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‘College Colors Day’ Increases Fan Participation Throughout the Season

The IMG College Licensing team has been hard at work this season to provide a unique voice for fans to express their game day pride

Max Simpson

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The passion. The fanfare. The legions of fans absolutely losing their minds in excitement every Saturday from August through January. This is exactly the type of environment that IMG College Licensing was looking to capture to help welcome back the return of the college football season.

With “College Colors Day” celebrating its 14th anniversary, college football fans across the country have been able to express passion for their team in new and exciting ways. Nicole Armentrout, vice president of marketing for IMG College Licensing, explained the psyche of the fans who make the day such a success.

“‘College Colors Day’ is really like our Christmas for kicking off the season,” said Armentrout. “College football fans are some of the most passionate fans that you’ll ever see. Their excitement about giving everything they can to their team to help them really assists with promoting our campaign.”

SEE MORE: SMU Wants to Bring Tailgating Experience Inside Stadium 

Armentrout noted different ways that the IMG College Licensing team worked with their premier properties in order to showcase fan engagement throughout the season.

“It’s up to us to develop tools for the institutions to work with. We tried to cover many different angles and capture the audience from multiple platforms. We wanted to give fans the feeling of truly being involved in their team’s success. This year we created videos for all of our schools that got them pumped up about their school’s colors.

“We really wanted to broadcast it out for fans to proudly display their school’s identity in a prideful way. We also teamed up with our Partner GIPHY to have videos developed featuring our school’s mascots dancing and proudly displaying their colors. We have had a relationship with GIPHY for a few years now, and the opportunity surrounding ‘College Colors Day’ stemmed from organic conversations between their team and our digital team.

“A number of school partners were excited to create content for this platform, and to provide a unique piece of content that feels shareable for their respective fan bases. This really helped to fuel the messaging with our ‘Unleash Your Colors’ campaign which gives fans an opportunity to display their reactions throughout the season. The campaign has been adopted very well by both larger and smaller licensing programs as we give all of our university partners a chance to express their true fandom.”

SEE MORE: The Foundation and Future of Athlete-Driven Social Media 

The “Unleash Your Colors” campaign was noticeable on social media as graphics would highlight players basked in the color of their school. Simply put, IMG College Licensing team allowed the colors to speak for themselves.

The team’s key communication arose while working with its properties to create content that fans would be really excited about and be compelled to share.

The hard work paid off as this year the campaign saw more adoption of that content than ever before with over 12 million media impressions. From August 1 through September 3, over 40,000 posts populated across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook referencing the holiday. Most of these posts contained the #CollegeColorsDay hashtag while also seeing the hashtag trending Top 5 on Twitter during the morning of “College Colors Day”, reaching as high as third nationally.

“This year has been very successful to the nature of the dynamic content we are helping to put out there,” said Armentrout. “Yes, we have static content but then we have the more engaging content such as the engaging videos that we collaborated on.”

With teams looking to embed this content into their everyday marketing, it is critical that IMG College Licensing and its schools work together to figure out which content performs the best on which platforms.

IMG College Licensing represents nearly 150 universities; the resources for “College Colors Day” was funneled through 50 of their top schools. To harken back to the theme of the campaign, Armentrout explained that while the size of the school aided in pushing the promotion, it truly boiled down to the fan’s own involvement.

“We truly saw that the most active colleges were the ones where the students took the lead of posting their own reactions to our content. And it’s not just the current students. The alumni bases were immensely successful in spreading word of the campaign. So a state like Texas is huge for us with Texas A&M being one of our top clients. Of course, the University of Alabama and the University of Michigan are definitely powerhouses.

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“We do have some schools like West Virginia that do amazingly well with the content and their rabid fan base. But you truly see the content take off and explode with nationally buzzed-about schools such as Penn State and Clemson. You do have challenges with some schools that say they can’t fit in content since they already have so much they are producing internally with everything going on. That’s why we prioritize the quality of the content we offer.”

With a successful campaign this season, Armentrout is always looking for ways to keep the fan engagement at this all-time high while also looking to grow more organic content generated by fans.

