by Jayson Schmidt, Preseason
Social media in athletics is changing.
A decade ago, brand voice for college sports teams mimicked the sterility found in most commercial brands/accounts at the time. Like a more traditional piece of marketing (like a website/newspaper/etc), there was a certain professionalism that came with a team’s account and content.
The job was to send information, but that has changed.
You’ve seen it all over sports Twitter and beyond; brands are funny and accounts are much less stuffy than they once were. Teams of all levels of competition are leaning into their identities.
And if you haven’t done so, you need to do the same.
Aligning your brand and voice are important.
Practically, your voice should sound 60% like your team, 30% like your coaching staff (or head coach), and 10% like your administration. If your Instagram sounds too much like rules to follow or a visual representation of sports scores, you’re missing an opportunity to connect.
The humanity of your program creates connection with your audience.
We know that recruits prefer to be talked to rather than communicated with. Being conversational on social media is simply mirroring your interpersonal communication style in the digital space (or your team’s). If your humanity is what makes you relatable offline, the story that you tell online will further reinforce or misalign your narrative.
A goofball team with a goofball coach should have a goofball Instagram account. A team that loves to dance at practice, on the bus, and in every situation should have the NCAA’s best TikTok account.
As you align your brand and voice, you’ll draw similar recruits into your community and push away those who aren’t the best fit.
We’re seeing team brands that align with their audiences have tremendous success, especially those that utilize user-generated content (or UGC – something we’ll talk about lots more in 2022). Because UCG is the ultimate form of content-driven social proof, teams that can show they understand their audiences are going to have a snowball effect of success. They’ll be validated amongst the athletes they’re trying to attract, while taking advantage of similar content generated by their teams to help drive the conversation regarding who they are and why you should come play for them.
In the world of recruiting and social media, making sure your voice is human must be a top priority.
Prospective student-athletes expect you to be honest and authentic. If you were recruiting them in isolation, a misaligned representation of your program might be survivable, but that’s not the case.
At all times, PSAs are implicitly or explicitly comparing your team’s brand to dozens of other programs they also follow. When other programs are doing a better job of showing honesty and authenticity, you’ll sink in their image by comparison.
But most don’t do a great job of conveying who they are and what makes them special. That’s your opportunity to create a dialogue, connect authentically, and draw them in.
A human brand voice is memorable and will be remembered fondly by those you’re recruiting… the ones you want to win and the ones that are seemingly out of reach.
Before long, you’ll be the team whose brand other programs are losing recruits to.
This article is the sixteenth in a series on athletics branding. Jayson Schmidt is a former NCAA Division II head coach and managing partner of Preseason, a creative agency that helps colleges win.
Struggling with your brand or just simply want an edge on the competition? Preseason can elevate your story and deliver it to recruits, fans, and donors.