In this webinar: Mississippi State’s Leah Beasley, INFLCR’s Jim Cavale, and Front Office Sports’ Adam White
Full webinar description:
The college football season is coming to a close and a number of teams saw success both on the field and on social media. With many of these teams, this was achieved through quality storytelling content distributed via the channels of their players. This factor will be will be a key component of winning social strategies for years to come.
In this webinar, Mississippi State Executive Senior Assoc. A.D. of External Affairs Leah Beasley and INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale join FOS CEO Adam White to discuss successful social media strategies from the 2019 college football regular season, and how making student-athletes a central part of content strategy can produce extraordinary results for college athletics programs.
Adam White: All right, Adam White here with another Front Office Sports webinar. Appreciate everyone joining us today, obviously, the first week back for most people on a holiday.
Super excited about today’s topic, college football and social data driven strategies for producing and deploying high-quality content presented by our friends over at INFLCR. And today we’re joined by Jim from INFLCR and Leah from Mississippi State. I’m going to let them get into their background, why they’re here, why they’re talking about things.
While you guys are listening to that, feel free to jump into the chat. You should see it. You should be able to interact with us, drop your name, where you’re from, so everyone can get to know each other. Looking forward to the conversation over the next hour. If you do have any questions or you do have any things that you would like to ask Leah or Jim, feel free to drop them into the chat or into the questions and we’ll be happy to integrate them into the conversation. But yeah, looking forward to it. And Thanks all for joining us.
And, Jim, I’ll toss it over to you first.
Jim Cavale: Well, my name is Jim. I’m the founder of CEO of INFLCR. You know, really humbled to be a part of this, you know, this social media sports community that’s continued to grow. There’s so many jobs that didn’t exist five years ago that exist now. And I think that will only increase as time goes on.
And, and so, you know, our purpose as a company, INFLCR’s purpose is to serve storytellers. And that obviously is a word storyteller that can be used interchangeably with a lot of different folks. It could be folks like yourself watching who work every day tirelessly to create content and distribute content through social media and other digital channels. It can also be athletes who really is the end user we’ve embraced most at INFLCR, who has the following and desires to have more access to content to tell their story, but ultimately, that’s a big reason our company exists.
And, you know, in two years we’ve grown from, you know, one client in Kentucky Athletics to more than 100 in the college space alone, more than 500 teams, more than 15,000 athletes now use the INFLCR app on their phone more than four times a week to grab content and share it on social, to an audience bigger than 30 million.
And to have that growth story in two years, including the growth story of building a team here at our Birmingham headquarters of folks like yourself watching people that are professionals in sports in social, working on this team here at INFLCR, almost 30 people on our team, that growth story is, you know, really because of the timing of what we’re all in right now. We’ve done some things right. But you have to have luck in business.
And the timing is right now is the biggest, most potent growth time for social media and storytelling for athletes. And in college sports, that’s only going to compound with what’s coming ahead of us with name, image, and likeness, some of the other things ahead.
So, we’re proud to be a part of that movement. But we’re also humbled to know we do not have all the answers and we’re going to rely a lot on our partners, meaning, the athletic departments we work with, the 500-plus teams; the athletes we work with, to try to continue to build the best solutions to be able to serve you and save you time so that you can bring more value to the fans and recruits that your content is created for.
Adam White: Awesome. Appreciate it brother. And we should talk about the, some of the stuff you guys are preparing for NIL at some point too throughout this conversation and Leah as well, but we would love to have you just kind of run through your background as well and kind of just how you see the landscape.
Leah Beasley: So, Leah Beasley, I’m our executive senior associate athletic director over External Affairs, so lots of words in that title. But basically, I oversee the five areas, five pods of our external team at Mississippi State University, member the Southeastern Conference and the… those pods are kind of comprised of our, our marketing crews, so marketing, advertising, promotion, logos, branding, all of that, fan experience in game.
We also have our broadcast operations crews. So, those are our affiliates who deal with the video board operations and our SEC network, ESPN, CBS affiliates, they deal with the TV side and the network side of things, pushing out all of our events and our games. We have our creative team. So we recently restructured over the last summer, a decision that, that we made to be more streamlined, and as Jim was saying, the content and storytelling are at an all-time high right now and that’s due to social media and technology in the digital space. And so, we decided at Mississippi State, we don’t have time to be inefficient.
And so, one thing that, that was a big charge on my plate was to streamline a lot of our motives.
So we took photography, videography, graphic design and social media, and we put… and email marketing, we place them all in one pod called our Creative Team. So they handle our digital space and social media as well. They also get help from our comm teams, that’s our third pod is our communications, public relations media relations team.
And while they may be hitting send and doing in-game for all their sports, those SID that you guys know, kind of handle social media for those sports, they work really closely with our creative team on an overall strategy and how to tell our story, how to get that content out in the best way, best platform, best timing, best messaging with a consistent tone, and that’s kind of driven by our creative team.
So we have about, probably about 30 to 35 members on our external staff, and they kill it every day. A new a new group we just added to our team is our digital and outbound ticket sales team. We also couple that with our fan experience group, and they are a group of students in GAs led by a full timer and they are working very closely with our ticket office and as well as our creative team and the rest of our team to kind of, again, use our home base of fan experience to then drive revenue.
So, obviously, revenue is, is important to all of us. And one thing that Jim and I were talking about is always kind of dive into the why, Adam, if you’re good with that, is before we kind of dive into some of the strategies that you guys are here for, just to kind of talk about why we’re even having this discussion.
And hopefully, you all agree with this statement, but it’s, it should be driven by the student athlete and the fan experience.
And I see some of you are with different groups. You’re not all with universities and you’re not on collegiate athletics, specifically at a university or a college, but everybody in any business room can understand your repeat customers. You have to have repeat customers. And those repeat customers are constantly engaging and constantly yearning for, asking for content. And so, that is our job.
If you forget everything else today, our job is to tell our story and to produce content that our fans want to eat, sleep and breathe. That’s our job.
