SVG College Sports Summit: Video Strategies Comprising Live and Feature Content Are Pivotal to School Promotion

At SVG College Sports Summit, attendees no longer have to be convinced that a university video department is a good idea. Over the past few years, it has become widely accepted at the Summit — and in the industry in general — that video production is not just possible but a crucial cog in advancing the university’s brand.

A College Sports Summit panel exploring the state of the industry featured panelists (from right) Learfield Sports’ Joe Ferriera, St. Cloud State’s Heather Weems, and Campus Insiders’ Crowley Sullivan and moderator Brandon Costa.

A College Sports Summit panel exploring the state of the industry featured panelists (from right) Learfield Sports’ Joe Ferriera, St. Cloud State’s Heather Weems, and Campus Insiders’ Crowley Sullivan and moderator Brandon Costa.

The conference’s first panel brought together executives from across the college-sports spectrum to discuss the importance of video to promote the university and engage fan bases.

Heather Weems, director of intercollegiate athletics for St. Cloud State, described working with the academic side of the university to make the HD overhaul of its on-campus broadcast facilities a reality.

“[For] a smaller school — Division II except, for hockey, we play Division I,” she said, “the relationship that we have with the Mass Communications and Journalism departments enables us to do some things that not everybody at our level is able to do.”

To broadcast its widely popular hockey games, St. Cloud State leverages the 24+ students who constitute Husky Productions. And because of the university’s commitment to upgrading its broadcast facilities, the equipment used for hockey broadcasts and in-venue entertainment can also be used to broadcast the school’s Olympic sports.

From Weems’s department to the various deans and even the university president and provost, all are committed to furthering St. Cloud athletics through Husky Productions.

“We really believe in that balanced approach. It makes a whole lot of sense,” she continued. “The way that we justify the expense and the money that’s put into it is that we are creating with our students the next generation of broadcasters in the state of Minnesota.”

Learfield Sports works with universities to transform their multimedia assets into customized marketing campaigns. Joe Ferreira, recently named his company’s first chief content officer, described the intent behind the new position: “What we’re trying to do with this position is gather all of our assets across the board, figure out where we can aggregate assets, and bring it to a higher level but ultimately get it back to the local level in places like Clemson and other partners and drive fan engagement through content.”

Similarly, Campus Insiders partners with universities and conferences to broadcast a diverse assortment of live games and events year-round, supplemented by original programming and editorial.

“We’re building a series of assets in this digital landscape that is growing so rapidly,” said VP/GM Crowley Sullivan. “We’re thrilled to be a part of this community; we’re thrilled to work with so many of the schools [present at the College Sports Summit]. And it’s really been exciting. I can’t wait to see what I’m able to say we’ve been able to do a year and a half from now.”

Although live game broadcasts are central to any university video-production strategy, the panelists stressed taking the advantage of access to student-athletes and coaches to create human-interest pieces.

“If I’m a St. Cloud State hockey fan, I want that in–locker-room speech from the coach; I want that walk from the locker room to the ice, the practice. That’s the gold that fans want,” said Ferriera. “If you’re not providing that as an institution, I think you’re missing out.”

For Weems, providing human-interest stories in addition to the live action can help elevate the status of St. Cloud State hockey in the region and the sport of hockey in general.

“[Just relying on] the old box scores is going away,” she said. “How do we give [fans] creative content? … When you talk about hockey, regionally, it’s huge. Through our hockey conference, we have a partnership agreement with CBS Sports, and that’s given us a great national visibility. But, at the regional level, there is a great fanfare for hockey, and, again, what we have to try and balance is what our fans want through our own services but also continuing to brand hockey as a whole.”

Another key area is social media, both through the broadcasts and in the venues during live events. Tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are vital complements to any video-production strategy.

“If you’re not playing in those spaces, you’re making a huge mistake,” said Ferreira. “[And that means] not just treating [social media] like a PR arm. It really has to be a key content flow of things that fans want to know. And it’s bridging that with the in-venue experience, which is where we’re spending a lot more time now. … If you’re not engaging with those fans [in-venue], if you’re not allowing them to connect not only with the people at the arena or stadium [but also] with their social network, you’re making a huge mistake.”

Expanding video-production infrastructure and staff to cover all sports —not just the most popular — enables universities to tap into fan bases that have not traditionally been served. Olympic sports — track, swimming, diving — can now reach fans, families, and prospective athletes wherever they are and promote the university in the process.

“We’re able to dig in and learn what the fan bases really do want,” said Sullivan. “There is an audience out there for all of these sports. This isn’t just a football and basketball world.”