The Hokie Brand: A look at progress

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The Offseason is almost over, we’re almost back to being able to talk football but we’re not quite there yet. So, for just a second longer, let’s take a look at some of the improvements that have been made within the program and athletic department

The Problem

FootballIsComingVirginia Tech has the slogan “Invent the Future” so why has the program seemed to lag behind the times? Of course, a number of variables come into play here in cases such as these. The issue could be a straight forward as budget or people just not being good at their job all the way to a program that just got complacent with the status quo (and who wouldn’t with that bowl streak and 10 win seasons?).

“Hell, why do we need to develop all new offer letters every year when we can send the same ones as last year, maybe swap out a picture and change the year, we’re all good we got Comic Sans bitches.”

“What do you mean I need to get a ‘twitter presence’ what the hell is a got damn ‘twitter’ do I look like I’m a twitter to you?”

This is a bit of hyperbole, sure, but the general sentiment of complacency is one that has seemed to resonate through the Athletics department. Honestly, it’s hard not to fall into a rut of complacency when you’ve had the same thing for decades. The same Bowl games, the same AD, the same Head Coach, the same Coordinators. As things changed all around Virginia Tech, even as players came and went, the program seemed to stay the same. This sense of complacency is understandable given the year in and year out success the program had. Sure, the team never met its ultimate goal but BCS bowl appearances aren’t something that can be written off easily and becoming complacent is understandable given that kind of success.

This complacency is a problem. A problem that, it seems, is starting to be addressed within the Athletics Department.

Progress

Over the past couple months (coincidentally lining up with a certain hire in the Athletics Department 😉 ). I have noticed a bolstering on a number of fronts including improving brand identity, fan engagement, and social media presence.

Branding and Brand Identity

One of the most obvious improvements the program has made is its invigorated effort to improve brand identity. The idea of a ‘Brand” is one that can be applied to a myriad of ‘products’ whether they be a literal, physical product, or, hey!, a football team. At the end of the day, the football team is a product and can be completely analogous to any product you may purchase in a store. The identity of a brand is created by how you communicate with the customer including logos and imagery which can be used to help shape the perception of your company or product. The fan is the customer and as the AD, Whit Babcock essentially serves as the CEO.  So now let’s look over a few simple examples of how the brand identity of the football program has been improved in just a few short months.

First, the Scholarship Offer Letter. On the left is the letter sent out to the members of the 2014 Recruiting Class and on the right is the letter that was just sent out to the members of the 2015 Recruiting Class.

(Via @TyrellSmith76 on Instagram)

(Via @TyrellSmith76 on Instagram)

(Via @Lydon4CE on Twitter)

(Via @Lydon4CE on Twitter)

    On the 2014 letter we notice a couple of things. First things first, that is Comic Sans. I shit you not, that is Comic Sans. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have to really expand much further on why the 2014 version is terrible. Just, just… just look at it… Now the 2015 version looks crisp. Instantly you notice a couple of things:

  • The Nike Logo. Look at Oregon. Nike is a recognized brand that carries a lot of weight.
  • The letter looks crisp with bright, vivid colors
  • An Overall appearance of quality

The 2014 version looks faded and it looks dated. The 2015 version has a bright orange #15 jersey with the nike logo, ACC logo, and VT logo displayed prominently, a scene of Lane Stadium is faded with clear, easy to read lettering on top of it (NOT Comic Sans). The last thing I want you to notice about the 2015 version is the lettering of “Virginia Tech” commit that font to memory. I’ll get to that eventually.

Over the past couple days, members of the Athletics Department have taken to Twitter to post some pictures to hype up the fans. The following pictures were tweeted out by Coaches (Moorehead, Foster, Stiney, etc.) ANDDDD the new guy Thomas Guerry who joined the program recently as the Director of High School Relations after coming over from UGA.

SnapHuddle
ReportingJCDeAngelo

Exhibit B, a handful of pictures posted by Thomas Guerry on Twitter.There are a couple observations to make on these pictures, a VT logo, a Nike logo, and that same font that we saw earlier on the Scholarship Offer Letter. Over the past week or so I’ve seen these same pictures get reposted and retweeted countless times and they continue to build the hype for Virginia Tech football in just 25 short days.

