(*INFLCR is a proud partner of FOS)
More and more colleges and universities are seeing the value of sharing their athletic department’s content with student-athletes and letting those athletes express themselves through dynamic posts on their own social media channels.
During the 2019 NCAA Tournament, 25 teams consisting of more than 350 individual players used INFLCR’s content distribution platform to share photo and video content on social media.
Those 350 players downloaded and shared over 1400 unique pieces of content from their personal INFLCR content libraries, which included photos from USA Today’s national photography network.
The combined Instagram audience reach of these teams was 10.3 million, with a total of three million likes on content distributed with INFLCR.
Statistically, leveraging players’ social media audiences makes sense because, in some cases, they may have larger followings than the team account itself. If nothing else, however, their following most likely consists of users who follow the player but not necessarily the team.
“When you take a deeper dive into what social is, for a lot of the administrators that I have a conversation with, I tell them, ‘Hey, a lot of the people that we want to tap into aren’t North Carolina fans yet,” says University of North Carolina (UNC) director of basketball operations Sean May. “But, they are Nassir Little fans, or they’re Coby White fans, or they’re Luke Maye fans.”
In today’s landscape, it has never been more important for college athletes to build a strong personal brand, which can serve them very well later on in life.
An active, organized social media presence that distributes quality content makes it easier for players to secure certain sponsorship deals after they leave school.
Auburn Tigers’ guard Bryce Brown, for example, grew his Instagram audience from 9,700 to 37,000 this past season. Brown now understands the value of building up his personal brand and advises other young athletes to do the same.
“Continue to build your brand, because at the end of the day, it’s going to help you, it’s going to help your family, and more and more people will know about you,” Brown says. “The more and more you help your Instagram look better, the more people will want to follow you, and it just makes you look better as an individual.”
On their historic run to the 2019 Final Four, the Auburn Tigers used INFLCR to distribute over 2,900 pieces of content to 17 athletes and coaches, who downloaded or shared 1,000 pieces of content on social media. Their posts reached more than 680,000 people across Twitter and Instagram.
“It’s very important that we invest in our student-athletes just as much off the field or court as we do on it,” says Auburn director of athletics Allen Greene.
“INFLCR has allowed us to leverage existing content that our first-class creative staff is already producing on a daily basis by providing real-time access to our student-athletes to use in telling their respective stories on social so that they can build their brand within the context of the Auburn brand they’re a part of.”
To that end, the athletes not only understand the importance of building their brand, but they appreciate the help they’re receiving from their athletic departments.
“It means a lot. I feel like, at the end of the day, they’re looking out for us and want the best for us,” says Brown. “So, when they’re spending money on things like INFLCR…it lets us know that they’re thinking about us, and trying to improve our brand. Not only theirs, but ours as well.
“It just helps to have them looking out for us, and I really appreciate it.”
The collaboration between school and student-athlete allows for productive conversations about social media responsibility, and it changes the dynamic of college social media strategy. Given direction and accountability, athletes recognize their role as brand ambassadors for the school, and can use content to reinforce their department’s brand while building themselves up.
Schools like UNC understand this and know that many recruits understand it as well.
“[Having INFLCR is] a great advantage that we have, being able to tell guys, ‘We know how important social is to you, and it is to us,’” May says. “The one thing we want to do is put a great product out on the floor, but we also want to help you guys build your brand so that, whenever you do leave, you can capitalize on that and be able to tell your story in the way that you want.”
Those stories can end up being the most impactful when schools rise to new heights, as was the case for the Auburn Tigers making it to the Final Four.
“The storytelling that occurred throughout our March Madness run was special,” said Greene.
“Our student-athletes, coaches and staff embraced the media they had access to through INFLCR, from both our internal content team and through INFLCR’s newly inked USA Today partnership. They shared this content on multiple mediums win by win, and even when it was over, to let the world in on our special run from their perspective. I was proud of the Auburn brand and how ready for the moment we truly were. Especially on social media.”