Not a night goes by, it seems, without a former Pac-12 basketball student making headlines in the NBA playoffs.
There’s former Arizona big man Deandre Ayton, averaging 17.4 points and 12.2 rebounds as Phoenix tries to take out the Lakers.
There’s former UCLA playmaker Jrue Holiday, with another double-double for Milwaukee.
There’s ex-Oregon star Dillon Brooks, averaging 26 points per game for Memphis.
Apparently, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are also pretty good.
And yet, you’d never know that Alums are thriving on the biggest basketball scene based on two essential social media channels.
The Pac-12’s main Twitter feed, with 71,000 followers, hasn’t produced a single tweet (or retweet) about NBA excellence since an item emerged on the day the playoffs started.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 networks’ Twitter feed (163,000 subscribers) was silent on the subject for the duration of the playoffs. Not a sentence. Not a word. Not a GIF.
There is also no mention of the NBA’s exploits on the conference’s Instagram account.
The Pac-12 could have been streaming nighttime content about its former stars on social media – content that would have been retweeted by schools, fans and the media until it inevitably hit the radar of popular rookies. coast to coast.
He could have constantly reminded anyone who wanted to hear him that 33 former Pac-12 players were on the NBA playoff lists. (On a per school basis, only the SEC has more.)
It could have helped basketball programs build on the momentum gained during the NCAA tournament.
Instead, the past two weeks have been a missed opportunity for a conference that can’t afford a whiff.
The explanation is quite simple, according to several sources familiar with the staff situation in San Francisco: the downsizing linked to COVID has particularly affected the social and digital teams of the Pac-12.
There are enough resources to manage the bases, to promote the teams and athletes currently involved in college baseball and softball tournaments, for example.
But that’s all. Despite the potential benefits for a sport as vital as men’s basketball, a concerted and organized effort to promote NBA playoff excellence is beyond the reach of existing social and digital teams – and dramatically small.
It is not a failure of intention; it is a problem of resources. And that requires context.
As part of the two-in-one structure of Pac-12, the social and digital teams are employed by the network side of the operation.
When COVID hit the budget collapsed and tough decisions had to be made, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shaken prioritized staff in other areas.
“The digital content department has been gutted,” a source said, “and the focus has been on live events.”
The move made sense: Comcast, DISH and other partners are paying the Pac-12 networks the right to broadcast live events, not for clever tweets about Dillon Brooks and Deandre Ayton. These revenues, in turn, are channeled to campuses.
With few valuable cards to play, Shuken and Scott called the money.
But the move came at a cost. Social and digital teams serve a dual role: they also provide content that can be used by the conference office – through the main Twitter feed, for example – to promote campuses.
Ultimately, this is another example of a bad business model resulting in unstable finances that undermine the Pac-12’s ability to properly support its teams and athletes. To market them as they deserve. To best position them for future success.
But enough about what went wrong. Let’s throw that forward.
George Kliavkoff will take office as Commissioner on July 1 and will no doubt be looking for quick fixes, easy wins and new momentum.
It’s a new coach trying to rebuild the program: it’s much better to open the season against New Mexico State than against Alabama.
Many items on Kliavkoff’s to-do list will take months or even years to resolve. Like football refereeing. Or the end of the game for the Pac-12 networks. Or the future location of the conference office.
But there are some issues that can be resolved this summer.
Kliavkoff should prioritize rebuilding social and digital teams, so they buzz in time for the NBA Draft (July 29) and the month-long ramp into football season.
Promoting Pac-12 alumni to the NBA playoffs cannot be the job of schools. They sometimes retweet content from NBA teams, but campus staff responsible for the seasonal promotion of men’s basketball have other responsibilities in the spring.
The process must come from San Francisco. He has to be creative, he has to be relentless, and he has to have a purpose beyond the immediate.
To do this properly in the future, the Pac-12 needs an exclusively focused social media team. on content that helps football and basketball teams reach their rookies.
Marking the Pac-12 as the “Conference of Champions” on social media isn’t enough, as soccer and basketball rookies don’t care about golf and water polo.
Kliavkoff is expected to create a social team that coordinates not only on a day-to-day basis with the marketing and communications employees on campus, but also with the recruiting directors of football and basketball.
If a coveted Scottsdale lineman is considering a career in medicine when he’s done playing, why not ask the Pac-12 social team to generate content on the conference’s elite medical schools?
Everything needs to be connected, from the assistant coach who regularly texts a rookie in suburban Houston to the social team creating content in San Francisco.
It should be a one-size-fits-all strategy – one that fits within NCAA rules, of course, but maximizes every opportunity to promote schools and the conference.
And if you can’t justify hiring a full team, assign at least one person to the task. And do it before training camp starts, because optics matter.
The recruiting landscape is about to undergo a radical change with the arrival of name, image and likeness.
Meanwhile, the impact of social media on the 17-year-old’s edge rushers and left tackles continues to grow.
The same old man, the same old man, won’t work on campus or at headquarters.
The NBA Playoffs are a missed opportunity. Let this be a lesson. It’s time to get it right for football, but not without a comprehensive, fully integrated social media strategy dedicated to what matters most: recruiting.
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