And our home base at that, at that core at all of our decision making, it should be for, for you guys, for me, it is for our crew. If any of our crew is on here right now, I know they’re probably rolling their eyes at me because they hear this all the time, but it’s the student athlete and the fan experience should be at the core of your decision making.
And that, of course, is then helped and aided by content and storytelling. If you’re not telling those stories, then your fans aren’t getting the nuggets that they want to help them continue to drive. If they’re not… continue to drive and come back, then you’re not making any money, and therefore, you’re not sustaining your business, and our business is ultimately getting folks at our events.
But before that, it’s making sure that they enjoy our events. And that by doing that, they’re enjoying and then eating up the content that we’re producing.
Jim Cavale: Yeah, I mean, that’s, that cycles that you’re talking about, Leah, is, is really something that everyone needs to think about whether you’re in pro or college sports, because the cycle you’re talking about really comes down to free storytelling.
You know, if you look at a funnel, since everybody still is trying to generate revenue at the end of the day, right? Obviously, the people at the bottom of the funnel are the ones buying tickets, buying merchandise, providing all the revenue that’s funding these operations at the college or pro level. But you can’t just have a bottom-of-funnel strategy. You have to have a top-of-funnel strategy. And the top-of-funnel strategy is branding. It’s the stuff that you can’t purely link to ROI but it’s where ROI begin. And without it, your ROI won’t be the same.
And so, everybody has got a boss in here if you’re on the, on the content or social media staff of a university or an agency or whatever, you’ve got a boss who is asking for reports to show them ROI, right? But what you’ve got to be able to do is communicate how the top-of-the-funnel stuff you’re doing with social is translating into the bottom-of-funnel results.
And so, what I look at is, since I’m so focused and we are so focused at INFLCR on the individual storytelling efforts of athletes in a collective manner for teams, who follows athletes. And the reality is a fourth of their followers, more than 25% are recruits.
We just did a study top 100 college basketball recruits, and more than 90% of them followed players on the teams recruiting them before they ever had followed the team account of the team recruiting them. So they’re trying to get a look at the program recruiting them from the eyes of the players currently playing on that program.
More than 50% of athletes followers are fans, the same people you’re trying reach through other efforts, TV, traditional media down to non-traditional things like social are following your athletes. And keep in mind, your athletes together as a whole have a unique collective following that outnumbers their team account by an average of three and a half times. So there’s three and a half times more people, fans and recruits making up three-fourths of that number, that you can reach through athletes.
And so, as we know, social is hard because it’s not just one post, it changes everything. It’s a grind. And athletes want content. And they want, they want as much of it as they can get as often as they can get it in as real time as possible. And we break those down. They want as much as they can get. So that means everything you’re shooting already, vesting payroll into to produce, they want access to it.
They’re also wondering, they tell me this, when they’re on the field or the court, “Who’s that photographer there? Who are they with? What media outlet are they with? I wonder if they got this picture of this play I made or this pregame thing I was doing in the end zone with my friends?” Right? So they want as much from you, from the media outlets that cover you as they can get. Second thing is they want it in real time. They don’t want content that’s available three days later.
As you know with social, it’s a now society. So when you look at Brady Breeze’s post, which outperformed Oregon’s team account greatly after he won the defensive MVP at the Rose Bowl, and you look at the impact of him doing that seconds after he walked off the stage with the trophy, well, everybody really cares about the Rose Bowl. Keep in mind, you know, this time next year, many people won’t be able to name who played in that game because there’s so many bowl games, but that’s a big-time post that he needs access to right away, and he needs access to that content right away. And so, I think that’s really important to mention.
And going into what Leah talked about, like, you look at just Mississippi State football, Mississippi State football, had 36, the athletes had 3,694 shares on social on multiple platforms during camp through the end of the season. 3,694 shares; 133 different individuals were the ones sharing 3,600-plus times, almost 3,700 times. There is an active, unique weekly audience on Instagram alone through their athletes of 114,000 additional people. So outside of their team account, they were reaching another six-figure audience through their athletes.
Leah Beasley: On that number, that number is the one that we’re using. So a ton, I mean, obviously, you know, the numbers that Jim is mentioning, his team, they’re constantly giving us reports and feedback and then we’re able to, to… I’m able to take that back to, you know, to our CFO and say, “Our investment is paying off and we’re able to, through INFLCR, to be able to reach six figures, in addition to what we’re doing on our own, on our own accounts.”
But as Jim mentioned, the amount of followers that our student athletes have, your student athletes have, not only the numbers there, so, you’re getting the quantity, but you’re also getting a diverse base of demographics. So, you know, people… different people follow Facebook. Different people follow Instagram.
We all know where those demographics lie. We know how we need to kind of speak on Facebook, speak on Instagram and speak on Twitter, we understand that. But to understand that our fans, no matter what age group, demographic, they are following our student athletes, they’re in… and they’re a little bit more forgiving of our student athletes in what they’re posting and what they’re saying than they would be perhaps if they’re judging what we are saying. So, we are using that forgiveness and we are using those, that wide depth of diversity by those who follow our student athletes in order to, for us to grow our image and grow our brand as well as Jim was saying.
So that hundred, almost 114,000; 115,000 is, is huge for us and that ROI that we’re talking about.
Jim Cavale: And, and, Leah, talk about the engagement rate factor, right? Because we all know that, I mean, it’s widely publicized that an athlete post of the same exact picture is going to get 10 times as much engagement as the team account is going to get.
Leah Beasley: Absolutely. And it’s because it’s coming from them, again, it just, it hits heavier. We are… they’re hitting the recruits, as Jim was mentioning, and they are hitting the, our fan base too who are buying season tickets. So for us, we’re constantly thinking about it being twofold.