“The whole campaign has progressed and the ways that consumers want to connect with their favorite brands and we look at these schools as brands. It’s important to note that fans are already fans of these brands. We don’t have to convert them but we need to constantly be asking how do we try and change their behavior.

“We want them to increase their actions where they’re wanting to showcase and buy more gear and get more excited about their teams and the college football season. It’s really about delivering these kinds of content that are lined up with their upcoming matchup that will encourage fans to naturally share. We definitely don’t want to make it a situation where it’s some entity that’s forcing something down their throats.”

Moving forward, Armentrout sees fine-tuning and improving on content to be the key driver to the success of the “College Colors Day” campaign.

“To be able to be ahead of trends and just deliver the best ideas to our schools is the key objective moving forward. We are always striving for more participation. Having already had our content featured nationally on ‘The Today Show’ and ‘Fox and Friends’, we are constantly working to achieve more of that national exposure. To help bring out the best product, it’s all about overall better content, better value, and more participation.”

Max Simpson is a contributing writer for Front Office Sports. A graduate from Arizona State University, Max currently works for the Reno Aces & Reno 1868 FC with time spent with Sun Devil Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks. For @frntofficesport, Max highlights unique partnerships, brand marketing strategies, and content activation. He can be reached at max@frntofficesport.com.

College Athletics

California Opens Door for Student-Athletes

Front Office Sports

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Nov 24, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General overall view as Southern California Trojans quarterback JT Daniels (16) throws a pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

Student-athletes in California could be signing endorsement deals in the near future.

Senate Bill 206 by state Sen. Nancy Skinner would allow student-athletes in California to sign with agents and profit from endorsement. The bill, which cleared the state Senate yesterday, heads to the Assembly for consideration in the coming months, according to Melody Gutierrez of the LA Times.

What does the bill say? 

– The bill would treat student-athletes like Olympians and give them an opportunity to “earn income from their talent” while retaining their amateur status.

– The bill would allow student-athletes at public and private universities and colleges to earn money from the use of their name, image or likeness in endorsement deals starting in 2023.

– The bill would not allow the schools to directly pay athletes.

– The bill would bar schools from offering sponsorship deals to high school students as a recruitment tool.

Not everyone is for it…

While there is no precedent for what would happen if the bill were to become law in terms of how the NCAA would treat student-athletes at California schools, but many of the bigger schools don’t even want to test it. 

According to Guitierrez, Cal, USC and Stanford all oppose the bill. 

The next few months are critical…

Not only for student-athletes in California but for student-athletes across the country thanks to the NCAA forming a working group to examine issues highlighted in recently proposed federal and state legislation related to student-athlete name, image and likeness. 

The working group will be moving quickly, with an update provided in August and a final report due to the Board of Governors in October
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Could College Athletes be Compensated for Likeness?

Front Office Sports

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Dec 1, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; iOklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws in the first quarter against the Texas Longhornsn the Big 12 championship game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

NCAA Football might be coming back to gaming consoles sooner rather than later.

Thanks to an announcement from the NCAA, the governing body is looking into ways it can modify its rules to allow college athletes to be compensated for their names, images and likenesses.

What do you need to know? 

1. Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith will head up the working group exploring the options.

2. Including Ackerman and Smith, the working group will have 19 members.

3. The group will not consider any concepts that could be construed as payment for participation in college sports. 

4. The group will present a final report to the Board of Governors in October, with an update provided in August.

Why now?

While a solid reason for why the timing of this decision was not given, it’s no secret that the NCAA has been under fire for quite some time in regards to this very topic.

In fact, although the decision in the Alston Case didn’t end in free-market compensation sought by the plaintiffs, Judge Claudia Wilken noted that many of the “benefits” already being received by college athletes are equal “pay for play,” according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.

What are they saying?

“We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area.” – Val Ackerman, Big East Commissioner

“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees.” – Gene Smith, Ohio State Athletic Director

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College Athletics

Rutgers Draws From Fyre Festival to Celebrate Football Milestone

Rutgers drew inspiration from an unusual source to market the upcoming 150-year-anniversary of the first-ever college football game.

