BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — UAB stunned the college football world in 2017 with #TheReturn. After a two-year program hiatus, the Blazers returned to NCAA football and promptly won eight games and reached the Bahamas Bowl. It was one of the biggest and most inspiring college football stories of the season.
So what do the Blazers do for an encore?
That is one of the questions that extends beyond the field for the UAB administration, including Ted Feeley, UAB’s associate AD of communications. Without the newness and national attention of bringing the program back from the dead, how would Feeley’s team generate excitement for the Blazers, who now are just like every other FBS team preparing to start the season?
“Last year, it was The Return, but if you look at what we’ve built and what we’ve created with Coach Clark, it wasn’t just one year,” Feeley said. “We don’t want The Return to be just 2017 and be OK with being 8-5. This is Year 2 now and we have expectations. Last year no one knew what we had and they predicted us to be last in the country. This year some people are picking us to in our conference. It’s how you manage those expectations.
“It has been fun to promote. We have people on watch lists, Freshmen All-Americans who are now sophomores. It’s been fun.”
One way to engage fans — and potential fans — is social media, where the strategy included releasing the team’s official hype video. Using the INFLCR software, the staff uploaded the 1-minute video into UAB’s cloud-based INFLCR account. The video was then tagged in UAB’s INFLCR content storage and distribution technology, placing it into the personal galleries of every member of the team, staff, coaches, key alumni and media representatives to be accessed through the INFLCR mobile app.
Receiving a notification, those brand ambassadors could then easily share the video across social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and UAB could track the collective lift it received from that broader audience. The Blazers’ video got a boost, for example, when it was shared on Facebook by local television reporter Christina Chambers — where it received more views than the video received on the official UAB Football Facebook account.
“The message is Win As One, and it’s not just the football team,” Feeley said. “It’s not just the athletic department. It’s the whole university. It’s the whole city. We want to win as one city. We’re all in this together. That was the thought behind (the video), giving that video and edge and having a custom soundtrack for it. We have an advertising agency, Burton Advertising, who made that and just knocked it out of the park. …
“We wanted to come out with something that was edgy, and something that would say, not only are we back, but we’re here to stay.”
INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale, one of the nation’s leading experts on personal branding and a former collegiate athlete himself, said the video certainly hits the mark of tying a revitalized football program to a revitalized city of Birmingham. The UAB story and the Birmingham story are parallel successes.
“That video does a great job of telling this Birmingham story in conjunction with this UAB football story,” Cavale said. “We don’t have a pro team in Birmingham. This is a big opportunity for our metro area of more than one million people to embrace this program. It’s important that we embrace this as a city.”
And selling tickets certainly is one of the goals. UAB led Conference USA in average attendance in 2017, and will be looking to build on that in year 2 while also extending a home winning streak that is at six games entering the Blazers’ season opener against Savannah State on Thursday.
“Nothing breeds fun like crowds,” said UAB Associate Athletic Director Brad Hardekopf. “It’s affordable, accessible and fun. We’ve got these gameday enhancements such as food trucks, Blazer Village is a blast, individual season tickets start as low as $99, we’ve rolled out a family four-pack for $300 which is $75 per ticket on a season basis. We’re looking to continue to grow our base of support through ticket sales.”
For Feeley, the success of the hype video was also a validation of what the Blazers hope to achieve in their partnership with INFLCR. UAB is beginning its second season with INFLCR. The Blazers are among a client list that includes programs from Conference USA, the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, American, Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences.
“I tell the team, if you want pictures and videos, they are going to be in your INFLCR mobile app. Literally after every practice, we get the photos and upload them straight into the INFLCR app. The rate of downloads and social shares by them has been incredible. … there is content there for everybody.
“I took a little pride in telling them we have the most uploads into INFLCR and the most downloads — to keep ingraining it into their head that this is a product for them, and they have the ability to use it. And they are. They have taken that to heart. We’re not the biggest staff in the world, so to see our work out there and people actually using it and appreciating it is a very good feeling. It helps with the brand.
“We take social media so seriously because it has become a serious thing. The ability to do it at a high level and to take pride in it is something that i have instilled in our staff. … It’s something I want to do well and it’s something I want to make sure UAB does well. That goes to the players, the support staff, my staff. It’s just a huge asset to be able to tell your story and do something creative and be on the cutting edge of it. It’s an arms race, and that’s how you’re going to get recruits, that’s how you’re going to get seen.”
Learn more about INFLCR and book a demo here.
Influencer (INFLCR) is a social media CRM that allows teams and leagues to efficiently distribute their digital assets across the social channels of their most effective brand ambassadors (student-athletes, coaches, recruits prominent alumni and fans) while being able to track and measure the reach and performance of the content at scale via a convenient dashboard. With INFLCR, teams can store, share and track their digital assets (game photos, videos, etc.) as they flow through the social media channels of their brand ambassadors. Learn more at inflcr.com