Can a # Win Football Games?


Driving to work last Wednesday morning, I listened to a local sports radio station to get my college football fix. For those who don’t know, Wednesday was National Signing Day (NSD): big-time high school football players signed their letters of intent to play college ball. For junkies like me, this is one of the few gridiron fixes we get between January and Labor

But I digress.

Something unusual struck me about the way the radio guys were covering the signing updates. They weren’t waiting for press conferences, university releases or “official” sources of information—they pulled their updates from the Twitter feeds of coaches and the high school players themselves.

When I arrived at work and talked to Anthony Gaenzle about this, he mentioned that he’d noticed a similar trend by the press covering his alma mater, University of South Florida, and later shared this tweet-laden article with me.

Teachable Moment

As it turns out, schools like USF and Clemson University used NSD as a teachable moment for students in their communication studies programs as they used social media monitoring software like Radian6 (a “Cadillac” monitoring service used by socially active big brands) to chart user activity in a variety of channels: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, among them. Assistant Professor Jimmy Sanderson (@Jimmy_Sanderson) noted in a press release just prior to NSD that he planned to have his students spend the day “analyzing trends and sentiment for Clemson recruiting and other national programs throughout the day.”

In fact, Sanderson also appeared in several radio “spots” throughout NSD, offering expert commentary from a social media perspective, revealing keen insights into how well Clemson was trending on signing day and placing particular focus on how a branded hashtag—#ClemsonFamily —was being used (more than 3000 times before most of us checked email in the morning) across the Twitter-verse (everywhere from Canada to Afghanistan to Jamaica).

Lesson on #BrandAwareness

So, for Sanderson and his students, NSD wasn’t just about monitoring social media chatter about an exciting event. It was about understanding how social media, if used effectively by a brand, can enhance the excitement level of that event and turn that event into a branded lovefest that would have made legendary cross-promotional hounds like Bill Veeck green with envy.

Can a social media site win football games? No. But a brand like South Florida, Clemson or Cal can use clever tweets, hashtags and videos to generate the love and buzz for their brands—to attract and win over hearts and minds—which can translate into loyalty, sold merchandise and fannies in seats.

Joey Hall – VP, Content Marketing

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