Keep your eyes posted on Twitter, HokieSports.com, and other media outlets to watch for continued improvements in the brand identity of Virginia Tech.

Fan Engagement

The first sign of the effort to improve fan engagement was the press conference for the Buzz Williams hiring. The public was invited to come sit in on Buzz’s press conference, they were given free pizza, a free t-shirt, free glasses, and an opportunity to come down on the floor and meet Coach Williams, Whit Babcock, some players, and some former players that were in attendance. The fans also got to be down on the floor which is a cool experience and got a behind the scenes look at a press conference. It was a simple idea but it got fans engaged first hand with the Men’s basketball program which needs a jump start. On the football side of things, this upcoming weekend Virginia Tech will be hosting it’s first ever Fan Appreciation Day at Lane Stadium, on Saturday, August 9th which will give fans an opportunity to get down on Worsham Field, get autographs, and meet some of their favorite players and coaches. These events are simple, you set aside a few hours to give fans a good time, it’s free to them, and in the grand scheme of things, costs the program very little. With this bit of effort, however, you increase fan engagement, you get them invested in the team and the program, and the best thing of all (to the fans) is that it’s free to them. Events like these show the fans that you want them to come out and enjoy themselves and it’s not always about how much money the program can make off of you, you’re not just a $50 ticket or a couple $10 turkey legs, your support can be just as valuable as your money. While I think most people would agree that Virginia Tech fans are some of the best in the nation a fanbase can also become complacent begin to expect ACC Championships year in and year out and when these championships don’t come for a couple of years they can get fed up. Fed up fans stop buying tickets, they stop donating, and in general, they stop supporting the program until they see that progress is being made and that changes are being put in place to get the team back where it belongs. That is why this kick in the pants is exactly what the program needed and it is refreshing to see the proper changes being made.

Editor’s Note: I wasn’t able to make it out to Fan Appreciation Day as I no longer live in Blacksburg but from what I’ve heard it went very well even though the weather was bad. I’ve heard it could’ve gone a little longer but was a blast nonetheless. Good to hear that the event was fun and well run.

Social Media

The Virginia Tech Athletics Department has slowly inched its way into the 21st century and discovered a little thing I like to call “Twitter.” One of the first things I noticed about Whit Babcock was about 5 minutes after finding out he was going to be the new AD I found him on Twitter. Sure, Twitter is an often childish, generally ridiculous, and rarely productive form of social media but it has the ability to reach so many people in such a short period of time that its proper use can be incredibly beneficial for building a brand or brand identity. Along with getting an AD who is already on the Twitter train we’ve had a number of coaches hop on as well. Who would’ve ever thought Bud Foster would be sending us his thoughts 140 characters at a time? I sure as hell didn’t. But to get one of the best DC’s in the world on Twitter helps. It helps recruits get in touch with Coach Foster, grow an online presence, and increase awareness of the program.

Seriously, look, Bud Foster be tweetin’

Besides bringing our coaching staff and department staff up to speed with Twitter, Whit Babcock has also engaged with fans on social media by doing a Twitter Q&A on Twitter using the @Hokiesports.com handle. (You can find that Q&A here if you missed it). This Q&A, even if it was just a quick question and answer session, just adds to the continued effort to improve the marketing of the program and the entire Athletics Department by, once again, engaging fans and giving a bit of transparency to the plans of improvement and goals of the Athletics Department.

What does the Future hold?

The future is bright for the Hokies. It’s easy to say that and lack sincerity, but I mean it. I don’t just crank out 1700+ words on marketing and brand identity for nothin’. So, you may think I’m full of shit or you may still be waiting to see an improved product on the field. That’s completely fair, but I urge Hokie fans to believe and to support the program in any way they can. The most obvious is donating to the HokieClubattending HokieClub events (for the non-student fans), and of course, buying tickets and attending games. Whatever way you choose, a team is nothing without its fans and the support of its fans. The Athletic Department is doing their part and stepping up on their end now it’s time for us to step up and do ours.

As always, thanks for reading!
-DrunkenGobbler

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