University of Kentucky Basketball has been the industry leader over the past decade when it comes to their on-court production, production of professional players and the way it unites its team, athletes, alumni and fan base through social media.
Since Coach John Calipari (Cal) took over as head coach of UK Basketball in 2009-10, Kentucky has made four NCAA Final Four appearances, five SEC titles and produced three No. 1 overall NBA Draft picks, while having 24 players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft – all the most of any college basketball team during the same span.
At the same time, Kentucky is leading the way in social media engagement with more than 35 million combined followers turning their eyes to Kentucky’s team accounts, coaches, athletes and alumni on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
“We want them to get a college experience here, and it is all about the college experience, but we don’t hide the fact that these guys’ aspirations are to make it to the next level, to be a professional, so we treat everything we do as if they’re a professional when they get here. That’s across the board, whether preparing for a game and training like a pro, to their media experience,” said Eric Lindsey, Kentucky’s associate director of media relations.
From early in his career, Lindsey, 31, has been given the responsibility to manage UK’s brand. After helping launch CoachCal.com in 2009-10, Lindsey took over management for the site in 2011 and became the primary media relations contact for men’s basketball and women’s golf in 2014-15.
Lindsey says INFLCR has further opened his eyes.
“You’ve been great at opening my eyes,” Lindsey told INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale during a recent visit to Rupp Arena. “We were so focused on Coach Cal and the UK Brand that we lost sight of the players … With your help, what we really try to focus on is not just the Kentucky Basketball handle (@KentuckyMBB) or Coach Cal’s brand (@UKCoachCalipari), it’s the players too. We’ve tried to really expand that. It’s not just people following us, it’s people following them too. Everybody is telling the story of Kentucky Basketball.”
Lindsey says the “be a pro” mentality has expanded into social media for UK men’s basketball players.
“We want them from day one when they get in here to brand themselves and to tweet, Facebook and Instagram like a pro,” he said.
Calipari has been on the front end of social media engagement among college coaches since his hire at UK in 2009. His 2.6 million social followers exceeds that of all SEC men’s basketball coaches by 2 million. His website, also an industry leader, grew by 400 percent when Lindsey took management, and so has the social media presence, which Lindsey says UK views more of a tool for positive engagement and less of a distraction for players.
“There’s a lot more positives to social media, a lot of things you can do. We talk about building a brand, but it also can help people, can motivate people and inspire people. That’s what Cal does it for and that’s what he tries to tell our guys to utilize it for and to uplift others,” Lindsey said.
Kentucky was the first college athletics program to hear about INFLCR, a SaaS product that empowers sports team brands to aggregate their internally curated content and the social media accounts of their brand ambassadors (student-athletes, coaches, alumni, etc.), all into one platform. INFLCR empowers these sports teams to partner with their brand ambassadors on social media, and Kentucky signed on as one of the startup’s first clients in the fall of 2017. Lindsey says Kentucky Basketball distributes sports videos and photos to athletes through INFLCR’s cloud-based system to help equip UK players with content for their social media channels.
“Content is king. It’s what drives everything. We give our players the practices that are best to do on social media, things you should do and things you should not do. But the best thing we can do is to provide [them with] this content,” Lindsey said. “Let’s get that content to their fans and the best way to do so is working with INFLCR.”
About Jim Cavale
Jim Cavale has been an entrepreneur since college when he co-founded a sports TV/Radio streaming network for his university, and then created a product to sell to other universities to help them stream their sporting events. Since then, Jim has exited multiple businesses, most recently selling his equity as President of Iron Tribe Fitness after more than six years in which he helped lead the brand from one gym in Alabama to more than 40 gym locations across America from Seattle to Miami. He is a three-time INC. 5000 entrepreneur who has recently founded two new emerging brands in the GLOW beauty on demand app and the Influencer SaaS product that empowers brands to partner with their brand ambassadors on social media. Jim is a published author with Entrepreneur Press, has spoken on stages of all sizes and publishes content regularly at http://JimCavale.com
Follow him @JimCavale on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.