The West Virginia University has some of the longest treks of any school in the country because of its far off affiliations with the largely Midwest and Southwest schools of the Big 12. It is a lot harder to build rivalries when you are no longer playing Pitt or Syracuse or even Maryland regularly. The level of competition is certainly steep, but so is the travel.
However the school took on a newer initiative on October 25, one which transcends every border thorough the digital space, and pulled together anyone with even a slight affinity to the Mountaineers from around the world.
The staged “Mountaineer Nation Day,” when fans were encouraged to show their pride and passion for WVU through 341 watch parties in 13 countries, including Mountaineer bashes in Canada, Colombia, Ireland, Germany, France, China, Malaysia and Aruba. With its global alumni base of 190,000+, the school has relied heavily on satellite events to encourage the wearing of blue and gold during one away football game each season as a sort of homecoming away from home. Working with their partners at IMG College and Collegiate Licensing, WVU carefully targeted and used every social platform available to build awareness and then affinity of the game with all the trappings included.
The social element this year included the creation of six Vine videos to share and post for the game against Oklahoma State. The short videos featured fans, students, The Pride of West Virginia Marching Band, The Mountaineer mascot, and school President Gordon Gee. The Vines posted twice a week during October, leading up to the matchup and were hosted on the WVU Sports Vine account and also found on mountaineernationday.wvu.edu.
On game day, the site became a real time rallying point, with fans submitting photos to show their pride from around the world, with WVU targeting key groups who showed the most affinity to give away prizes like officially licensed jewelry, custom Mountaineer apparel, Mountaineer toys, and Mountaineer dog items.
While many schools do viewing parties on a regular basis, the fact that WVU was able to link their global network together and use the social space to have all those fans interact before, during and after the game was a great next step in fan engagement, and in many ways made the distance between Morgantown and those other Big 12 schools just a little bit closer, at least in the virtual space. It set a great example of how well schools can use remote locations to create a bigger community, because of the affinity people have with social media today.
Nice win on and off the field for the Mountaineers.