The University of Akron is atop the Mid-American Conference as February approaches, and their on=court performance should draw more national attention as March madness approaches.
However this past week Akron drew the attention of the NCAA, who stopped the men’s and women’s teams from putting the school’s hashtag on the back of their uniforms for “Social Media Night” on February 2. The school will still go ahead with hashtags like #ZipsGameday and #ThinkBigger on sidelines and basket supports. The reason the NCAA gave was the phrase was outside of what is considered “conventional” on uniforms, and is a defacto form of advertising that could set a precedent going forward.
While it seemed like a good stunt for Akron as part of the night, the uniform hashtag thing has kind of come and gone. It is not really visible and may drive some traffic, but not huge numbers. Putting an effective hashtag on the court for the season or using dasherboards to drive special promotions through social media is a much better way to try and see what a social ROI can achieve for any league, property or brand. The days of doing social media just to be “cool” should be past us right now. There has been enough experimenting with what works and what doesn’t to use programs to help drive awareness and market share.
It is great Akron is trying to use social to engage their fans and get buzz and it will be interesting to see what the night achieves in terms of sponsor and fan engagement. The NCAA has let many abuses of uniforms slide this year, and others have had phrases dropped on the backs of jerseys. What are being watched carefully now are commercial endorsements or frivolous moves for the sake of being first to the party.
Social is getting more powerful, what’s even more powerful are the growing efforts of brands to make it not just fun and interesting, but effectively engaging and revenue generating. Gotta give the Zips credit for trying to crash the party.