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?