Connect with us


Digital Media Lessons from Throwing to Teaching

Front Office Sports



This post is a part of our new partnership with Generation Y Digital! Check them out on Twitter at @genydig!

By: Karen Freberg, @kfreberg

Dr. Karen Freberg, Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville

Everyone has a story on how they got started in digital media. Some have started online with an internship while others have gotten into the field by sheer interest and curiosity.

I have been online for over twenty years, and it began at a very young age in a time where the internet was still relatively young. I am forever thankful for the Internet — social media especially. I know I would not be where I am without it.

I started off as a track and field athlete in junior high school where I had my very first website. My parents gave my sisters and I each our own domain name for our birthdays in 1995 as a present. Being the 13-year-old I was, I decided the first thing I was going to do was create a dedicated fan site to the actor Val Kilmer. I tell my students this story whenever they are concerned about what their first website and blog posts look like!

However, this site was short lived as I began my track and field career. I grew up in a small town in California named San Luis Obispo, which is halfway in between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Not the hot spot for track and field coaches to visit — it’s a pretty small college town. By knowing this, I realized I needed to market myself in order to get their attention. Plus, I also seized an opportunity knowing at the time, there were very few athletes who had their own website. During my high school career, I would send out updates of track meets, pictures of my record breaking throws, videos of my competitions, and even grades (that motivated me to keep them up since they would be for the world to see!). At the time, I didn’t know I was doing early stages of blogging or even public relations. During my senior year, I wrote a series about the high school recruiting experience called “Karen’s Diaries” for a high school track and field site called Dyestat.

It paid off tremendously for me. I had a pretty stellar career throwing the shot put (2 time California State Champion, 2 time Indoor National Champion, All-American, and at the time was ¼ of an inch away from the high school girl’s national shot put record), I spent my first year in college competing in track and SMU before transferring to the University of Florida. I was majoring in psychology and minoring in business (my Mom is a professor in Psychology and my Dad worked in Marketing for Nestle and Mars to name a few companies), so I thought this would be the path for me.

It was until I met with my athletic academic advisor at Florida I first heard about public relations. She pulled me into her office after seeing the work I was doing with my website (which I was continuing to maintain and create content for along with guest blogging on a website called TrackShark). She told me I needed to switch majors to go into PR. I asked her two questions: What is PR and is it a real major? I ended up taking my first class at Florida and fell in love with the field. The rest is history! I graduated from Florida in 2005, and two weeks later, started at the University of Southern California. I competed for the Trojans in track and field while going to graduate school (ended up being an All-American and still the school record holder in the shot put at USC). I realized in 2006, after battling many back injuries and looking at the sport honestly, I knew my time to hang up my track and field shoes was here. I retired officially in 2006 after finishing up #10 in the US and #31 in the world rankings.

This allowed me to start a new chapter of my life, which was following my passion for research and teaching. I graduated SC with a Master’s in Strategic Public Relations and did a four-month internship working in fashion and consumer public relations. This really gave me the opportunity to look at new media from an international level, where I was able to help clients (fashion designers and fashion shows) online and work on restaurant blog reviews for our consumer clients.

It was at the University of Tennessee where I was able to really get involved in my research in social media and my teaching, I taught my first in person classes while at UT in public relations and started teaching online for West Virginia University in their Integrated Marketing Communication Program.

Now as an assistant professor at the University of Louisville, I believe things have come full circle for me. I’m on the other side of the table where I am the one talking to students about their sport who are in my class, meeting with parents on recruiting trips, and connecting virtually with the great social media and sports community online.

Working, teaching, and practicing in digital media taught me a lot of life lessons I still share with my students. Being a professor and the academic landscape in digital media is very similar to being a track and field athlete, such as:

“You are expected to perform and be on your “A” game if you work in social media.”

The field is changing so much, you have to make sure you have your hand on the pulse of the industry.

“Train like an Olympian with your work in digital media.”

I used to work out 7–8 hours a day back as a collegiate athlete. From weightlifting to throwing, I was trying to master my sport and event to the best of my ability. While I am no longer throwing things, I am still “training” in my work ethic in digital media. You have to do a little bit each day and set time aside to studying, reading, and practicing your work like an athlete. You don’t become an Olympian (or influencer / thought leader in sports) over night. It takes time, persistence and dedication.

“Never feel like you have to be put in a ‘box.’”