You marketers out there who are working for universities, you’ll understand when you’re sitting down with your coaches, it didn’t necessarily used to be so much of a focus on the recruiting side. And now our coaches are constantly asking for help in recruiting. And we may not be growing in staff, so therefore, what do we have to do? We have to utilize technology. We have to be innovative and creative. We’re not adding a ton of staff for the marketing departments to then go and sell the football coaching staff. Here’s what we are doing to help you in recruiting. So we’re investing in technology that does that for us.
We have a team that is doing that for us that may not necessarily be on our payroll. So that’s incredibly efficient.
And at Mississippi State and probably like, like many of you, I’m seeing a lot of the universities listed, you can’t afford inefficiency. We might be in the SEC. That’s, and, and that’s… and we love it, the SEC, the greatest conference there is. Sorry, I had to do that plug.
But we, but we also, we’re not the LSU or not the Alabamas or not the Floridas, excuse me if you guys are on here, good for you, our budget is not that. Our staff is not that. We are not made up like that. So what we have to do is be more efficient every single day.
We have to ask, “Are those decisions that we’re making going to help in recruiting and then going to touch our bottom line?” Which, for us, our bottom line, our home base and necessarily revenue generation, that comes from this. But again, it’s student athlete and fan experience. So this tool, INFLCR is helping us touch that. In every single one, in every single-hour meetings, I meet with all of our coaches and all of our student athletes, every single team of our 16 teams that we have. And we talk about recruiting, we talk about what we can do, we talk about photos, videos, what they can do on social media.
And right now we started off with Jim and his team with our four revenues sports, so football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball.
And we had an INFLCR training. We use a lot of what INFLCR gave us as background. But then we also took each student athlete through that. So they had their phones. We had our staff there. We’re telling them what we are able to do with them. As soon as you tell them that they have their own brand and they are able to capitalize on that using the incredible content that we’re able to give them, their eyes light up.
So they’re like, how can I get that because it’s the days of texting us and saying, “Hey, please send me those photos,” that’s thankfully over for us now because we have INFLCR. It’s just, again, a lot more efficient so that our staff can focus on other things in promoting our program and not constantly texting student athletes individual pictures. So you’re, you’re serving your recruits. You’re serving your fan base, and you’re serving your brand.
Jim Cavale: I think also, talk, on the efficiency note, everyone who’s on here, you’re investing a lot of your school or your agency or team is investing dollars into content creation. And I want you to start thinking about, from all levels of content, from the most beautifully-edited video that you spend two days on shooting and three days on editing, to the picture that was snapped four different angles from a play and in between, how can you have efficiency with your content?
And one thing that I love about Mississippi State’s story and I see this a lot, something I track with all the reports from all of our teams and clients, is content efficiency. And so, Mississippi State uploaded just under 10,000 pictures and videos to INFLCR. And about half of those were shared on social.
And so, think about it. Think about a tweet, right, a great tweet that’s retweeted by 100 different people and they’re all retweeting, obviously, the same creative, because it’s a retweet. Now think about 100 different people posting 100 different things with 100 different messages from their perspective.
I look at it like the old TV affiliate model, you know, you have NBC and then NBC has all their market channels—NBC Atlanta, NBC Boston, NBC Detroit. Same thing here. Your school has affiliate channels in the athletes who want to be those channels, they want to build their own brand. And if you give them a lot of the content in a frequent manner, and it’s in real time, they’re going to use it and they’re going to use it more if they’re able to use it how they want, share it, what, what platform they want to share it on, say what they want to say, rather than having you package up what you think they like and what you think they want to say and where you think they want to share it.
Leah Beasley: All right. Now, and in that too what we’ve been able to do to take it a step further is, yes, they get to have their own brand and their own messaging, but we still do on our end, we still, you know, go off with a training that we do with everything we’ll see before the season starts, and just let them know what they could say could affect them. We still give them verbiage if they want to use it. Some of them do. Some of them don’t.
A lot of times they’re like, “What should I say here?” So we help them in that, in those ways too just to kind of continually train them and that’s part of that student athlete experience. We’re trying to help them to know what to say, what might get the most engagement on their end, so that it, again, carries them beyond their graduation from Mississippi State.
Adam White: What are some of the contents that they’re creating? You know, you both talk about the contents in the groups and things like that. What are some of the… the way that is, the pictures, is it images, like how are you guys optimizing? Are you optimizing with an extra photographer because everyone wants photos or they want more video? How does that kind of shake out for, for you guys, Leah, and even Jim’s staff with overall?
Leah Beasley: Yeah, it’s video and photos and its content. They will find… now they know our photographers. They know our videographers. And sometimes Jim was saying, you know, “Who’s that person?” They will go up to people and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t work for Mississippi state,” but they’re… because they’re looking for that.
We’ve also had to, had to be aware and our coaches had to be aware to of, “Hey, like you saw the game to play.” So just kind of be aware of when that is happening. So we, on our team, that’s something that we didn’t really expect for them to be seeking out those, those creators, and so, we do have to kind of, kind of pull back a little bit just so they’re focused on their game. But we’re always promising them and there’s never been a time where we fail to give them content. So they have trusted that we’re doing that.
They’re trusting that we’re finding them, and that we’re going to upload that, you know, give them that content very easily and quickly. So, we’ll see them posting it, literally they get in the locker room, they do their postgame speech. And then they’re literally on their phones looking for what we’ve been able to give them.
But I’ll tell you, it’s not just game stuff. Like they love the game stuff for sure but, for instance, from the bowl game, we get a lot of our guys that went to the waterpark, we went to just different… we went to dances.
We went to different things that, you know, bowl activities, and a lot of guys were like, “I want to see, me in the water park. Did you, did you post that yet?” And so, that’s pretty cool too to see that they, as Jim was saying, they want to see what they’re dancing in the end zone with their friends. They want to see more of that fun content too. And that, again, shows their personality off of the court, off of the field.
And one thing too is we all know you can have a rough season. We’ve been through that. We, we just got, we just got through with a little bit of that here.
