virtual reality is the mid-major equalizer?

(This concept comes from Patrick Walsh’s Sports Management class at the University of Syracuse. The students who presented this idea as part of the “Brand Food University” Program are: Hannah Duncan, Nicole Kittay, Yong Hoon (Bryan) Lee, Jordan Novak, Austin Towns)



How can a mid-major leverage a tournament run to build brand awareness amongst high school basketball players?



WHAT IF recruits could feel the experience of a Cinderella run in an empty arena? Mid-majors could use virtual reality to immerse recruits in the tournament when they visit the school at any time of the year. They could put on the VR goggles during tours and see what the March Madness run was like. They could hear fans cheering, see plays, and more. They could feel like they are already part of the team with a view from the bench. As they watch moments from the tournament in virtual reality, their interest in the school could increase dramatically. Even if they did not attend the March Madness games or they did not see highlights on TV, the experience would still feel real. The athletes would start to build brand awareness with the schools because each one would feel different. Each school has a different story, and each Cinderella tournament run is unique and memorable in its own way. Mid-majors could use virtual reality even without a tournament run, but a run would make it even more special. Virtual reality would be the closest thing to actually being on the team that the recruits could experience before they choose their school.

message boards are your allies?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

You’ll never be able to control message boards, as many of them are managed by fans in the form of admins and overrun by bleeding heart subscribers. But, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Message boards can be your best friend. Think of it as free market research. Befriend the admins of the boards you consider to be the most relevant in your community and partner with them. The reason is simple: you’re catering to fans, and fans are the lifeblood of your program. The more you know about them, the more likely you are to keep them happy. Message boards offer you a free focus group and a finger on the pulse of your fan base at any given moment. All you have to do is plug in that URL and start reading.

Consider this. If you’re looking to gauge fan response to a new, unreleased, uniform idea, your friends the forum admins can test the waters for you without giving away the farm. And they’ll do it just in time for you to react and tweak designs.

Similarly, if you have a new brand campaign you’re trying to make headway with among fans, create message board signatures (the banners you often see underneath posts of particular individuals) that the admins can offer up to their community exclusively. In a matter of days, your new campaign will be all over the internet, thanks to your decision to seed the art to your most rabid fan base.

I know this can work because as a die-hard Oregon State University fan and alum, I once volunteered my time with a noteworthy Beaver board and created school-specific signatures for the community. The response was great, and still to this day I see posts that include a signature I designed.

Message boards are your friends, not your foes, as many would assume. These boards are a resource to you. Market research is expensive; message boards are free. Use them.

money can buy you love?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

Here’s a tip for those of you looking to build strong social media communities through media: invest in cost–per-click (CPC) advertising to build your communities with the right individuals. The best thing about social networks is the ability to target. If you want to talk to high school wrestlers in North Dakota, you can. CPC is also cost effective because you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad, or “likes” your page in the case of Facebook—a win-win. CPC cuts out the waste you get from buying on a cost–per-impression (CPM) model, which will have you paying each time your ad is “served” or displayed (also known as an impression). No matter the audience seeing your ad, you pay for that impression, which is a much less controllable situation. Also, impressions can be a hollow metric. Your ad may garner one million impressions, but if only 5 percent of those impressions come from your preferred target, does it make sense? Was it effective? It depends on the goal. But with the impression model, you do “waste” impressions and money on those outside your target market who happen upon your ad.

CPC ads are not relegated to Facebook, however. YouTube also offers effective CPC models that allow you to buy pre-roll ads (an ad that runs prior to the video a user intends to watch) that only hit your budget if a certain number of seconds are seen by the user. More importantly, that pre-roll view contributes to your video’s total view count on YouTube. Why is that important? Because the more views you get on your video, the more likely that video is to show up naturally when people search anything related to it, giving you residual organic (and free) views down the road.

Another big company that’s been known to sell CPC ads is Google. You can buy search terms through Google on a CPC basis. So for instance, if you have a Heisman campaign running, buying the term Heisman would be an effective spend to support your campaign (although you have to realize you’re likely not the only one bidding on that term, which drives up costs).

Now let’s connect the dots. Once a user finds your Heisman campaign through search, you can then drive that potential click-through to one of the previously mentioned social platforms of your choice. Upon arrival, that user should find a Heisman hype video lauding your candidate, which is pulling directly from your YouTube account. This means that every visit to your social network, which is driven in part by traffic from your search campaign, is also a potential view of your YouTube video. At that point you have effectively closed the loop by connecting search, social, and video in one seamless campaign.

Social networking is a puzzle based around algorithms that I’m not smart enough to understand. But what I have learned is that the more you work with these channels, the more ways you learn to manipulate each, leading to a self-sustaining social ecosystem that feeds off itself whether you’re there to water it or not.