People sometimes want to put you in a box and say — you are this type of athlete or this is the only path you will go on. Why be like everyone else? That’s boring. I wasn’t the typical shot putter competing and I tell my students all the time I am approaching being a professor in a different way. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Do what works for you. Showcase your personality and embrace your brand, and be the strongest advocate on why you are unique compared to others. You sometimes have to be your own best PR person.

Give Dr. Karen Freberg a follow on Twitter!

Digital Media

With Over 12 Billion Views, the NFL’s GIPHY Channel Becomes Most-Viewed Verified Channel on the Platform

Over 8.6k GIFs have been uploaded.

Adam White



With over 8.6k GIFs uploaded to the platform, the two entities have been busy creating quality content. (FOS Illustration)

As the Patriots and Eagles get ready to face off in Super Bowl LII, you can find GIPHY present at some of the biggest moments of week capturing content and posting it to the NFL’s verified channel on the platform.

With over 8.6k GIF uploads and 12.4 billion GIF views, the NFL’s channel has become the most-viewed verified channel on the platform, something that the NFL attributes to fans and their passion for the game and the teams that they root for.

“We’re excited to see that the NFL has the most viewed channel on GIPHY,” said Blake Stuchin, NFL VP of Digital Media Business Development in a GIPHY post on Medium. “Our fans are incredibly passionate, and every day millions of them are sharing GIFs on GIPHY to express their fandom and talk with their friends.”

Although 12 billion views might seem like a crazy number, with GIPHY only counting a single load of a GIF as a view, not each cumulative loop, the number could be even higher.

For GIPHY, the success of the channel is a testament to the platform and its ability to drive conversation long after games are over, and in most cases, across every day of the year.

“The NFL entertains fans on game day. GIPHY amplifies and extends that entertainment by making it part of communication for fans all over the internet. Together, we make the game a part of every day,” said Blake Rachowin, GIPHY’s Director of Business Development in the same Medium post.

In an increasingly digital and multi-platform world, the NFL has to be happy with numbers like this, and it would not be surprising to see them try to monetize the channel in some way in the future.

For now, we can all just hope for more GIF-worthy celebrations and plays this Sunday.

Top 5 Most GIF Views By Team According to GIPHY

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. Green Bay Packers
  4. Seattle Seahawks
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Continue Reading


With New Cleat, Adidas Changes the Production Game

The company can now take footwear from design, to production, to use in under 14 days.

Adam White



adidas created cleats for their players in the Super Bowl in under 14 days. (Photo via Paul Murphy)

Before Amazon Prime made everyone want something in two days or less, there were shipping options for 14-day delivery. Whether it was the cheapest option, or we weren’t in a rush, consumers still had the option. Now, thanks to adidas, football cleats can go from design, to production, to use, in the same amount of time that people at one point would wait for cleats just to ship.

The revolutionary adidas Made For Minnesota (AM4MN) are the first football cleats to be digitally created inside the company’s SPEEDFACTORY facility in Ansbach, Germany.

Data-driven and digitally produced, the AM4MN takes the football cleat silhouette to the next level by incorporating a sneaker profile and redefining fit, comfort, movement, and a radically accelerated digital production process to deliver the most innovative football cleat ever.

Leveraging the technology inside of the SPEEDFACTORY, adidas was able to deliver the custom cleats in under 14 days, 3x faster than their standard production. With this new opportunity, the company will have a Fanatics like opportunity to create cleats and other footwear to capitalize on the biggest moments in sports and the speed desired for today’s consumers.

Player’s who will be wearing the cleats come Super Bowl Sunday include the likes of Jay Ajayi and Nelson Agholor from the Philadelphia Eagles as well as Malcolm Butler and Brandon Bolden from the New England Patriots.

The Tech Inside

A closer look at the adidas Made For Minnesota (AM4MN). (Photo via Pablo Murphy)

When creating the shoe, adidas designers utilized athlete foot scans and ARAMIS motion capture technology used by NASA to understand the precise details of how an athlete’s foot moves during a football game. They then took that data and used it to create a series of patches that have been strategically placed across different parts of the cleats to harnesses movement, provide stability and support, and deliver a precision fit that is specifically tuned for elite performance for football athletes.

As consumer habits continue to change, be on the lookout for how technology like this will continue to impact the desire to have everything as fast as possible.

Continue Reading


SEC Powerhouses Use Tech to Help Student-Athletes Build Their Brand

Auburn, Kentucky, and South Carolina have all turned to Birmingham-based INFLCR to deliver a more streamlined workflow.