And so, if we could tie our fans into, and our student athletes, if we can tie that into a love for a player, you’re, you’re in love with what you see Kylin Hill who is by the way our most engaged, he uses the platform the most, and the fans eat it up. But our fans are loving what he’s doing. They’re loving the dances. They’re loving the smiles. They’re loving all the stuff that he’s doing off the field, because he’s a funny guy, and he’s a very entertaining guy.
And if they are falling, falling in love with him there, then maybe it won’t matter as much as if he, you know, doesn’t gain a lot of yards. So, it’s not tied necessarily to the wins and losses as much as it is to the relationship with the, with the student athlete. And that’s what we’re trying to do too. Because we cannot control. Jim can’t control. Adam, you can’t control wins and losses. As much as we want to, we can’t. But what we can control is the content and the messaging, and that then helps our fan base stay connected, stay engaged, even if we’re losing. And then it helps us sell tickets because those folks are invested in the student athlete.
You’re seeing the personalities of these kids.
Jim Cavale: Yeah, and I love Kylin’s story. I mean, almost 600 app sessions were he engaged with content on INFLCR on his app. You know, in, you know, less than a year, I mean, more than two a day he’s on there all the time. I think, I think that we need to realize too that we’re… all of us in these roles, no matter how young you are, we’re not as native to technology and social as the student athletes are at our university or as the athletes are if you’re at a pro team agency, and in, especially with your recruits.
I’ve had many visits this year where I’m seeing a football game of a client and they say, “Hey, we’ve got to recruit on campus, could you talk to him and his parents because the recruit wants to talk about social.” They want to know what’s your content team look like. If they don’t say they want to know, they still want to know so you need to know that yourself and make sure that the process is there.
Now, the disconnect between coaches and everything we’re talking about today, and athletic directors and everything we’re talking about today can be limiting. You know, one of the beauties of our Mississippi State partnership is like that meeting took place with Leah, and John Cohen the AD, because John gets it, and the coaches there really get it. And that helps Leah be able to be empowered to lead her team to do what you’re hearing her team has been able to do. I know many work at schools that might be different than that, or might work with athletes that are different than what we’re talking about.
I think education is big.
And so, being able to show the numbers like the ones we just talked about, 10x engagement on an athlete post versus our team’s post. You know, athletes had access to 10,000 pictures and videos and shared almost half of those throughout the season, reaching an average audience on Instagram alone of six figures per week, right. Like those kinds of things will get folks listening, 26% of the followers of the average student athlete on our teams is a recruit. Like use those to try to educate the coaches and other staff members, and even your AD on these things because it is the future. And it is what recruits want to be sold.
Leah Beasley: And I think, Jim, maybe if, and, Adam, I’m kind of going all the way out here. But if those numbers because, obviously, I have our numbers beside me. But if those numbers that you’re talking about to kind of help our folks on this call, you know, talk to their influencers, talk to their CFO, talk to their ADs about this type of investment, maybe we could send that out, Adam, to the…
Adam White: Yeah.
Leah Beasley: …to the, so that email just to kind of say, hey, like, as you’re saying, percentage of recruits, you know, how much engagement you can get, you know, the, the number of followers these kids have versus our own accounts, our own verified accounts. So that’s, that’s absolutely huge.
Jim Cavale: I agree.
Adam White: And speaking of [inaudible 0:25:56] John actually asked. He’s like, “Provided when we say three, four x, eyeballs, impressions, unique users, replies, forwards of content, comments, etc. what levels of engagement are you guys tracking? So since we’re on the subject, we might as well talk, talk about that. And it could be probably unique for both, yeah, cases.
Jim Cavale: Yeah, I think for, for the 10x average engagement of an athlete post versus a team post. So, on our platform this year, we averaged across all 15,000 athletes in 2019, their posts had 21% engagement versus a little over 2% engagement for the average team post of their team.
That engagement puts everything in one bucket. So comments, shares to stories, likes, all the different things that fit within the definition of engagement, not actually a breakdown that I would provide right now. But I do think that one of the engagement things I think is very interesting, and you’re seeing our athletes do it a ton, is re-sharing stories.
So one thing that we really push our athlete users on is when you’re using content in a story, to involve other people on your team or from other teams in that content. Call out your buddy that you played high school ball with if he’s playing for another school for having a great game and tag him. Call out your teammates who had a great game who’s in the shot with you and tag her. Right?
And by doing that, you’re seeing, and I think we’ve seen it all this year anyways on Instagram, people resharing stories, which is exposing each other to different demographics and audiences that each other has from where they came from. And that’s really what social is all about. And anybody who’s become an influencer on social has only just borrowed audiences from other people, other, you know, industries, genres, etc., right?
And so, I think, out of all the engagement things, while comments and likes are great mechanism and views, the videos are a great way to gauge the success of a piece of content, I think also seeing how many shares of that post happened if it’s Instagram or if it’s Twitter, you know, retweets I think is a great one because it shows how many new audiences it was exposed to outside of the core audience you have.
Leah Beasley: Yeah, and that’s not… in addition to that too, it’s longevity. I mean, we all know that social media is very fleeting. Sometimes we want it to be, that’s okay. But sometimes we want our, you know, our video that took our videographers hours and days and prep work to create, we want that to have a longer shelf life.
And by using our student athletes to do so, and then retweeting, retweeting with comments, sharing, quote, you know, all of those things, it’s making it last longer. It’s making its shelf life longer for something that took our team so long to create.
Jim mentioned engagements, but on top of that too just account growth. I mean, you’re talking about our overall account growth for, you know, for instance, Kylin alone was over 30% in a season, that’s talking in a season, so that’s huge. Obviously he, he had success. But a lot of that is from what he’s putting out there.
Our fans are able to see behind the scenes information, because of what we’re able to give them. And that’s causing his account to grow. If he can then come back and we can say, “Look how much Kylin’s account grew,” then, you know, his buddy also wants that, too. They want that branding. They want to go to the next level. All of our student athletes want to go pro, and they understand that this is going to help them do that too by getting their name and their… a lot of their content out there.
