Sean May has been to the pinnacle of college basketball as a national champion and national player of the year. Now as director of basketball operations at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, he sees the Tar Heels have the opportunity to do something he couldn’t: Tell their own stories as they chase their basketball dreams.
Social media wasn’t part of the equation when May was a star player at UNC in the mid-2000s. Now it’s a central part of the experience for a generation of athletes who have grown with smart phones in their hands and Instagram at their fingertips.
“It would have been awesome,” May says, wishing he’d had such a platform when he was working his way to the NBA. “These guys have an awesome tool in their hands being able to have their content and be able to share it. I would have loved to have had it back then.
Pictures tell a story — the old saying, a picture is worth 1,000 words. There are so many different stories that one photo can tell.”
UNC is one of 25 men’s and women’s basketball teams that used the Influencer (INFLCR) platform during the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Collectively, more than 350 student-athletes had access to more than 7,200 photos, videos, and other content items that they could share.
Armed with great content, the student-athletes could tell their own stories on social, growing their personal brand within the context of their team’s brand.
They downloaded and shared more than 1,400 items, and reached an Instagram audience of more than 10.3 MILLION people, receiving more than 3 million “likes” on Instagram.
“It’s a great advantage that we have, being able to tell guys, ‘We know how important social is to you, and it is to us,’” May says. “The one thing we want to do is put a great product out on the floor, but we also want to help you guys build your brand so that whenever you do leave, you can capitalize on that and be able to tell your story in the way that you want.”
For a college basketball player, it doesn’t get bigger than March Madness. The NCAA Tournament represents the largest spotlight — and a tremendous platform for those participating in the tournament to grow their personal brands on social media.
INFLCR’s software and mobile app helped UNC and other programs such as Duke, Auburn and Kentucky distribute their internally-curated content into personalized galleries on each of the mobile devices of their athletes, coaches and other brand ambassadors, for them to access and share via their personal social-media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook.
Team staff could then use its INFLCR dashboard and usage reports to track their “audience lift” via the much-larger collective audience of those brand ambassadors.
Thanks to INFLCR’s partnership with USA Today’s IMAGN content, players often had national-media photos from their tournament games waiting for them in the INFLCR app when they returned to the locker room from the court.
“(INFLCR) fulfilled a need that a lot of people don’t realize that they need because they have these media departments in-house that produce content,” May says.
“The thing that I always go back to is that the year before, I had so many one-off text messages about, ‘hey, can I get this picture …’ When I saw what INFLCR was doing, it just made sense — the idea of helping our guys grow their brand by giving them content that we are already providing only helps us. There is no negative to it. It’s very rare to find something where there is not a negative in it at all.
“For us, our guys are going to get the content from somewhere. We see all the time that they go on social media and the repost different things that people are putting out about them. For us, it just made sense to be able to give them the content, and we see what it has been able to do this year.
It’s been great. Our guys have loved it, and it’s hard to find something that 18 guys all enjoy and all like. This has been great for us.”
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.