Athletics’ Role in Brand Strategy at University of Florida

Athletics can be a win for your university’s brand strategy in the field of social media.

College sports brands have huge audiences and often have far greater numbers of followers on social media than the universities themselves. How can this benefit an institution’s greater communication strategy?

Recently we talked to Bruce Floyd, Social Media Manager at the Florida Gators about the communications role that athletics plays in overall brand strategy. We’ll look at 5 things to remember about using athletics to put points on the brand strategy board.

Remember your role and don’t get siloed.

Too many athletic programs are siloed, with little to no communication with other parts of the university. It’s important to have good relationships inside academic circles and with the administrative side.

Recognize that you are part of a team and your goal is the same as the rest of the university—to showcase the university as a top-tier competitor in every way.

Keep communication open so you can be a part of the larger conversation of how to best tout all the areas the university is succeeding.

Remember your audience and be smart about what you share.

Just because your sports audiences are bigger doesn’t mean you can just dump all the content from the general university’s feed and expect cheering.

Sports audiences are there for a specific kind of content. Some of the audience will be alumni and will care deeply about non-athletic school news, but most are just fans of the sports themselves.

But sports fans are excited by winning. They are interested in rankings and they like success. When the University of Florida was recently ranked as a Top 10 university by US News and World Reports, it was a win that all the athletic audiences cheered for.

Remember your KPI is attendance.

Because many of the events Bruce promotes are free, ticket sales or gate receipts aren’t a meaningful factor for most of what his team does. But what they love to do is pack the seats and rev up the crowds.

Likes on Facebook are great, but the best type of engagement you can drive is butts in seats. Or, better yet, butts out of their seats because they are standing up, cheering on your athletes.

Remember smaller sports have passionate fans.

Football is almost always going to be on top, but some of the most engaged audiences may be in smaller sports.

One of Bruce’s first decisions was to create niche accounts for specific sports. Before that, not even football had a dedicated page. This more effectively targets fans with content they want to see.

This pays off for Bruce in curation. Bruce uses a tool called Crowdtangle that tips him off when a post gets a lot of attention within one of the smaller pages.

In this way, niche fans can help you curate the content for general pages.

Remember “it’s just a game” and have a sense of humor.

The crowd, especially on Twitter and other social media, can be just plain mean. Humor is a way to disarm some of that, and also to remind followers that there are real people behind these avatars and logos.

Humor can be misused or overused and you want to be careful not to do things that can be misinterpreted, but it’s a great way to pull back the curtain and show that under the pads, the helmet, and the uniform, athletes are people and students too.

Using humor to show their personalities off the field helps people see athletes as people, and may be the thing that brings them to a game to support the athletes they feel they have come to know.

More in the podcast

Sports social media can do much more for your university’s brand than just share game times and scores. Engage your sports fans with winning content, and they will cheer for more than just their sport of choice.