Mike Piellucci

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Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

At first blush, it’s the oddest of pairings – a 150-year-old brand and an event that failed spectacularly enough to become a pop culture sensation. Yet as Robert Roselli, Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing at Rutgers, kicked around ideas to celebrate an important football milestone on campus, he couldn’t get the Fyre Festival out of his head.

On November 6th, 1869, Rutgers hosted the first-ever intercollegiate football game, where it defeated the College of New Jersey – today known as Princeton – six points to four. It makes Rutgers the “birthplace of college football,” a designation it wields proudly. With the 150th anniversary of the game drawing near, though, Roselli came to realize that the university had a problem on its hands: A sizeable portion of the student body has no idea exactly how deep the school’s football roots run.

So Roselli decided to launch a brand awareness campaign to remedy that. To do so, he ripped a page out of the Fyre Festival’s playbook. In execution, the so-called “luxury music festival” was an unmitigated disaster. The marketing strategy behind it, however, was cutting edge. The crown jewel was an Instagram influencer campaign in which 400 models posted an image of a bright orange tile with the hashtag #fyrefestival. The idea was to promote the event in a heavily saturated way that nevertheless avoided coming off as canned. Simple visuals trumped complicated text, and hashtags were kept to a minimum.

READ MORE: How The 2019 Masters Revived ‘The Tiger Effect’

“I think I always had it in the back of my head ‘Wow, that was a pretty bold strategy, it generated a lot of buzz. How can we potentially mimic something?” Roselli says.

In early March, he tasked Sophia Tian, Rutgers’ executive marketing intern with finding out. The goal was to increase awareness of the phrase “birthplace of college football” ahead of Rutgers’ spring football game on April 13th. From there, she says, “this became my baby for the next month-and-a-half.”

“Obviously we don’t have Instagram models [or a] tropical lifestyle here at New Brunswick,” she says of her challenge. “How can we make students fear missing out and how can we catch their attention at first?”

The showcase item was a grey giveaway t-shirt to be given away at spring game, which, naturally, read “The Birthplace of College Football” in alternating red and white text. Later, a red tile was added to mirror Fyre Festival’s orange look. She then reached out to 20 friends to serve as her own Instagram influencers and eventually expanded the group to better reflect the student body’s diversity. Student-athletes were approached, too, in the name of adding further star power.

Tian rolled out the campaign in three waves on the 11th, two days before the game. The first came at 7:00 p.m., with the influencers posting pictures of themselves in the shirt – cut or styled any way they chose so long as the words were visible. The second, also at 7:00, was a wave of Instagram stories with the red tile and – “in obnoxiously small font,” Tian notes – the words, “The Birthplace of College Football.”

But the coup de grace was the third wave, in which Tian personally distributed the shirts to bartenders and doormen at some of Rutgers’ most popular student bars in time for the 10:00 p.m. Thursday night rush.

“Right after you see it all over your social media, you get ready to go out and go out and then you see the shirt again,” Tian says. “It’s basically haunting you.”

All told, Roselli and Tian consider the initiative a resounding success. According to Roselli, while student attendance at the spring game mostly mirrored that of the year before, growing that number was always considered an “’icing on the cake’-kind of thing.” Instead, they focused on buzz and measurable trends. To that end, Roselli proudly points to the Google search metrics during the hours of the campaign, which saw an explosion in the number of “The Birthplace of College Football” queries.

The larger future of the project has yet to be determined. For Roselli, it’s not only a successful test of his initial hypothesis, but something that opened his eyes to the possibilities that come from a whole new style of marketing.

READ MORE: 3X3U National Championship Puts a College Spin on Three-on-Three

“I’m confident that had we done this same exact campaign that only focused on our coaches and our different team accounts — what I would call official spokespeople of Rutgers Athletics — it simply would not have created the same buzz, the same coolness factor,” he says.

In the more immediate term, though, it’s a launchpad for their ongoing campaign. The official 150-year anniversary of the first college football game is still more than six months away, and neither Roselli nor Tian wants to let the momentum gained from the influencer marketing campaign slip through their fingers.

“I think raising the awareness now sets their student body up for what’s to come next year,” Tian says. “We are celebrating the 150th anniversary and we also want to capitalize on that message this whole year, this upcoming season. We want to make sure everyone knows that this is where it all started.”

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