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Volume 26 No. 26
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Social Studies: Univ. Of Alabama Gears Up For Football Season

At the Univ. of Alabama, football is a year-round obsession. So, it should not come as a surprise that coach Nick Saban's philosophical DNA can be found in how the school (@UA_Athletics) approaches social media. Alabama Assistant Dir of Marketing & Digital Media Drew Claasen, who spearheads UA's social media with Associate AD/Strategic Marketing Brad Ledford, said, "The philosophy permeates to our fans, so we think in those same terms as our fans do as well. It’s just part of the culture. Each one of our teams, not only football but all of our sports -- this is the pinnacle of college athletics for them. You are working just as hard at tennis as you are with football. That translates to not taking any days off. You take a day off, you get left behind." He added the "seamless collaboration between communications, marketing, photography, and Crimson Tide Productions is a big reason why we have the sustained digital success."

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follow: Ledford: I’d be challenged not to say AD Greg Byrne. He’s always in the loop on things. Claasen: We follow not only our student-athletes, but also our former student-athletes. Haylie McCleney is a Team USA softball player, she is as involved with football as she is with softball.
Favorite app: Claasen: It’s Light Room because we can edit on the fly. Ledford: The ESPN app is a go-to for me because of the SEC Network and being able to follow all our sports.

Average time per day on social media: Ledford: At least an hour or two a day. Claasen: I would easily put it over five hours a day. It never turns off for me. 

Satisfying year-round hunger for football content:
Claasen: Football doesn’t stop between the recruiting calendar, the in-season calendar, season-ticket sales, spring game, NFL Draft. There’s not really a lull or a pause for us. We might have a month off in the summer, but we’re pretty close to fall camp. In terms of top of mind, it’s close to the top of everyone’s mind whether you are a close follower of the school or not. We handle all 21 sports under our umbrella, so a lot of our fan base is excited not only for football, but they will pick a second sport or a third sport.

Gameday staffing:
Claasen: We are a team of six. What we’re trying to do is show the events -- there’s a lot that happens around the game that you don’t see on TV that we want to connect our fan base to. One is you are creating the fear of missing out and two, say you aren’t able to be here on gameday, we want you to feel connected and be part of gameday, too, so it’s an experience you want, miss and want to be back for again.

Not getting content with team’s success:
Claasen: If we were just complacent, we would get passed by in a heartbeat. What we are really trying to do is evaluate the new opportunities and make sure they are the right fit for us as a school and institution. Our accounts are very professional, but we try to push the boundaries as much as we can and showcase our programs as best we can.
Ledford: My role is to kind of help manage and make some determinations and directions of where they go and what we might do. So you are always looking at efficiency and effectiveness. Social media is ever changing. If we were asked the same questions three years ago, we’d probably have different answers. A part of it is constant evaluation: what’s working, what’s not, what is the most effective process or content.

Challenges of working with brands:
Claasen: When we are looking at a partnership, the main thing we are looking at is how does it benefit both brands and make sure those tie-in hand-in-hand. Our Crimson Tide Sports Marketing, our Learfield IMG College affiliate, has its office next to ours and we are consistently working with them on potential partners to make sure they are the right fit for the team. There’s a balance to that because your accounts can get inundated with corporate partnerships pretty quickly, so we work out guidelines on inventory and opportunities that we may see and where a partner can step in.

Using social media to drive business:
Claasen: It’s a lot. I would say we are one of the top schools in how we are selling tickets and generating revenue through our social accounts. Not only organically, but also our digital advertising strategy is a big part of our marketing mix.
Ledford: You are able to target more specifically in the digital age, your customer and the product, and most importantly you are able to key your return on investment on those pieces. Unlike your traditional advertising like radio, TV, billboards and such, you are able to see some numbers on the return on investment and see quite quickly the fans’ reaction to that content.

Working with the SEC Network:
Ledford: It’s crucial. The content -- how do we drive that content to our fans and inform them of where to watch but also engage them with what’s going on. As the relationship has continued to grow, we have all adapted and evolved in engaging the fans. It has been a great relationship.
Claasen: The SEC Network has been crucial on the social front because of the conversations it’s allowed our fans to have. Fans can now watch and stream so many more games than they could just a few years ago -- especially volleyball, women’s basketball, gymnastics, softball, and baseball. This allows fans to use our social media channels as a second screen and to stay engaged in the social conversation even when our teams are on the road.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.