It’s officially fall – the air is getting crisp, kids are going back to school (in person and online), and college football is back in the lineup. With the announcement that Big Ten college football will return in October, so too is the social media activity surrounding the season, from athletes and fans alike. And anyone associated with a university’s athletics who has a visible social media account – from players to coaches to administrators – needs to be aligned on a social media strategy, especially as the N.C.A.A. has outlined new rules for athletes to be paid for endorsements and social media deals. As you dust off your social media playbooks for this atypical season, here are a few things to consider.
Athletes as influencers
The impending name, image, and likeness (NIL) legislation will soon give student athletes the ability to profit off their social media presence. According to the New York Times, “the new N.C.A.A. plan will allow athletes to make deals as social media influencers, appear in commercials and hold paid autograph sessions, among other opportunities.” As their position as “influencers” strengthens, this creates even more urgency for collegiate athletic programs to develop strategic social media training and content execution plans to help student-athletes navigate this new territory.
By laying the foundation now, you can give student-athletes guidance on which platforms to prioritize, what kind of content works on each platform, tactics to maximize engagement, and the significance of being an extension of your university’s brand.
Protecting your brand
Most institutions have had social media guidelines in place since Facebook debuted at college campuses in 2004 – but not all athletic programs have effectively managed or even provided social media training for student-athletes. This is a missed opportunity as young adults have a significant and growing impact on your brand’s overall perception.
We’ve all seen the headlines from a result of poor social media choices and strategies, and content posted on social media is subject to more intense scrutiny than ever before. By guiding student-athletes’ digital output and empowering them with vital social media skills, your institution and athletic department can greatly benefit – both in the short and long-term.
Recruiting future athletes and fans
Current student-athletes are one of the key – and most organic – ways to connect with potential future athletes and fans. They’re already using the same platforms as these prospective student-athletes but could be creating content in a more targeted way – even by facilitating one-on-one communication with potential recruits – to showcase the student-athlete experience while reinforcing and elevating the program’s brand positioning.
A coordinated social media effort can also maximize marketing efforts for everything from new facilities to apparel and ticket sales. This allows athletes to become strong, forward-facing ambassadors of their athletic programs, reaching prospective student-athletes and fans alike. This would also create increased exposure, particularly for non-revenue sports. Awareness of these sports – and when they compete – could increase the likelihood of fans engaging with the sport in person or virtually.
While all the top-tier college football conferences appear to be proceeding with a season this fall, even in the off-season, it’s important for all athletic programs to have a coordinated strategy in place – especially as players off the field find their way online, and before athletes can start to earn based on their social media following.
Magid works with universities, athletic teams and other organizations to build social media strategies and develop training. Looking for ideas on how to improve your social savvy? Let’s talk.