Go behind the scenes at College Station with exclusive mobile access to Texas A&M football players and coaches with the new social content hub AggieFBLife. The site at AggieFBLife.com is the the first web and mobile responsive digital platform for a collegiate football program. The Sports Techie community blog was delighted to discuss this sports technology history with FusionSports Marketing co-founder and CEO, Ashley De Walt. First year Head Coach Kevin Sumlin, led the Aggies to its first top-five finish in 56 seasons. The Aggies innovative social media hub showcasing Sumlin’s rising program went live at the start of the season.
Texas A&M joined the SEC last season and set the conference upside down with a season to remember. The University has partnered this year with Houston-based FusionSports to bring the social content hub for Aggie Football crafted for mobile consumption 30sec (-1min) along with micro blogs, videos and images featuring Texas A&M life, delivering lifestyle-driven content and campaigns from inside the program. The site contains exclusive original content players and coaches – including music playlists from the team’s daily practices. Coaches’ messages and university core values are reinforced, as are the Aggie traditions such as the Corp March In at Kyle Field and Yell practice by the 12th Man.
“The thought process is that we are football coaches and administrators, and with the changes in the (recruiting) rules we wanted to take our resources and not hire a sports marketing firm, but a Texas A&M football marketing firm who were professionals and actually knew something about a 15-20 year-old target audience and what affects them and appeals to them,” Sumlin said. “That’s where the idea started.”
The football model and standard for seamless filming has been set by the HBO Sports “Hard Knocks” show that featured the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals NFL training camp. Fusion Sports work with the Aggie program’s full-time video director, meeting with him weekly to plan segment filming. Producing authentic Lifestyle content for recruits will help them understand why they should consider signing with Texas A&M.
AggieFBLife aggregates branded content that is sharable from social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Vine into one interface. Their Twitter account has over 5,000 followers after only 200 tweets.
The website categories are: News, Lifestyle, Video, Events, The Program, and The University. In addition to social media content, the site includes overviews on the Texas A&M Football program and the University, as well as features on the latest adidas apparel worn by the Aggies. Video such as the Daily – Friday Night Lights segment is proving to be popular with young viewers.
Texas A&M Football is positioning itself at the leading edge of mobile technology, as researchers with Strategy Analytics suggest that wireless data consumption will increase by 300 percent by 2017, with 42 percent of this growth being attributed to video streaming.
“Today’s young people, particularly those in college football, live on their mobile devices,” said Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin, who personally has more than 41,000 Twitter followers with his @CoachSumlin account. “With AggieFBLife, we are able to give an insider’s view of our football program and show what it’s like to be a football player at Texas A&M through videos, blogs and imagery.”
FusionSports first project was to build an Athletic Branding space for the University at a bid of $120,000. The Aggie web site and native app architecture is unlike any in the collegiate sports Industry. The AggieFBLife mobile app has a stage two release set for the fall and is more of an application buildout.
Whether it is ESPN game day, the most recent “Hey Coach” video segment interview with Coach Brady, the WR and recruiting coordinator, or the players engaging in games of cards, foursquare or dominoes, an Aggie recruit is sure to feel part of the program by following along via the Internet and mobile devices. Aggie recruits have already been privy to a helicopter picking up a coach, a helmet cam used during scrimmage and rapid fire message boards. Coaches dancing, everyday humor and activities like players getting a haircut and lounging around at the Coaches house for a steak night is exclusive to AggieFBLife.com.
“Young men have a 1 to 3 minute or a Vine attention span,” said De Walt, before they have other life issues to deal with such as girlfriends, study and training. A lot of youths delete apps that take up too much space on their mobile device hard drive so FusionSports optimized their software to accommodate this trend. They designed their sports tech to be a web and native app that can be easily bookmarked to a phone. Competitive apps require a USB and WiFi download speed that many recruits do not have access too. Other college apps are flash based sites that will not play correctly on mobile devices.
“Players like the flashy stuff,” shared De Walt. Chrome and black helmets and logos on the football gloves they wear are topics players and recruits care about. Discussing the latest watch or who is most dominant playing video games is the norm. AggieFBLife is currently shooting a video about the recruits who are “sneakerheads” in the Houston, Dallas and Louisiana regions. Guys like to talk about each other’s shoe game and chat about the latest pair of LeBron James neon colored shoes.
By interfacing with AggieFBLife at their discretion, recruits can see what the first day of class is like. They are now able to visualize what is like to hang out at the pool parties at the football complex while laughing with teammates before the big game. “Aggie recruits tech savvy,” says Ashley.
The “Aggies in the Pros” content showcased week four performances included Seattle Seahawks Red Bryant and Micelle Bennett and Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. If a recruit wants to play in the NFL, he has Aggie role models to emulate.
Daily: Friday Night Lights
Kyle Field – Home of the 12th Man
Kyle Field is undergoing the most extensive redevelopment in stadia history. The goal is to construct the finest collegiate facility that will accommodate their 31,000 passionate 12th Man students. The upgrade will improve total seating from 82,600 to 102,000.
Kyle Field is ranked as the #4 stadium in the nation by The Sporting News and was considered one of the most intimidating stadiums in its former conference, the Big 12 Conference. The Kyle Filed east side is all about the students, the west side is for the alumni and boosters. The updated Champions Hall is for all. Noise level enhancements include lowering the field and designing seating to be closer to the field. The enclosed canopies over the east and west stands will trap noise and make it the most intimating environment in all of college sports.
