So much has changed since the last time the Kentucky Wildcats beat the Florida Gators.
“31 and Done” screamed newspaper and website headlines after the Wildcats beat the Gators Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla., noting the end of three-decades-plus of Florida dominance.
Kentucky fans celebrated like it was 1986. Well, not exactly.
Players who competed Saturday were not born the last time Kentucky beat Florida. For that matter, there were assistant coaches who were not born then, either. Ronald Reagan was president then. The Berlin Wall had not yet fallen. Top Gun was the No. 1 movie. And Donald Trump was a team owner in the old United States Football League instead of the president of the United States.
But the biggest change may have been in the way the game itself was consumed by the masses.
In the pre-internet days, fans would have rushed out to buy a Sunday morning paper to hear from the winning (or losing) team. They might’ve seen a few seconds of highlights. ESPN was still emerging in 1986 and there were not yet countless hours of college-specific programming across multiple sports channels — much less a cable channel devoted exclusively to SEC Football.
“What’s dramatically different is the sports media landscape,” says Jim Cavale, CEO and founder of Influencer (INFLCR) and one of the nation’s top experts on personal branding. “Thirty-one years ago, not only was this game not on national television but there were only five or six nationally televised games every Saturday. Now, not only was this game on national television, one of dozens and dozens of games on television, but every player — from Josh Allen to Terry Wilson to Benny Snell, all have their own channels: Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. The coaches, from Coach Stoops to down to Director of Player Development Freddie Maggard, have their own Twitter accounts. Even the key alums like Tim Couch, a former No. 1 draft pick from Kentucky, are posting about this game on social media.
“They are all able to be channels promoting this huge win for Kentucky, to let the world know Kentucky Football is back on the map and it’s not just a fluke. This team is good.”
Fans soaked in the moment in real time on social media … and they could connect directly to the players — and the players could take control of their own story on social platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. Their message no longer was filtered through the gaggle of reporters in their postgame locker room. They could snap photos or shoot videos from their smartphones and connect to the world in seconds.
The Wildcats had technological assistance to tell their story, too. Using the INFLCR mobile app, Kentucky players accessed and shared photos and videos produced by the university, helping them grow both their own and Kentucky’s audience, as well as their personal brands within context of the UK Football brand, across social media.
“This team has several top NFL prospects on this team,” Cavale says. “That win is just the beginning, and people are going to find out about the UK football talent faster because of social media. It is putting guys like Josh Allen and Benny Snell on a stage where they are going to be able to grow their personal brand that much more before they get to the NFL Combine next year and their draft stock starts to be a real stat.”
Fans also could get in on the fun themselves. We’re all storytellers these days, aren’t we? And memes are our language.
That isn’t to say the old media ways are gone even if they don’t dominate like they did back in 1986. The Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi summed up the Florida perspective well in his postgame column from The Swamp. Sometimes the old dinosaurs still can roar even if they, too, also often do so in 140 characters or less on Twitter.
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.
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