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Hiral Patel, April 22 2022

How David Is Taking On Goliath With Reels

A Small College Team Is Making Their Stamp On Social Media

Talk is cheap if you can’t back it up with proof. While that statement paints a very blunt picture of reality, it does speak to the truth of a results-based society – which is the name of the game in sports, and sports marketing. Earlier this week, we came across a Twitter thread of how a NCAA Division 2 volleyball team was able to add 22,000 IG followers in 2 months. Let’s dive into it:

The University of Tampa (UT), home to 10,500 students (as of Fall 2021 enrollment), participates in the NCAA’s Division II, the second tier of collegiate sports in the USA. With 14 NCAA sports (plus cheerleading, which is non-NCAA), the size of their athletics department is modest. UT does not host a football team, which is arguably the largest NCAA sport – giving us a glimpse into the weight of the program. However, what the UT’s volleyball program has accomplished on social media shows that a well-executed plan can improve any team’s social media presence.

The team’s Instagram account (@tampa_vb) had under 10,000 followers at the beginning of February, which was during the team’s offseason. Their 352% in follower growth translates to a total of 28,900 followers as of April 19th. So the question is – how did they do it?

Short form content. Social media marketers talk about the boom of Tiktok, which has led to every social media platform offering a short form video version of content (IG Reels, Facebook Stories, Snapchat Stories, etc.). The UT volleyball team started using Reels in December of 2021, and since then, have posted a total of 56 Instagram reels, an average of over 11 per month (or 2-3 per week). This consistency is critical, regardless of the engagements early, you can see the steady growth of views on their reel content. Another note on reels – there is no linear growth trend. Some highlight reels have amassed over 1.2 million views, with one reel even posting 62.8 million views. However, their feed is mixed with sprinkles of videos with under 50,000 views as well.

The reels are simple, consistent of practice highlights, in-game highlights, and some off court interviews and promotion. The reels are not taking the latest popular dance trends, but uses trending audio bites, which allows for their reels to organically appear on Instagram Users’ explore page. Platforms like Instagram make it easy to take viral audio clips and add them to any reel you upload.

As of Friday, April 22nd (the day this edition of the Sport Marketeer was sent to your inbox), the University of Tampa Volleyball IG account has 74,300 followers and counting. The contrast between static posts and reels is night and day – averaging over 10,000 likes on the reels compared to the sub 500 likes on their gameday and scrimmage posts.

What does this all mean for sports marketers, athletes, and any individual (or team) looking to expand their social media brand presence? Actions speak louder than words. In a chapter of James Clear’s Atomic Habits, he discusses that people often mistake motion for action. Meaning that time spent planning and strategizing is confused for actual progress and real action. On social media, no one sees the planning and preparation that goes into a post – only the post itself. Getting over the barrier of planning for perfection and allowing for room to make mistakes and improve starts the cycle of action. A social media strategy is crucial to grow a brand with an intended goal and mission. Being stuck in the loop of planning and revising without ever executing is where even the greatest of plans can falter.

One last note on the University of Tampa’s volleyball program – there is no men’s volleyball team at the university. The account, and all content is centered around their #1 ranked DII volleyball program – and it’s all female. While the growth of women’s sports continues to be underestimated by some, the numbers don’t lie.

Published: April 22, 2022 - Issue 35 of The Sport Marketeer

Written by

Hiral Patel


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