The total cost of Kyle Field Redevelopment is $450 million, with 51 percent funded by annual seat licenses, 27 percent funded by Kyle Field Campaign gifts, 17 percent funded by Texas A&M students and 5 percent funded by the local government agencies. Other amenities include premium and priority ticketing, a sports museum, and improved concessions, merchandising and restrooms.
A unique Kyle Field stadium feature will be the redevelopment of the 12 Founders Suites. They are each 960 square feet and have their own theater style seating and lounge area. The second deck of west side will have a high-end club to service the 35,000 club seats, suites and luxury boxes. Climate control options behind glass are available or they can be opened to soak in the one-of-a-kind collegiate atmosphere. See http://kylefield.com/constructioncams.
Kyle Field Redevelopment Project Overview
“As a former collegiate football player, it has been exciting to work with such a progressive coach in Kevin Sumlin, as well as with the entire football staff,” said Sean Richards of FusionSports. “Texas A&M really gets what captures the attention of today’s athletes, and with the AggieFBLife network, we’re able to provide inside access to a major college football program like never before.”
FusionSports, Inc. handles digital brand management for athletes. I enjoyed hearing about the pioneering sports business partnership between AggieFBLife and FusionSports. Fusion Sports can edit the look and feel of a customer’s web site to include similar functionality as AggieFBLife in addition to adding any custom bells and whistles that another NCAA university might want build into their own recruiting and branding Solution. They designed bios with one look and background for all Aggie football staff and associated AggieFBLife people. Each coach has a web presence complete with a bio, twitter address and a unique media quote about them.
FusionSports has worked with some of the top names in sports and lifestyle, including Ray Lewis, Hines Ward, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson. The company works with professional athletes and sport brands to craft engaging brand experiences across web, mobile and social channels.
“Music is beyond sports,” claimed Ashley. He further stated says that, “Sports has been traditionally slow to adopt tech league wide.” I agree with him. Let’s hope that the lack of instant replay this season does not affect the outcome of a MLB postseason game such as the World Series clincher. FIFA still has top leagues such as EUFA that have not adopted the use of goal line technology. Bravo to Texas A&M for forging ahead.
De Walt discussed how back in the day, agents and players did not fully comprehend the ability to control brand messaging. Agents thought it was stupid and a fad. They told their players not to fool with Facebook because it was going to be the next My Space. Today, most all athletes and brands understand the 24/7 nature of social media.
Ashley not only works all day as a FusionSports guy, he is also attending the Texas A&M Master’s program with an emphasis on Sports Management. He is 32 year-old but if I had to guess his age after speaking on the phone with him it would have been at least 40 because of the level of maturity and tech experiences he has.
When Ashley started his business, no personal brand web sites were on the web. He rattled off a series of names that included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaq. In 2006, Ashley was drawn to the Pick Pitino and Louisville Cardinal site because it was so different than anybody else’s. Along the way he met a graphics and web designer based in Germany who became his partner. They speak via Skype on a daily basis.
His first gig was producing highlight videos on a G-4 desktop while using the Final Cut Pro editing suite. He replaced the old highlight reel VHS process with the new DVD format. De Walt is most often using LinkedIn for his social media needs and rarely uses Facebook for personal use. The Industry has evolved and it’s now, “Game on,” according to Ashley.
Ray Lewis App
Ray Lewis was approached by Fusion Sports to create a mobile app that included a video workout module for the iPhone at a cost of $4.99. De Walt shared with Sports Techie that they made over $50,000 in app sales. FusionSports instituted a media campaign that was picked up by ESPN SportsCenter and other media outlets. The app was featured by ITunes and that listing enabled them to stay as a top ten Sports App for six straight months.
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Sports Techie, AggieFBLife is a launchpad for exclusive lifestyle-driven content from inside the Aggie football program. Witnessing how coaches interact with players and recruits in an import process that is made for this digital era. Seeing the Houston street spirit walk is a must see for Aggie football recruits. Other schools may want to copy the new AggieFBLife social hub model and replace their stale digital media guide layout as a new age tool for recruiting.
The 15-20 year old target market is heavily influenced by their Mom and girlfriend. This important relationship is a major component of the recruiting process and AggieFBLife emphasizes this fact by paying attention to Mothers as a recruit’s final decision maker.
“Not everybody here rides a horse or wears boots,” Sumlin said with a laugh. “There’s a perception out there about who we are. And what this platform gives us is a way to show what our players really do and what life is like for them in College Station.”
I like how the website shares the schools #TeamAdidas cleats and jerseys for sale. There is no web page on the AggieFBLife for boosters nor is there a donation button. The college’s administration and coaching staff wanted a recruiting only hub and that is exactly what FusionSports created with AggieFBLife.
The Ags head back to Oxford on October 12th, for a replay of what turned out to be one of the most exciting games in the conference last season. Kickoff’s at 7:30 p.m. central time, and this one will be nationally televised courtesy of ESPN. Follow hashtags #BTHOolemiss and #gigem.
Experience the lifestyle that is Texas A&M Football, College Station, TX, at AggieFBLife.
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