Michigan Athletics on Social
For this blog post, I thought it would be interesting to look at a different set of social media accounts that people reading this post can connect to: University of Michigan athletics team accounts. Some of these accounts are very active and have very large followings, while others do not have as much. Below is a bar chart that I created, comparing the Twitter follower counts (in thousands) of all Michigan athletics team accounts.
As you can tell, there is a very large jump when it comes to football — the University’s highest revenue sport. I am going to do a breakdown of a few accounts with the highest number of followers as well as analyze an account with a very low following.
An important note to make before diving into the analysis is how the followings of these team accounts compare to which sports bring in the most revenue per school. There are many similarities, as well as significant differences, between Michigan’s accounts and how much revenue each sport brings in.
It is important to state from the start that when comparing this account to the revenue breakdown shown above, it stands in line with the second highest follower amount and the second highest revenue, per NCAA average.
Michigan basketball has a very dedicated fan base on social media, and that can be seen from the engagement they receive with their posts. According to SkullSparks, a major college sports analytics tool, the Michigan basketball team ranks sixth out of 130 NCAA Division I basketball teams in having the largest social media following.
Users tend to be heavily influenced and impacted by a social environment. This is one of the primary uses of Michigan men’s basketball Twitter. And this account prioritizes social environment more than other teams, which can be seen as a contributing factor to their account having more followers. Recently, this account has become more politically active than in the past by urging its followers to vote. They’ve done this by sharing content of players and coaches encouraging the public to vote. This has created a relatable brand personality for Michigan basketball as many people can identify with the encouragement to take part in this civic duty. Ann Arbor is a very politically active city, which makes it more likely that users will engage with these types of posts.
When looking at posts from throughout the season on Facebook and Twitter, it is clearly noticeable that almost every post has a media element with it. This creates an experiential value for the user, especially with posts that are related to a specific game. Many of their followers have an emotional attachment to Michigan basketball. Whether it be because they are alumni, students, Ann Arbor residents or just die-hard fans, this team brings out an emotional response from people and that can be seen from the content they post.
One final aspect I noticed with Michigan basketball’s accounts is its lack of sponsored advertisements. This was a very notable contrast when comparing this to the professional teams accounts from my last blog post. My logical reasoning for why the lack of sponsored posts exist is that these teams do not need to bring in as large of a revenue because they do not have to pay their athletes.
“An advantage of active interaction in social media in the context of sports is that it could boost students’ social ties with other college students” (Kim and Kim, 2019, p. 246).
The quote above comes from a journal on social media use in college sports. While this quote could be applied to any team, I see it as a direct representation of Michigan hockey on social media.
While I could take a look at the University of Michigan’s social media accounts for its hockey team, I’m going to show the Children of Yost Twitter account. Children of Yost is the name of the student section for Michigan hockey. I would describe the Children of Yost as having their own culture, and that is apparent on their social media. They are aggressive, loud, rowdy, and the most dedicated students to any Michigan sports team. The group receives a lot of attention for the content they post on social media. There is a sense of socialization with this group that goes into creating their own culture in-person as well as online. This social media account is known for interacting with other accounts and creating engaging posts, typically using humor. While this strays away from the rest of the Michigan athletics accounts, it is a good one to make note of due to its large engagement.
Perhaps the biggest outlier with the comparison of social media followers to the revenue breakdown is Michigan softball. Michigan softball has the fourth highest number of Twitter followers out of 25 accounts, but can be seen as having the lowest average revenue, according to the Business Insider chart. From what I have experienced first-hand on campus, Michigan softball is well known among students because of buzz marketing. Michigan softball has a reputation for being a very good team, especially for being in the midwest. Additionally, their head coach Carol Hutchins is currently the winningest softball coach in the NCAA. These two facts create an excitement around the team and through buzz marketing, which typically involves word of mouth, students know about the Michigan softball team.
Outside of students, Michigan softball has a notoriously large brand community. They have a dedicated fan base on social media as well as in the stands at games. Having photographed both Michigan softball and baseball games in the past, for The Michigan Daily, I have always noticed a larger turnout of fans at Michigan softball games, even though baseball is known for being a larger revenue sport. This translates over to their social media.
Even looking at just posts of practices, Michigan softball has more interaction than some teams do with in-game posts. This can be seen in the examples above. There is a huge sense of brand loyalty with Michigan softball. It doesn’t seem that there are many specific marketing tactics that the team utilizes on its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but because of their loyal and dedicated fan base, the team has a large engagement on social media.
It is important to look at an account that may not have as large of a following as others. Michigan rowing is a good example of this. After going through their Twitter and Instagram, it can be seen that what this brand lacks is original and differentiated content. Below is a screenshot of their nine most recent Instagram posts. Only one-third of these posts actually are related to the Michigan rowing team.
While they are creating a relatable brand personality by including voting posts, there needs to be more content applicable to their brand. Otherwise, people will skim right over their account. Users want to receive value from the brands they interact with, and by looking at the value that the Michigan rowing accounts offer to the user, there is not much customer value.
Overall, Michigan athletics uses a wide variety of marketing tactics within their social media accounts. Some strategies are the same for accounts, while others are different. While they may not have as many championships as other schools, Michigan athletics does carry a reputation with having a strong athletics program, even if it is with their online presence. When looking at all NCAA programs, Michigan ranked seventh in generating the most interactions with its main account from January 1 - June 17, 2020 (SkullSparks, 2020). While there is still room for improvement with performance of its teams, Michigan athletics has a strong digital presence and continues to engage its followers.
Word Count: 1294
Value-Added Content: Photos from various Michigan athletics social media accounts (Instagram and Twitter), created bar graph, image of external sourced bar graph
Gaines, C., & Nudelman, M. (2017, October 05). The average college football team makes more money than the next 35 college sports combined. Retrieved November 06, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/college-sports-football-revenue-2017-10
Kim, B., & Kim, Y. (2019). Growing as social beings: How social media use for college sports is associated with college students’ group identity and collective self-esteem. Computers in Human Behavior, 97, 241-249. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2019.03.016
SkullSparks. (2020, June 23). Top 130 MBB Teams by Follower Count [Twitter]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/SkullSparks/status/1275496622714126340.
SkullSparks. (2020, June 18). FBS Athletics Interactions Jan-June 2020 [Twitter]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/SkullSparks/status/1273717871860989955.
Social media accounts referenced:
Children of Yost: https://twitter.com/ChildrenOfYost
Michigan Basketball (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/MichiganBasketball
Michigan Basketball (Twitter): https://twitter.com/umichbball
Michigan Softball (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/MichiganSoftball/
Michigan Softball (Twitter): https://twitter.com/umichsoftball
Michigan Softball (Instagram): https://www.instagram.com/umichsoftball/
Michigan Rowing (Twitter): https://twitter.com/umichrowing
Michigan Rowing (Instagram): https://www.instagram.com/umichrowing/