Inside Clemson athletics’ championship brand

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In late February, two Clemson officials gave an Endeavor crowd of about 90 people in downtown Greenville a look inside the university athletics’ championship brand and explained how critical a digital transformation has been.

Joe Galbraith, associate athletics director of communications, and Jonathan Gantt, director of new and creative media, said the audience on Clemson’s social channels recently passed 2 million, up from 355,731 on Jan. 1, 2014.

They handle every aspect of the public social media efforts and content lifecycle (strategy, creation, publishing, promotion, measurement).

Students also play a key role in content creation and mobile workflow related to event coverage and storytelling.

Galbraith and Gantt sat down with UBJ before their Endeavor presentation to discuss the digital transformation of Clemson athletics.

What do you plan to tell the group tonight?

Joe Galbraith
Joe Galbraith
Jonathan Gantt
Jonathan Gantt

Galbraith: The main highlight of tonight is how we have, from a PR standpoint, moved from traditional media into digital. And it’s a question that is still relevant and resonates with everybody, because it’s rapidly evolving and continues to and the task that we were given when we were brought in in 2013 was to modernize an already really good media relations, public relations outfit. That’s the main takeaway — the modernization of information distribution and how we are getting word out to our fans. That comes in a variety of forms, from video to graphics to all of those different multimedia techniques. But at the end, it’s still reaching our target audiences — recruits, fans, season ticket holders with information that’s important to them. It’s important to both of us that we are part of a larger university and it is not athletics on an island, only talking about sports.

Is your job to take [head football coach] Dabo Swinney and brand him? Or do you take the Clemson brand and apply it to him?

Galbraith: He’s a great marketer, too, on top of being his own brand. … Coach Swinney is different. He’s special. But each coach tries to instill their belief system, their value system. With Dabo, the culture that he has created around the authentic — you call it brand — but personality that he has, it really resonates. It resonates inside the locker room and out in the community. And that’s important. He is not any different whether it’s right after we win a game, right after we lose a game, or he’s on the rubber-chicken circuit in April. He is the same guy throughout the year and that authenticity can’t be — it’s hard to duplicate, and makes it easy for us to show him or any of our student-athletes or coaches because they all follow that same set of values and respect him to the point that they carry themselves well and we’re happy to show it off.

Gantt: It makes our jobs easier in terms of trying to recruit and trying to bring the best talented student-athletes… and even staff, like me, and other people. When you’ve got that kind of culture in place, and when you’ve got the leader of the football program who’s approaching things that way and who’s making sure every single day that you keep maintaining and enhancing that culture, it makes it easier on everybody else in terms of we don’t have to manufacture anything special about Clemson. It’s all already there. It’s just a matter of capturing it and sharing it. And that’s a great advantage for us.

You’re not on the front line of getting recruits to sign letters of intent?

Gantt: Right.

Galbraith: But we are on the front lines of making sure that 15- and 16-year-olds think Clemson is cool so that when those coaches do reach out, we’re that much better off. And we do that for all of our sports. That’s the task that we have — we want to be there to support that coach that’s walking into the living room that the kid, the parents, everybody that they’re talking to, knows and wants their son, daughter, to be a part of what we have at Clemson.

How do you do that?

Gantt: It’s very hard to describe what’s special about Clemson in words. You start to use the comprehensive mix of visuals — and sometimes that can be words — but sometimes it’s videos, photos, and photo graphics. When you throw that comprehensive mix at it, you get a little bit better shot of trying to illustrate that to someone.

Galbraith: What Jonathan says to his team all the time is, “Show people what it’s like to be a Clemson Tiger.”

Gantt: Every post, the point is to answer the question: What’s it like to be a Clemson football player? What’s it like to be a Clemson women’s tennis player? We know our coaches are obviously communicating a great deal with recruits. But they can’t communicate with them all the time. We provide, hopefully, an extra resource that there’s a certain amount of time each day and we want that recruit — and the fan — to be thinking about Clemson for as much time as possible throughout that day. … The reason why we’re doing it the way we’re doing it is because when you look at that demographic, they’re getting their news, they’re getting their information, they’re getting their entertainment, and they’re communicating with their friends on social media. They’re doing it all through their phone. If that’s where they are, then that’s where we need to be. And that’s why all the content is focused on digital, at least right now. That could change. And we’re prepared to be flexible. Wherever that group goes is where we’re going to go.

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