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Volume 23 No. 13

Colleges

Ohio State’s official athletics Twitter account has more than 518,000 followers, but for the longest time brands didn’t have a way to access those fans because the Buckeyes, like most schools, didn’t sell advertising on their social media channels.

IMG College Social+ schools

Arkansas
Baylor
Duke
Florida
Florida St.
Kansas 
Michigan
Nebraska
Ohio State
Oregon
South Carolina
TCU
UConn
Washington

That’s starting to change. 

IMG College is now selling advertising to national brands such as Nissan and Jersey Mike’s on social media for more than a dozen schools, including Ohio State. A new initiative created by IMG College called Social+ is taking the lead on creating branded content that can be sponsored and distributed on the school’s social media.

Michigan, Florida and Ohio State have signed on with IMG College’s Social+, which pushes branded content across several social media outlets.
Michigan, Florida and Ohio State have signed on with IMG College’s Social+, which pushes branded content across several social media outlets.
Michigan, Florida and Ohio State have signed on with IMG College’s Social+, which pushes branded content across several social media outlets.

IMG College began introducing Social+ to the schools where it owns multimedia rights during the 2017 football season. Florida, Nebraska and Ohio State were the first three to join Social+, which gave IMG College the opportunity to test the program last season. 

Eleven more schools subsequently joined, giving Social+ a total of 14 schools in the program. That’s significant given that 13 months ago virtually no schools allowed advertising on their channels because they didn’t want to overcommercialize their social media and potentially turn off fans.

In the midst of this growth, IMG College President Tim Pernetti hired Gavin McGinnis in May to oversee the program as director, digital content. The sponsored content can range from behind-the-scenes video to graphics that congratulate a team for a great season.

Pernetti describes the advertising as “subtle.”  

“We pick our spots wisely,” Pernetti said. “We’re not trying to smash you in the face with it. We want the content to be out front. That’s what makes the long-distance relationship between colleges and their fans work — it takes them up close and behind the curtain.” 

IMG College assigns a correspondent to each school that joins Social+. The correspondent works with the athletic department monthly to identify content opportunities and plan videos and graphics.

Social+ advertising can be sold locally or nationally, across one school or multiple schools. Rate cards are determined by impressions and the school’s number of followers. Typically, social media inventory will be sold as part of a package at the “proud partner” or “official sponsor” level. 

“Not every fan is in that market; not every fan is at the stadium,” Pernetti said. “This gives brands the opportunity to engage with fans more consistently, not just on game day.”