But we’ve seen not only our student athletes’ accounts growing, but also our sport accounts are growing too by an average of 15%. So that’s something that’s huge for us. So you always want growth. You always want followers, and a lot of that can be attributed back to this content that we’re giving our student athletes alone.
Jim Cavale: Yeah, it’s really a rising tide lifts all boats situation. And, you know, when we looked at just, we took a sample 10 of our teams who use the platform, and then we took 10 teams who do not, and the athletes on teams that had a platform and an app in place where they could get content in real time posted 85% more.
And so, yeah, you do have to win on the field. That helps. But it’s not the end all be all to Leah’s point earlier. But being ready for the moment, whether you’re Kylin Hill and you led the SEC in rushing and are declaring for the NFL Draft, but your team didn’t do as well as you wanted to.
Or, be ready for the moment if you’re, you know, a student athlete at a school that’s had a magical run in March Madness, having that content available is going to make it get out there more because they’re just 85% more likely to post it. And then selling that in the recruiting process, especially as you look at pro athlete stories. I think this is really important, and I see some agency folks on here.
The, the athlete is evolving with social. We talked about that earlier, a lot of athletes that you’ve signed as an agency in the past five years wanted you, they’re like, “Here’s my social, take it,” right?
And now you’re seeing athletes say, “You know, obviously, it’s, it’s this or this post, you know, you can help but I want my social skill.” And I was at NBA Summer League with 10 of our athletes who had just left our client schools and guys like RJ Barrett from Duke, talking about this.
And what’s great is if you can find ways to continue to provide those athletes with content from their pro career after they’ve left your university, because it’s going to keep them engaged with you. And when you want their help promoting a campaign, a recruiting venture, anything you’re doing, they’re more likely to help because you’re depositing into them even after they’ve left.
And that’s really why we did the USA Today deal we did. It’s why we’re negotiating other deals like Atlantic Records music, things that our college clients can use to provide more content more often to not just their student athletes but even their alums. Because with USA Today content, you get coverage of every NFL and NBA game. And so, now your alums , Kylin Hill included will continue to get his content from his NFL highlights and NFL stuff through Mississippi State. So they’re getting… that’s, that’s enormous because the athlete doesn’t want to just hand over their social anymore. The younger the athlete, the more likely they want to hold on to it and do a lot of it themselves.
And I think we all need to realize that no matter where we were colleges or pro sports team or agency, because that is only going to increase because we’ve got a whole slew of natives coming up. I mean, I have a 17-year-old daughter and I have an eight-year-old daughter and they are completely different, nine years apart, because my eight-year-old daughter knows nothing but technology. My 17-year-old remembers a little bit before, and the difference is staggering.
Leah Beasley: And the piece in all that too, you talk about, I’m sure that you talk to student athletes and you’re telling them, you know, they’re always in a family. And that’s something that that’s not lip service for us.
We, you guys probably have seen it, we have family campaigns, once a bulldog, always a bulldog. And that’s something that we’ve been able to continue with a lot of our key influencers. And as Jim said, you have to continuously speak to them. But what are you doing besides, you know, shoot them a text, whatever, saying gratulations, we do billboards, whatever, but we’re still investing in them after they’re gone through this platform. So it’s something that’s huge for us too. And it makes it a little bit easier when you’re asking them to come back for an event or to help donate to, you know, your indoor football project. Like, it makes it a lot easier whenever they know that what you say you mean, and that you’re continually investing in them.
Second piece of that, which Jim talks about a little earlier is education. You, you… they have to understand what’s there and they have to understand how they can use it too. So that piece, I don’t think we can hit home enough on that. It’s just letting them know that that thing, that inventory is there for them to use, but then also for our coaches to use on the road when, whenever they are recruiting.
I’ll give one example of that too that it was huge. We had a mom and a student athlete, one of our women’s basketball players, and she lives, you know, we sit in on all of these. I speak to our student athletes and recruits and they come in and, and it’s funny. You know, that’s a piece of our job that we love.
But you don’t really know how much of an impact you’re having. And one of these heavy hitters literally signed with us because of the content that we hit on. And we showed her videos and we showed her where it lives. We pulled up the INFLCR app. We showed her her own… like what could be her own page. And, and she loved it. She ended up… the mom actually called me later and was like, “You have no idea what that just did for her.” And she’ll be one that… that woman will most likely to go into WBA.
And so, we have some scouts that come in and we kind of tell them what we’re doing here. And it’s huge whenever you’re able to put your money where your mouth is. So, that’s fun for us to be able to say that we were… that’s a huge ROI, is that somebody saying they signed because of the content that we’re actually giving them.
Jim Cavale: Yeah, I think, you know, picturing from a post-college experience standpoint going pro, picturing Kylin Hill, getting hit daily with content through INFLCR because of Mississippi State, and then something mixed in where there’s a bulldog campaign that you built an INFLCR for him to share is a lot different than him just getting that campaign. And on the other side, for the recruit, it’s the beginning of the life cycle to see that there’s a way to get content, tell your story and see a variety of content.
You know, we did a survey with our athlete community. And there’s so much we’re learning because, once again, no matter who you are on this, on this webinar, we’re all older and come from a different generation than the student athletes coming up. And we said, you know, “What’s your favorite type of content?”
And the ranking was, “You know, action pics,” no surprise was first. But right behind it was group pics, running… group pics is big because a lot of coaches are worried about social being an “I” thing or a “me” thing, but it’s not when you really look at it. It can be a “we” thing and it can change perspectives.
I’m going to go off on a rant here, Zion, Zion comes into Duke, one of our clients, and I remember hearing, “Hey, this guy is huge on social,” but his rep is, first of all, he’s projected to be seventh in the NBA Draft next year. He’s a big dunker. He’s got to really work on other parts of his game. And, you know, his whole social is all built around him as a dunker. And it could not be more different from the truth.
