Social Media and Sports: Lessons and highlights from college football

By Karen Freberg

College football is finally here! We had a lot of games to watch and discuss over the past few days, and I always tell my friends in the field while there is a football game to be played, another one is also happening online. The teams behind the team (as Samantha Hughey would use this term for those working in sports and social media) are also "playing a game" to see who can create the best stories, content, and execute in a way that makes a meaningful impact and presence in the community both online and translate this to other outlets and circles.

The first week of college football did not disappoint and I felt there were some memorable pieces of content that were created, shared and discussed online. We are seeing some of the best social media work playing out in the sports industry level, and I hope brands and others are able to see what they can do to learn from these amazing professionals.

Here were some of the highlights for me:

College Game Day does Snapchat Discover right

There are always brands that are trying to figure out how to best utilize the Discover feature on Snapchat the right way. College Game Day, which has been very successful in their Twitter coverage of various games, announced they have their own Discover tab as a way to start the college social media and sports season off on a strong note.

They did an excellent job in having a range of content from Lee Corso cartoons, interviews, features for the upcoming games, and Marvel posters. The range of content kept you entertained and engaged to see what they would do next. AND - most importantly - they had a CTA at the end saying to "subscribe" to their channel, which they would be able to track and see if this worked for them or not. 

Reigning champions of #SMSports content do it again

They call Beyonce the Queen B, but if Beyonce worked in #SMSports, then her name would be Clemson. I saw SO many teams embrace what Clemson did last year. Stunning gifs. Visual stories. Thanking students, teammates, and interns working with them (YAY!) These are all things Clemson did (with the leadership of Jonathan Ganttand Jeff Kallin) last year and continue to do.

Clemson's content for their game versus Auburn did NOT disappoint at all. In fact, they raised it again to the next level with more visually stimulating videos and content. They also introduced (and were one of the only teams I have seen ever do this) with next-level vertical storytelling (genius!) for their pre-game coverage. Awesome stuff!

Plus, they were able to give praise to those who were working with them as well. To this day, Clemson is still the reigning champions for #SMSports content and they will continue setting the pace in this area. Way to go, Jonathan + Clemson Athletic Team!

Strong visual storytelling with Adobe products

I definitely have seen a shift in how the teams are sharing their stories and engaging with not only their fans, but for the #SMSports community. 

Michigan (and the work Brian Wagner and his team are doing) is amazing. Love the visuals and gifs they created and their new partnership with Air Jordan definitely took the stage at the game versus Hawaii. 

As I have written about before, I am a HUGE fan of Adobe and their products, and it was fun to see many of the teams use Adobe Spark Page to help share their stories and create some amazing content, like the one created by Michigan here

Snapchat takeovers: How to do it right

I was SUPER impressed with the Snapchat takeover Front Office Sports did with Will Baggett for the Georgia vs. UNC game. Will was able to really capture what it was like at the game from a POV we usually do not see from a sports and social media perspective. The content was balanced for both teams and the coverage (and use of emojis) was excellent. I wish more teams would do something like this for their teams to give fans this level of engagement.

Major props to Will and FOS for doing this and I am excited to see what other Snapchat takeovers you all for this season!

Remembering a teammate

I would have to say the sports community (and the world) definitely shed a tear for the Nebraska Huskers for what they did to remember Sam Folz, who passed away in a car accident this summer. This tribute was very emotional and touched the heart strings of everyone at the game and those who were watching the game.

The Huskers digital team (lead by Kelly Mosier) shared this update on social media. Yep, there wasn't a dry eye in #SMSports as well. Well done, Nebraska. #RIPSF27.

We are all part of a team and community #SquadGoals

So many times, we forget that we can be part of the same community and be on the same team. We get wrapped up with how our team is doing and forget there are others out there we are connected with.

That's what really stuck out at me for what Front Office Sports did. They created digital jerseys for the #SMSports community and said we were all part of the same community with #FOSquad. Genius. This really was well done and got everyone sharing their digital jersey with their communities - this digital artifact unified everyone together in a way I have not seen from another group.

We need MORE of this in social media, and major props to Adam, Russ, Jason, Austin and the rest of the team for this.


As you can see, lots of takeaways here from content creation, Snapchat coverage, and effective visual storytelling for teams and other professionals to take note of. The season is very young and I am sure we are going to continue seeing some amazing things on the field and in the social media space for sure.

To read more from Karen Freberg and catch her social media review from week two of college football, go to

Karen Freberg (@kfreberg) is an assistant professor in Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville and an adjunct instructor for the WVU Graduate Online Program Freberg’s research has been published in several book chapters and in academic journals such as Public Relations Review, Journal of Public Relations Education, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management and Health Communication. Freberg’s social media pedagogy practices have been featured in Forbes and in USA Today College publications.