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Social Media Can Change the Rules in Many Places




Since Andy is such an NC State fan it’s only fitting that the school would be involved in the social mediabasketball learning curve. Social media is about communication first and foremost but it is literally changing the rules of communication for some traditional organizations and in this case it’s the NCAA.

As reported in the Raleigh News & Observer, there is a very hot recruiting battle going on for John Wall who is ranked as the number 1 high school senior basketball player in the country according to rivals.com. Wall attends Raleigh Word of God high school right in Raleigh so naturally the NC State fan base would love to see one of their own stay home and help NC State become a national power in basketball. While the fan base would certainly love that so would the university considering the revenue that can be generated via advertising and more. Add to it that the local competition is none other than newly crowned national champion North Carolina and the ever present Duke University then it becomes pretty critical to State to bring a phenom like this on board.

So what’s social media have to do with any of this? Well, some well meaning State fans, 700 of them in fact, become members of freshmen Taylor Moseley’s Facebook group titled “John Wall PLEASE come to NC STATE”. The university asked Moseley to take it down on Thursday morning and by Thursday evening it was gone. Why? According to Michelle Lee, NCSU’s interim athletic director for compliance.

The NCAA made clear to N.C. State that it considers such sites a violation, Lee said. Making such a public appeal to Wall, in effect, turned Moseley into a representative of the university’s athletic interests under NCAA Division I Bylaw 13.02.13.

NCAA spokesperson Erik Christianson elaborates further saying

…the bylaw applies to “individuals who would develop a social networking site or use an existing one to send recruiting messages to prospective student-athletes. Those communications are not allowed.”

NCSU’s league, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) had something to say as to whether the 13.02.13 trumps the First Amendment

“I think that comes up, but the institution has an obligation to say, ‘For us to be a member of the association, we have to follow NCAA rules,'” said Shane Lyons, the ACC’s associate commissioner for compliance. And the First Amendment restricts government, which the NCAA is not.

Other schools are at risk as well by ‘courting’ Wall via Facebook including UNC, Duke, Memphis, Baylor and the University of Kentucky. These other schools want this player there as well and the creators of these groups contend that this display of passion can influence a player’s decision to go to a school or not. The creator of the University of Kentucky’s “Kentucky needs John Wall!” group has over 1,700 members and according to its creator, Micah Pearson, includes John Wall himself!

While this may be about sports it’s very much about marketing. Colleges and universities depend heavily on athletics to generate income for the schools’ coffers that eventually fund school related academics, research and more.

Social media is far reaching for sure. What it isn’t however is careful. In other words, what seems to be innocent activity on a social media outlet could actually have far reaching effects that were never considered until a line was crossed whether it was accidental or intentional. Could this happen elsewhere? Why not? What about activist efforts that could interfere in a court decision? What about the smear campaigns that crop up to create trouble for people?

What are marketers’ responsibilities in the social media Wild West? Do you just push the envelope until someone pushes back or do you do your due diligence and look to define the lines without breaking them? Your thoughts?

  • http://alexpeerenboom.blogspot.com Alex Peerenboom

    This has been done before in football. There were huge Facebook groups at the University of Oregon for both Terrell Pryor and Bryce Brown. I can understand the student’s desire to get big name recruits at their schools, but the NCAA is right. You’re a part of the association and you have to follow their rules.

    Alex Peerenboom’s last blog post..Viral Marketing: A Good Lesson

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  • http://www.anthillmarketing.com Grant Kimball

    It’s not only a wild west for marketers. Talk to the lawyers about it. In the middle of trying to sort out the legal implications of ecommerce, BAM! Here comes social media. Like it or not, fan bases are going to get in on the recruiting frenzy and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop it if they are not directly tied to an institution. Is this a case where the home team gets penalized when the fans throw beach balls on the field? (By the way, I’m all for the University of Oregon using any tactic it can to get the best talent. Go Ducks!)

  • David Brenner

    Who says “Colleges and universities depend heavily on athletics to generate income for the schools’ coffers that eventually fund school related academics, research and more.”? Was this researched? My impression is that the few college sports that actually manage to generate any surplus find it used to fund other athletic programs that lose money, like the many Title IX women’s sports with tiny followings that are forcibly imposed on almost all colleges and universities by the almighty Federal kleptocracy.

  • http://www.SEO-writer.com/writers/ David Leonhardt

    Yes, you push the rules. But you do it tastefully. The only way to find a wall in a dark room is to feel your way. You might bump into the wall and get a little hurt, but if you are moving carefully it should not be too bad. People know it’s the wild west, and as long as you are genuinely apologetic if you somehow step over somebody else’s definition of “tacky” or “spammy” they won’t mean you harm back.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    @David Brenner: Just one example, found in seconds, from Google.

    “LSU, for example, receives some $100 million in revenue each year from ticket sales, television rights, concessions, parking, logo sales, which is about five times what the school receives in tuition revenue from all the students that attend the university.” And that’s just football. Somehow I think that can cover the girls’ soccer team.
    http://www.jimbrownla.com/blog/?p=1611

  • Laura Frizell

    I think it is unrealistic that they made the NC State student delete the facebook group. Social media outlets such as facebook, myspace and twitter are the way of the future. The NCAA, along with the rest of the world is going to have to get used to social media, because it isn’t going anywhere. I understand the concern, but I think that groups like the NCAA will run into freedom of speech issues in the future if they continue to regulate social media outlets.

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