Being unsociable is a poor choice for the SEC

Night Train
Creative Commons License photo credit: dickuhne

Yesterday’s heads up from Mashable about the Southeast Conference’s (SEC) proposed new media policy had the social media world (among others) buzzing in a hurry.

The bottom line? No social media usage will be allowed at SEC sporting events.

What exactly does this mean?

It means no Tweeting from the stadium to your buddy 1500 miles away just to annoy him (even more) about missing the game due to an out of town meeting.

It means no Posterous live blogging from your phone by email.

It means no bouncing, fuzzy YouTube video of your team’s band playing your favorite song (see below), no LSU dance team shots on Flickr ( not even to your daughter who is trying out next year) and absolutely, certainly no pics or video of the Texas Luvs on your Flickr page or photoblog when UT visits your SEC school.

We just talked about the SEC and their new network on ESPN last week, using them to illustrate a lesson for competitive strategy, so it’s interesting to compare that to this because they’re both about competition.

“Protecting the brand”

The spokesperson will talk about how they’re protecting their brand and that their TV network has exclusivity and so on.

And I can understand that. Really, I can. And I understand what happens if you don’t protect and defend your trademarks.

But it’s still a bad idea because it doesn’t build the brand. It doesn’t build fans. It doesn’t engage your fans.

Instead, it ticks them off.

Some would say that the SEC is protecting their members’ brand, but they are already well in control of that.

Don’t believe me? Just try putting a Gator, “‘Bama”, the LSU Tiger or a Razorback on anything for retail sale without an explicit license to do so.

Some would say that social media will cause TV coverage to “leak” viewers (and thus money due to ad buys, etc). While I disagree, it’s easy to see how the SEC would view that as diluting their brand if they approach this from the wrong angle.

Fact of the matter is, it *strengthens* their brand by being everywhere, increasing the ability of fans to become rabid fans by consuming even more information about their team. For rabid fans, its one more way to attempt to satisfy their need for info.

A reader over at Examiner.com hit the nail on the head, noting “This is another case of big business not “getting it”. This reminds me of when the sports venues freaked out about televising sports events because they thought no one would come to the stadiums any more.” (the rest of the comment can be found at the Examiner.com link).

529,000

If I’m SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, I don’t want to find 529 Google hits on “LSU band neck site:youtube.com“, as I found today.

I want to find 52900 or 529,000.

If I stumble across a YouTube video of rural village kids in Ghana calling the Hogs, I’m not furiously dialing the YouTube CEO to complain, instead I’m thrilled that our fans are so rabid that they are spreading the word – even in Africa. I might even have someone dig around and find similar things to show off to the press and fans.

If I’m the SEC commissioner, I want the entire South er no, I mean Nation planet to eat, drink and sleep my conference’s sports.

I want to walk into a street cafe in Paris and hear someone talking about last weekend’s Georgia-Florida game – with a French accent.

I want people clinging to SEC football and basketball long before they start clinging to guns or religion.

And as a little side benefit, I want the other conferences to go to sleep at night dreaming they could do what my conference does.

Jealousy

When we went over the story about the new SEC/ESPN network last week, it was clear that other conferences are ticked off. Even Notre Dame seems torqued, perhaps because they’ve enjoyed that level of exclusivity for years.

The rest of the gang? They wish they had the same “problem” that the SEC has.

Now imagine that you’re the Big12 or PAC-10 commissioner.

First thing you do the day that the SEC announces that wacked-out social media policy?

Fly in GaryVee, call a press conference and have Gary announce a new Big12 social media contest, website, program and what not. We’re gonna show the best ones at halftime and on tv so you can enjoy them as you munch on a big bag of Doritos. Maybe you even come up with a way to get the crowd fired up during the game with crowd-created videos – even those made earlier in the game.

Use your imagination. Remember our “go after their strength” discussion.

Think long term

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with this is the long-term damage that this could cause to SEC schools.

If I’m the guy looking for endowment money or selling season tickets, the last thing I want to hear about is a stadium cop tossing a fan out of a game because they are filming a jerky, not-exactly-1080p high-def video of the Razorback cheerleaders on their iPhone.

If you do that today, that fan will remember that for the rest of their lives.

It is entirely possible that their memory will likely be strongest when you call to ask for endowment/scholarship money, season ticket renewal or when their kid starts talking about going to your school.

A prime example: Former Arkansas athletic director Broyles made numerous and valuable contributions to the rise of Arkansas sports during his accomplished tenure.

Despite that, you don’t have to look far among Arkansas alumni to find someone who vividly remembers the student body being yanked around by Broyles during the last 30 years. Some still stew about it after 2 decades.

So when you find that SEC school’s potential booster and you ask them to help out your school, what kind of memory do you want them to have?

A Frank Broyles moment? A stadium cop moment? Probably not.

Engage and Enable

The SEC should be encouraging discussion and interaction about SEC sports.

They should be engaging new fans and enabling their fervor to grow, rather than finding a new way to tick off an entire generation of college students – the same folks that your successor will be looking at for high $ donors 20-30 years from now.

UPDATE: Seems the SEC has been a tad surprised by the substantial negative reaction to their proposed social media policy. As a result, they’ve relaxed things a bit (Twitter and the like are OK now), but video is still off the table.