Adam White



Auburn, Kentucky, and South Carolina have all turned to Birmingham-based INFLCR to deliver a more streamlined workflow. (Photo via Jim Cavale)

Facilities continue to get bigger, perks continue to get better, and apparel continues to get fresher, but the one thing that is catching the eyes of recruits and current student-athletes today is the ability for schools to help them build their personal brands responsibly.

From Instagram to Twitter, and even Facebook, highly-touted recruits like Zion Williamson have become social media sensations who have used the platforms to grow the hype around their game and their persona.

It’s this hype, and following, that student-athletes are no longer taking for granted, and instead, leveraging the creative ability and content generation capabilities of their respective schools to bolster their online brands.

For a player like Williamson, his athleticism and eye-popping dunks have allowed him to gain a following of 104k on just Twitter alone, a number that is higher than ten of the school’s team accounts that he will be competing against inside the ACC next year.

With an increased emphasis on not only growth inside of college digital departments, but ways to distribute the content that is being produced, some of the SEC’s biggest schools have turned to Birmingham-based tech company Influencer (INFLCR) to help them accomplish this task.

“Athletes want content quickly and they don’t want to have to do much to get their hands on it, said Austin Penny, Digital Media Specialist for Auburn Athletics. “Before INFLCR, our process was lengthy and we weren’t able to get content to our players in a useable way very quickly or efficiently. Now, players can access all of the content from their phones through the app and get notifications when they are tagged in a piece of content. Plus, they can share the content directly from the app or save it to their phones easily.”

The ability to share content directly to the student-athletes has allowed both Auburn and Kentucky to see a bump in following across all of their platforms, which INFLCR’s metrics dashboards allows them to aggregate and measure.

“We have seen an increase in follower numbers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for both our player’s individual accounts as well as UK MBB’s accounts,” said Eric Lindsey, Kentucky’s Associate Media Relations Director for Men’s Basketball and Women’s Golf. “We’ve also seen better fan engagement and more engagement with the content from our players.”

Not only has the software been pivotal for helping the digital teams deliver content to their student-athletes, it has allowed for a simplified way for recruiting staffs to monitor their player’s social media accounts.

“Our recruiting staff, in particular, loves how it streamlines the process of monitoring Twitter,” said Justin King, Associate AD for New & Creative Media for South Carolina Athletics.

Whether it is a new videographer, a new designer, or 3 more interns producing high-quality content, without the capabilities and tools to distribute the content, schools and their student-athletes miss out on the opportunity to leverage both of their strengths to create a cohesive brand image across team and player accounts.

“We want these guys from day one when they get here to have the tools they need to brand themselves and use social media like a pro so they’re prepared when they make it to the next level.” – Eric Lindsey, Associate Media Relations Director for Men’s Basketball and Women’s Golf for Kentucky Athletics

As relationships have grown and the demand from the programs has continued to increase, INFLCR has had to scale alongside their partners, something that has been a learning experience for everyone involved.

“Like most young software as a service (SaaS) brands, we are learning a ton from our clients, and luckily we are nimble enough to provide them with everything they can ask for,” said Jim Cavale, Founder and CEO of INFLCR

For years, we have been told that content is king, and while that may be true, the opportunity to streamline distribution of content that has had countless amounts of resources devoted to it might just be queen.

With access to distribution funnels that now work across channels, Kentucky, Auburn, and South Carolina all have the ability to have their student-athletes become their biggest brand advocates while allowing them to reap the benefits of having high-quality content readily available, something that Austin Penny takes great pride in.

“Being able to tell these guys that coming to Auburn not only means they’ll get an education and get to play football, but also means they will have the opportunity to use their platform as a college athlete to grow their personal brand using the tools we have here is huge.”

As programs continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of their student-athletes, recruits and their families are looking for more than juice bars and gaudy gyms, they are looking for the tools that will prepare them and give them the chance to succeed whether or not they touch the field as a professional.

It’s this change, and the shift in mentality for recruits, that will shape the next wave of investments at the collegiate athletic level, and for Justin King, a movement that is already paying dividends.

“INFLCR has become a powerful recruitment tool for us. Being able to use the INFLCR app to show not only recruits, but their parents, how easy it is to receive and share content has been a huge selling point for our program.”

*INFCLR is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports.

Continue Reading