It started with a simple truth: People follow people on social media more than they follow brands. In the sports world, this truth means that individual people such as athletes, coaches, broadcasters and even super fans have become their own media channels.
That idea became action, and then results, for several INFLCR clients in the company’s first full college football season.
By partnering with their brand ambassadors — student-athletes, coaches, staff, et al — on social media, programs such as Auburn, Miami, Syracuse and many others across America reached millions more unique people on social media with university-created content than they could have on their own through their team social media accounts.
For this case study, we did a deep dive into the metrics of eight of INFLCR’s college football clients during the 2018 season: Miami, Kentucky, Syracuse, Auburn, UAB, Troy, South Florida and Charlotte.
Collectively, those clients uploaded more than 32,000 content items into the INFLCR platform, with their student-athletes and other brand ambassadors downloading or sharing 14,200 times to reach a collective cross-platform social media audience of more than 8 million people.
“It is validating to see our clients use the INFLCR software to grow their audiences and empower their student-athletes on social media,” said Liz Ballard, INFLCR vice president of client strategy. “The power of partnering with brand ambassadors to distribute great content is clear in our clients’ success reports.”
Four of the clients we focus on here at Power Five programs and four are Group of Five programs.
“No matter the size of the program, it is clear that partnering with your brand ambassadors can grow your audience significantly,” INFLCR founder and CEO Jim Cavale said.
The University of Miami is a strong example. UM student-athletes downloaded or shared 1,518 content items via INFLCR during the 2018 football season, reaching a collective audience of 2,890,863 people on Instagram and Twitter.
Hurricane student-athletes collectively received more than 455,000 “likes” of UM-produced content they shared on Instagram via INFLCR during the 2018 football season.
For Miami, using INFLCR was about more than additional audience. It was a tool to empower Hurricanes student-athletes to tell their own stories on social media, using quality university-produced content that featured them, to grow their personal brands within the context of the team.
From jersey releases to turnover chain celebrations, Miami equipped its student-athletes with all types of content to grow their brands during the season. A total of 105 different Miami football players were active on INFLCR throughout the season, downloading and sharing team content from their personalized galleries such as this post by Senior Bowl-bound senior defensive back Sheldrick Redwine.
“We’re really excited about the partnership of Miami Hurricanes football and INFLCR,” said Tim Brogdon, director of Digital Strategy at UM. “The University of Miami is one of the most well-known brands in all of sports, and our student-athletes are in the spotlight in many capacities – one of the biggest being the social media realm.
With that in mind, we wanted to give our student-athletes a tool to showcase and build their personal brands while also helping grow the Miami Hurricanes brand at the same time.
“We want our student-athletes to leave Miami with a social brand that showcases who they are, what they’re about and to make sure they’re ready for the real world, no matter their profession once they graduate from The U.”
While Miami is one of the most prominent brands in college sports, one doesn’t have to have the audience reach of the Hurricanes to experience power in partnering with brand ambassadors. Group of Five clients such as South Florida, UAB, Troy and Charlotte also reached 10 to 20 times the audience by providing their student-athletes and other brand ambassadors with digital catalogues of their collegiate experience, right to their phones via the INFLCR mobile app.
UAB student-athletes, in fact, led all clients in 2018 with more than 3,400 downloads and shares during a 2018 season that saw the Blazers win their first Conference USA championship and earn their first bowl victory.
Miami, Kentucky, Syracuse, Auburn, UAB, Troy and South Florida all expanded their deals with INFLCR to include multiple sports in 2018. Charlotte initiated a deal for all 18 of its NCAA varsity sports at the college football midseason.
“We couldn’t be more excited to add our men’s and women’s basketball programs to INFLCR,” UAB Associate AD of Communications Ted Feeley said when the deal was announced. “The influence this product has had on our football program has been substantial, and we look forward to expanding our success on the hardwood.”
In a social media-dominated world where it costs brands as much as $10 for every thousand people their paid messages reach (CPMs), INFLCR is helping clients reach people for a fraction of that cost with organic storytelling content from the key individuals that are truly their brand ambassadors.
But beyond the eyeballs, partnering with the brand ambassadors holds tremendous advantages for the brand in areas that positively impact recruiting, brand protection and increased value to existing partnerships. Don’t have a brand ambassador strategy? Here are 10 reasons you should.
“The athlete gains access to content in which he appears, and the school reaches that audience in a way that can be measured with content that helps the athlete build his or her personal brand within the context of the team,” Cavale said. “As more and more eyes move away from television and traditional media to shift to the phone and social media, partnering with your brand ambassadors is a win-win for everyone.”