Rice Sport Management Students Participate in Final Four Social Media Hub

Rice Sport Management Students Participate in Final Four Social Media Hub

As co-hosts of this year’s NCAA Men’s Final Four, Rice University was able to send volunteers to the Final Four Social Media Hub where they created content, engaged with fans, and handled the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts of the Final Four. The students came from the Sports Marketing (SMGT 362) and Sports Public Relations (SMGT 466) classes, and were tested to use the information they learned during the semester on a national platform that millions of people would see.

Sport Management students working the event

The city of Houston also hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four back in 2011 when Connecticut beat Butler in the championship game in one of the worst shooting performances in Championship history. However, this year’s final was quite the opposite, and possibly the greatest championship game in history. Villanova upset powerhouse North Carolina on a buzzer beating three-pointer by Kris Jenkins. This was maybe the most talked about game on social media in recent history. With over 108,000 tweets within a minute of the final buzzer, the Rice students certainly had their work cut out for them.

“The end of the game sent the Internet into a frenzy. It was amazing to witness,” Rice student Scott Filip ’17 said. “The Social Media Hub was a very rewarding experience. It was awesome to see how social media truly impacts the sport industry and builds relationships with fans.”

The NCAA and Houston Local Organizing Committee combined to produce a very successful Final Four experience for the fans and residents of Houston. Not only were the games held in Houston at NRG Stadium, but also there were a multitude of events around the city during the weekend such as Fan Fest, Music Fest, the Final Four 4 Miler, and the Final Four Dribble. It was much more than just the three games; it was a citywide experience that concluded during the fantastic championship game. The Social Media Hub was able to combine the great events around Houston with the actual games to produce a strong social media presence that capitalized on the entire weekend.

“The 2016 Final Four Social Media Hub was a huge success,” Cyone Batiste, Public Relations and Marketing Manager for the Houston Final Four Host Committee, said. “Rice students, among others, staffed the hub throughout the Final Four week creating content, engaging fans in real time, and capturing video footage of fans attending Fan Fest. Students attributed to over 9 million people engaging with the Final Four social media content across all three platforms.”

Students were given the opportunity to choose from five main roles with the Social Media Hub. They had the choice of being a listener, content creator, street team member, curator, or publisher.

Listeners were responsible for monitoring social media posts. Content Creator’s took pictures and videos of fan experience to send to publishers. Street team members got fans to interact with the Final Four social media by hash tagging Final Four in their posts, as well as gave away free merchandise to keep fans excited about the Final Four atmosphere. Curators posted interesting pictures to the Final Four’s tag boards around the city of Houston. Lastly, publishers were responsible for actually running the official twitter and Instagram accounts, posting appealing content, and clearing up questions and concerns that fans expressed.

Sport Management student working the event

Madison McDaniel ’18, a Sport Management major, managed a variety of roles for the Final Four’s social media team. She took on the responsibilities of a listener, content creator, and street team member.

“The opportunity to partner with the NCAA on creating timeless memories for fans at the Final Four is a priceless experience,” said McDaniel. “It was amazing to see content that I felt was important and aided the brand of the Final Four be posted by the official Twitter, and Instagram of the Final Four for millions of people to view.”

Students were able to gain knowledge into working with listening tools such as Tweetdeck, Sysomos, and Geofeedia. These sites allow users to cipher through all tweets in a certain area, using a certain hashtag, or mention. This helps find out how consumers are feeling about certain products or events, which is useful in monitoring success or improvements that need to be made.

According to Torey Fox, a NCAA employee working within the NCAA digital and social department, Rice University students assisted in making the Final Four event the number one trending topic in the world on Twitter.

Being able to involve themselves with a huge event like the Final Four and engage with millions of fans was a great experience for the Rice students. Upon what they learn in the classroom, these types of experiences are what makes Rice University special and what the Department of Sport Management provides for its students.

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Griffin Lee, a junior from Birmingham, Alabama, is double-majoring in Sport Management and Kinesiology. Marcus Jackson, a sophomore from Acton, California, is majoring in Sport Management.