The truth was, he was a complete basketball player, freakishly played bigger than he already was, was going to be the number one pick in the draft as we all saw, and on social is actually way more of a “we” guy than a “me” guy. And you look no further than how much he celebrates his teammates in his Instagram stories and even his posts.
And he changed the perception even with NBA front office execs with how he told his story on social, namely Instagram throughout the year.
And so, to show athletes that you’re going to get action pics or you’re going to get group pics, and we show coaches that too. You’re going to get a variety of pics outside of action shots, running out of the tunnel, solo pics, pregame pics, travel pics, celebration pics, right? And, and shockingly, videos was 8th out of the 10 things.
So while video happens through our platform, and it’s used in about 11% of the shares that happen, we’re an Instagram culture right now. That’s just where we are. And so, people want pictures and they want a variety of them and they want them in real time, which is a big reason we’ve negotiated rights deals with photography outlets on top of allowing the school or pro teams or whoever to create their own content provided.
And so, I think, I think just thinking through that lens of the athlete and what they want is really important. And I think also thinking through going back to the before they arrived in college to the after they leave and go pro dichotomy, when they come in now, especially if they’re going to a university, where they do have pro aspirations, they want to know how they can build the value they’re going to cash in on when they leave.
Very important and I was just at a basketball school, that’s one of our big clients and they bring a lot of pro guys through and they want to show athletes and continue to show athletes the value that has occurred during the year two, three years that you’re at the university that you’ll be able to cash in on when you leave. Bloomberg did a great article with a couple of our pro guys that are now in the NFL about how different their deals were when they went to the NFL Draft because of that last season where they were posting more and build a bigger audience. And so, relating the recruiting process on the front end to the back-end portion for future pro athletes you’re recruiting is big.
For smaller schools, all these numbers are the same from a ratio standpoint. You’re going to have a three to four times bigger audience through the collective followings of your athletes versus your team account, just might be smaller quantity of numbers.
And you’re going to see 10x engagement from athletes versus your team. All that’s the same, just smaller numbers. And instead of it being a story for recruits, it’s all about pro ball. It’s about the life that they’re about to start after they get done with college and how to build a social media following responsibly, that they can leverage for whatever they do. They may come apply to work here. They may try to go work for Front Office Sports and for Leah, like, we all look at social when we get an applicant. So it doesn’t really change. It’s just different from a number standpoint and recruits either way want to hear about it.
Adam White: And just, we had a question jump in here. We got about 15 minutes so I do want to touch on it because it’s so important for the, you know, the forward-thinking look of college athletics and what it looks like in three, five, even next year.
But NIL, name, image, and likeness, you know, Leah, how has that changed content strategy? What are you guys talking about internally that you can share in terms of just like what, what does this look like, right? We saw Oklahoma and UCF basically build brands for their, their signing day, you know, recruiting and things like that. So, you know, how do you guys see it?
And then, Jim, what are, what are your clients coming to you talking to you about? What are people looking for, which is all the things that potentially could come from this whole name, image and likeness?
Leah Beasley: On our end, for those of you who are in the university and college space, you got to remain close to your compliance department. That’s something that is first and foremost. And that was one of the things when we were getting relationship with, with Jim. And after we’ve had several conversations, you know, we, we had, we were already… and our compliance office was already very comfortable with what we were going to do.
They had a lot of questions and we told them what we were doing. We’re serving our student athletes, but everything was with intent of what’s happening with the, the NIL stuff.
So… and our whole team, it’s an education process too for our external team. They didn’t really know they’re going to be schooled up in all of this but they had to be because we have to know what our student athletes are going to ask us if, if one of our SIDs is getting hounded by one of our student athletes, and they have to know the right strategies and right answers to not go overboard, but to say, “You know what, we’re understanding this is happening, and you deserve to, to have your, your pictures and your photos in your portal,” and that’s what we’re giving them. So this is actually a tool that does help us with those, those issues that are coming down the pike.
So, you know, I think that the compliance area of this is, obviously, it’s still landscape is changing. We always know that but my get… my urge for our crew is to continue to read on it and then also remain close to our compliance department and let them know all the things that we’re doing in terms of NIL with our student athletes.
Jim Cavale: Yeah, I think what we’re doing today, what we talked about today on this webinar, and what is happening in the present when it comes to empowering athletes with content is the foundation of what lies ahead.
You know, it’s, my guy Jimmy V, I watch his speech every time this year because it’s Jimmy V Week on ESPN. And one thing he says in that speech is you got to know where you came from to understand where you are now, to realize where you want to go. And I think in everything we do, we need to think about those three things. Where we came from was a place where, I don’t know if you can even ask that question last year, and an administrator would be comfortable talking about it.
Adam White: Yeah.
Jim Cavale: Leah, would you agree with that?
Leah Beasley: Totally.
Jim Cavale: It wasn’t a topic a year ago, right? Now, the NCAA has come in today and said, “We’re going to work on it.”
And now everybody is trying to think about tomorrow. I’ll keep, keep with it. I had mentioned earlier, many of your jobs didn’t exist five years ago, they exist now.
And in some cases, they’re disconnected from the leaders of the program, head coaches and ADs, not in all because there are proactive head coaches and ADs that are embracing this even more, but you control a voice that’s actually reaching more people today than the TV networks are reaching even though that’s still what the powers that be are thinking about most because that’s where the money is coming from, right? This funding programs.
All of this is evolving and changing. And so, the foundation of it is free storytelling, whether it’s on your team account, whether it’s on a pro athlete account you work with, if you are not posting at least 9 out of every 10 posts, are not just three letting people in telling the story, I’m just telling, you’re missing the boat because nobody likes social because of advertising.
Nobody likes social because they want to be sold a product. People like social because it’s authentic. And it’s, it’s allowing you into people’s lives in a way that you could never really get into unless you watch the documentary film years ago, right? So that’s what we need to preserve. And that comes with frequency of posts, and authenticity and variety of posts.
