffers in the department allows the program to integrate designers and photographers within a specific sport, which makes for content that feels more personal and passionately made.
“We have the opportunity and the access to tell the story of the team different than just any media outlet,” said Jason Feirman, executive director of LSU Creative Services. “So those creatives have a relationship with the sport, they get to know the people, the athletes, and the coaches get to know them. As a result, you get a little bit better results in content, meaning better video, better photography behind the scenes, you just get that personal connection from the team to our fans.”
While the ticketed sports obviously are a high priority, Feirman and creative services also devote a large amount of time (if not more time than the ticketed sports) to non-revenue sports. This is done due to both effort needed to increase attendance for these sports when compared to football or basketball, but also to ensure that all of the Tigers’ student-athletes get the full LSU experience.
Whatever the sport, though, Feirman and team take pride in providing a deeply personal look at these programs.
“From a content standpoint, we can tell stories that only happen behind the walls. For some sports, the goal would be to approach it as a documentary. Like a nonstop ‘here’s what’s going on today’ or ‘here’s going on at this exact practice.’ But that’s not always the way to go. We could go way overboard, but really it’s about finding those key points of interest that intrigue the fan, promote your program, and in some cases determine whether a recruit chooses your school.”
One of the most impressive aspects of LSU’s approach to digital content is its ability to embrace former student-athletes now competing as professionals. With football specifically, Feirman and team regularly celebrate the fact that well over 300 players have gone on to play in the NFL. This falls into that category of unique aspects of the school that attracts both fans and recruits.
For an example of specific content, ProFootballRumors.com recently released an article on NFL cap dollars by college, a figure LSU leads in. The football recruiting team was on top of it and turned this information into a striking graphic.
The grind pays off 💰
— LSU Football Recruiting (@LSUFBrecruiting) July 9, 2018
“Sixty one of our players are going to earn $160 million-plus in the 2018 season. So how can we leverage these numbers? Those are great things, especially for recruits.”
Feirman goes on to explain their thought process with content in regards to the “NFLSU” movement.
“We are constantly trying to have that visual connection to the purple and gold, and leverage the long history of Tigers in the NFL. Any school can just put the NFL shield, but with ‘NFLU’ we’re cross-promoting; making the connection between two powerful brands. We’re so connected with the NFL, with having the most players on active rosters. The amount of players that compete in the playoffs and then onto the Super Bowl and even win championships makes it really hard to not notice another Tiger on Sundays. A big part of all of that is how they were prepared for the league by LSU, our coaching staff, strength staff and the rest of our administration. We are constantly recognizing all of the great things our formers Tigers are accomplishing and connecting it back to LSU so it creates a lasting impression.”
As those in this space will tell you, as fun as offseason content can be, nothing compares to college football game days — especially at a place like LSU. Feirman spoke quite a bit about preparing for the 125th season of Tiger football.
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) July 11, 2018
“My football game days are really starting right now in July. We have been thinking and constantly tinkering our visual look for the upcoming year. This is our 125th season of LSU Football and we have been working on that since late January. We’ve worked with our different departments to develop scripts for videos and taglines like ‘The Glory of the Purple and Gold’ that you’ll see throughout the year. We wanted to embrace our present team and also celebrate our well-known Jersey 18 tradition with this being 2018.”
One of the biggest pieces of preparing for a game, as Feirman can attest, is having an understanding of what the team has the potential to achieve in a given week. That is why the creative department keeps a close eye on the team’s performance on the field and adjusts their graphics/content plan accordingly.
“If someone can move up the record book, we have all those type of notes from our communications staff ready to go. We’ve got to be prepared to highlight accomplishments every single game. It also includes being ready for the preseason national award watch lists and other accomplishments that are garnered throughout the season. We’re always preparing to celebrate our players’ personal accolades whether it’s from the conference or nationally.”
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) July 2, 2018
Naturally, LSU also alters its content strategy by platform and by sport due to differences in key audience metrics. Feirman explains more on this.
“All of our sports are leveraging Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We have a very open-ended policy with our staff because each of our sports have different target audiences. There’s not one thing that works for all. A large segment of our gymnastics audience, for example, is females under 17. So that determines the content we’re delivering. There was a focus on Instagram stories throughout this past season and not as much on Facebook. However, we see some of our largest numbers on Facebook when it comes to other sports.”
Ultimately, Feirman empowers the staffers under his umbrella to be the best they can be through top of the line tools.
“I try to make sure that our staff has the resources they need to deliver great content. They have the cameras, computers, software, servers, and networks in place that we need to get the job done. For example, new technology has enabled our photographers to transmit pictures during events direct to our social accounts in less than 30 seconds.”
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Working in press boxes at LSU since his junior year of high school, Feirman’s passion and cumulative love for the LSU brand comes across beautifully across all of LSU’s platform. But passion alone doesn’t get a young creative to a role like Feirman’s. It comes through something that those in sports get used to over time: practice, practice, practice.
“Your content has to be unique. It’s got to be interesting. You’ve got to make people want to share it. And it just comes with a lot of practice of knowing what works and doesn’t work and watching the numbers. Not just posting it, but actually going back and looking at your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook numbers a few hours later or just even within 10 minutes. With our passionate LSU fan base, we’ve seen thousands of retweets in less than 10 minutes, depending on the moment. So it’s just knowing when to pull the trigger and how to promote it the proper way.”