So athletes posting about their family, their friends, their fans, their dreams, not just all the stuff on the field, a lot different than a guy who just post stuff on the field just as much as an athlete who only post ads. So we’ve got to think about how can we build this foundation of storytelling that’s happening from all of our student athletes on a regular basis so that when it’s on the table, to have a signage sponsor in the stadium come to us and say, “Hey, we love the idea of doing a collective campaign with 11, 13, 9 or even all of the athletes on this team and making some content that, that’s branded, that, that has a campaign they can share, that can be mixed into it.
And I believe it’s once again a “we” opportunity more than a “me” opportunity.
Everybody right now, I think, is focusing on Zion being the, the level of athlete you have to be to really benefit from name, image and likeness. But if I know anything about people who work with college sport, in college sports, they’re about all athletes.
And I think that they’re going to see that this can benefit all athletes, maybe just to a different extent monetarily, because they have different levels of followings based on what they’ve done on the field or off the field. And so, realizing that these are channels that represent your university, and having a strategy to tell stories with and through these channels now so that they have the engagement and there’s a process setup to deliver content and track the engagement of that content for the future when brands want to get involved is really what everyone should be embracing right now.
Leah Beasley: Whether you, whether you are in agreement or not with the impending NIL structure, I mean, it’s, it’s, we all can agree that our student athletes, and we too, being that those that create the content and put out there are benefiting from the, the photos and the videos that are, that are being put out there.
So… and whether an athlete goes pro or not, I mean, their future employers can still see that quality content that we still are producing. So it’s not the student athlete producing it, but it’s us producing it, so we still have some level of control but not too much control over that student athlete. So that student athlete has the freedom, but they’re using the resources that we’re still giving them to do so.
So whether they’re going to go pro or not, we’re still giving them that freedom. We’re still… I hate to say this word but check a box when it comes to legislature. So if you’re being asked, “What are you doing for your student athletes? What are you doing in regards to their own name, image and likeness? This will satisfy a lot of that conversation.
Jim Cavale: I agree. And I, you know, I’m, I’m blessed to be able to sit down with a lot of the athletic directors, commissioners, and folks that are really pushing the group thoughts forward on how it should be or how it will be. And one thing I think all of them have in common is they’re not getting emotional about whether or not they agree with it.
Leah Beasley: Right.
Jim Cavale: They’re coming to the realization of it’s not a matter of if but when, and they’re investing in hires and other strategies to be ready for it. And the one that Leah talked about is the one that everyone and every leader should be embracing right now, which is empowering your athletes with the content you’re already investing into payroll to produce and some of it you’re credentialing other people to produce. How can you equip your athletes with that?
Because they’re asking for it already, so that you can help them tell their story. And then, how can you measure what the impact of them telling their story is? If you’re doing those two things now, access for your athletes to the content and measurement of the impact of that content when they share it, that is the beginning. That is the foundation of the house you’re going to build for NIL with your organization.
Adam White: Awesome. Well, we have about eight more minutes. And so, I do want to jump into a few questions over here. Leah, I’m going to take this one to you because I know you mentioned the size of your external staff, but Alina Rogers ask, how many staff members plus interns are on your creative, social or creative/social/video team?
Leah Beasley: So we do have… we have one social media coordinator who kind of oversees the entire, the main account and our messaging and tone. She actually has a whole document. We use her every, in all of our retreats that we have during the year. And she kind of schools up our different areas on kind of data but a lot of, a lot of it is data-driven, some of that which we get from INFLCR, and a lot of it we do on the backend on our own. So she kind of runs that. She’s in our creative team.
But we also have our SID. So we do, we have about six to eight SIDs who, per sport, are also using social media for that specific sport. For instance, women’s tennis, men’s tennis, golf, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, those SIDs are running that, but it’s a constant communication with our social media coordinator and her boss, which reports to me as the department head over creative. So he has a heavy hand in that as well.
So I guess you could really say one full timer over social media strategy and messaging, and then a boss that supervises that, and then SIDs who run those individual accounts, but then filter information back into that social media coordinator who can kind of use that data from an overarching perspective of an athletic department standpoint, and we kind of adjust our messaging and strategies based on what those SIDs are giving us back and what she’s seen from the feedback that we get based on our social media strategy.
Jim Cavale: Yeah, if you don’t mind, Adam, I see another question…
Adam White: Yeah.
Jim Cavale: …that actually ties into something…
Adam White: Sure.
Jim Cavale: …I wanted to say about what I think Leah and Mississippi State do so well.
So, Sarah Rudolph, who works with one of our clients, and you know, she asked a really good question, which is, have you found it difficult to get buy in from coaches?
And you know, from experience, we’ve had a few coaches that feel any extra social media-related stuff for their student athletes is a distraction. I think it’s, it’s important what Leah and Mississippi State has done is it’s because it’s top down, right? It’s her, it’s John, it’s, it’s the staff at the top like saying, you know, we need to pay attention to this. And that’s what’s driven their org chart, the hiring.
There’s also this, I don’t know if it’s the evolution of the SID or what it is, but the SID’s job used to be, I mean, just 10 years ago, a little over 10 years ago is like just get the release on to the website as soon as you can after the game. You know what I mean? Get the stats done. And like that was a big part of like nobody really goes to the website anymore, right, like, so the job has changed to tweeting, to social, it’s created a different skill set, a different set of roles and responsibilities.
And the SID traditionally has always been the right-hand woman of the head coach. They help them into the press conference. They help them with, with everything media related.
And so, making sure that if it’s an SID or if it’s another staff member, that there’s somebody that’s educating the coach on how much this plays into recruiting, the distractions thing that, that Sarah brought up is real.
And like, should you, should you, should you check your Twitter mentions at halftime? No, you shouldn’t do that. Like, you know, social media can be a distraction. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a weapon of mass production or a weapon of mass destruction. Like, like anything great, it can be used the wrong way.
But that just comes with coaches understanding how it plays into really the most important part of the program, which is recruiting, because that’s what brings in the athletes that helps them win games, and eventually, of course, sells tickets and brings on other ROIs.
But it also plays into fan engagement and other things that Leah touched on that can even override wins and losses. And so, yeah, Sarah, I mean, sure we see it. One of the two teams playing in the national championship Monday has a policy where their players can’t go on social media at all during the season. Do you know what I mean?
To each his or her own, but it’s not going to change. If your athletes have content, they’re more likely, 85%, to post. Your athletes are followed by recruits and fans more than any team account or brand account that represents your university. And you’re already investing a lot of money and credentialing a lot of other folks to create a lot of content. And so, if we can embrace it, it moves that way, great. And if we can’t, we’ve got to educate. And I think that SID coach relationship is where a lot of the education happens.
Now, of course, there’s some SIDs that you may know that have the same issue, Sarah, where like, the SID hasn’t embraced social and that’s going to be an uphill battle. But I think that those folks will learn over time.
Leah Beasley: Well, I think in that term, that’s, that’s what it is, is it’s important to make sure that you’re having someone else outside of that sport, outside of the, you know, our SID is connected to our sports, we need them to be connected to our sports. So you need to have someone else who has a background in that, if you can; if you can’t, then try to train them on that background, but that they are a little bit more unbiased, and they are seeing the big picture of things.
So they are, they are using every SID’s feedback and then they are taking data-driven decisions and giving it back to those SIDs of how they’re posting, frequency, content, timing, the platform they’re using. So they’re kind of letting them know those things. And ours does a great job of that because she’s pulled apart from the sport. She’s not necessarily was one sports specifically.
So, and a lot of people can do that. It can be a GA. We had a GA doing that because we couldn’t find a full-time position. So for some of the smaller institutions, that’s the way to start. And believe me, they want it. They love having a reign to that social, to that social aspect. And then because we saw what a, what a driving force it was, then we put more in dollars investment into that. We were able to use some monies from our outbound ticket sales team in order to help fund that position too.
Adam White: Well, as we finish up, we got a couple more minutes. So, I guess, I want to let you guys leave with some, some passing wisdom. What’s like two or three things that either you found really helpful or just some sort of takeaways that you think people that you can kind of pass on as like, “Hey, this is what we did. And this is what worked or whatever it is like that”? So Leah, I’ll kick it to you and then, Jim, I’ll let you finish up.
Leah Beasley: Yeah, create FOMO, like create that fear of missing out. That is something that we talk about all the time. And our student athletes are helping us do that because they’re showing what’s going on behind the scenes. And we’re able to then kind of supplement, supplement that by talking about the atmosphere, the environment.
That was a huge thing for us this last year. We, you know, we didn’t… we were coming off of a year where we lost a quarterback. And we’re coming into a year where we had, you know, it, there were some different aspects that were happening specifically with football and what we’re talking about.
And so, we knew we had to create that FOMO. We had to get people invested in the program, investment in the student athlete and understand that our atmosphere and our environment and our games is second to none. And so… but we had to get you there. And to get you there, when our student athletes, to start talking about it, and to start helping create that FOMO.
So every video we did leading up to the season wasn’t focused on necessarily on, on a star player, a star coach. It was, collectively, look at these group, this group of student athletes that we have that are having fun all the time, and then look at the environment that we’re going to create for you, the fans, if you invest back in us. So, if you’re not there, here’s what you’re going to miss. And that’s what we are focused on with that.
I think that was one of our biggest takeaways from this last season that we were able to do successfully is to create that fear of missing out. And it was constantly, constantly talked about. It’s to create FOMO and give access. We’re not, we’re not secretive, here’s our access. Here, you can have it behind the scenes, go get with all these student athletes and see what they’re doing too. So we’re giving you access, and then creating FOMOs.
Adam White: Awesome. And then, Jim, to finish up. Over to you.
Jim Cavale: I think in, in everything, you know, transparency always wins. And so, I know that it’s hard, or maybe even scary to go to leadership and fight for a lot of what we’re talking about right now. But you have to embrace the fact that you have been put in a place to be a change agent. You’re a part of a movement that’s only going to grow to be the place where viewership, consumption, engagement and all the things that lead to ROI happen.
And I think you got to be honest with the leadership. And, of course, you have to prepare data. You have to tell a story of your own to them on why you want to do certain things to help brand your athletes, to create certain types of content, to ultimately create FOMO to Leah’s point, because that is what wins.
And, and so, be transparent with your leadership and fight for change and fight to continue to evolve this social media, you know, storytelling platform that is only going to grow. And then be transparent with how you tell the story. You know, my favorite, my favorite accounts are ones that post when things aren’t going as well, when they lost that big game, when they were, unfortunately, not picked where they wanted to be picked.
Don’t just post when… even if you’re controlling the team account, like, get your coach on board to post all the time and tell the whole story because some of the best parts of a great climax or, you know, high point of the story is remembering where you came from. And that exposition and that conflict and that rising action that led to the, to the solution of it. And so, be transparent internally with your leadership and be transparent externally with how you tell the story.
Adam White: Awesome. Well, again, you know, obviously, appreciate it. Time flies when you’re having fun as they say. I know everyone, kind of crazy times across the board and, Leah, a middle of a head coaching search and, Jim, obviously the beginning of the year, but really do appreciate your guys’ time.
For everyone who tuned in, thank you as well. Also, as soon as the webinar is over, within an hour or so you should get a review of the webinar. So if you need to send it to your boss or whatever it is, or if you want to re-watch some takeaways, whatever it is like that, you guys get an email with the replay of the webinar in your inbox within the next hour. Again, really appreciate everyone for coming on, for joining us, for the questions. It’s really, really great to have you all and looking forward to the rest of the year and hopefully everyone has a good 2020. So thanks again, everyone.
Leah Beasley: Thank you.
Jim Cavale: Thanks guys.
Watch the INFLCR + ADU interview with Kentucky Deputy AD DeWayne Peevy on Staying Ahead with Social Media