Q&A with Alexandra Francis, Senior Marketing Manager at U SPORTS
U SPORTS kicked this week off with a promo campaign for the 2017 Winter National Championships. What is this promotion?
The promo campaign known as #CHAMPSZN – to be read as “Champ Season” - began with an Instagram post on February 6th, and will continue to run through all of our social media channels until March 22nd at the conclusion of the final competition.
The first phase of the campaign began Monday with an 18-day countdown that will lead up to the first Championship weekend on Friday February 24th. This countdown includes two series of posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: General Countdown posts, and Hype Meme posts. The General Countdown posts highlight the number of days left until the Championships begin, with each post featuring a different U SPORTS athlete or team. The Hype Meme posts will feature popular song lyrics and utilize the familiar internet meme image structure. Each of these posts will showcase a different sport from the upcoming Championships.
Throughout the course of the Championship season, we will run two contests: one for participating teams, and one for the fans. The Team Contest will give the opportunity for each participating team to submit their best, most unique photo representing their “Championship Behavior”. The Fan Contest will give students, athletes, friends, and families the opportunity to showcase support and love for their teams.
We are also developing a Snapchat geo-tag to be available at each National Championship. This geo-tag will be accessible to anyone physically present at each Championship venue and host school. The filter will be specific to the sport whose Championship the school is hosting, and will include the phrase “Championship Views”.
Finally, we have created general promotional digital assets including a Twitter/Facebook cover photo, Leaderboard ad, Big box ad, Social media graphic post, Splash page, etc. for the host to include in their marketing and communications strategy.
What is the objective of this campaign?
We want to promote U SPORTS and all of the National Championships, beyond simply the sports being nationally broadcasted. Each year, our National Championships showcase outstanding student-athlete performances in highly competitive and exciting matches. This is why we created a unique hashtag referring to the season (#CHAMPSZN).
We are expecting our community (student-athletes, friends, families, and partners) to gather around their school, their team, and their city, regardless of the sport. Our aim is to extend our reach to a wider audience across the country, including high schools and more general sports fans.
This campaign represents one of the main ambitions of the new brand revealed in October. We want to deliver a new experience of University sports in Canada and give our student-athletes, as well as our National Championships, the visibility, appreciation, and reward that they deserve through new communications and marketing strategies, with more focus on Digital and Social media.
How is this campaign different from previous campaigns, and how does it differ from the ones run by the hosts?
First, ours is a national campaign from coast to coast. Championship hosts will focus on their local market. We want to give nationwide visibility to our Championships and the performances of our student-athletes.
Also, we are promoting all of the Championships together as a series of top U SPORTS competitions spread over several weekends. Previously, Championships were promoted as individual events, one after another.
Finally, this campaign focuses on speaking directly to the student community by using their codes and channels. In previous years, promotion and communications plans have been mostly directed toward Universities and partners. We want to start a new type of interaction with our primary audience to generate a more conversational relationship with our fans. The ultimate goal is to create a stronger, more genuine relationship with our existing fans and increase visibility and awareness beyond our established community.
What is the tone of this national campaign? What feel are you aiming for?
We want this campaign to be young and relevant in its form and content according to the philosophy of the new brand and logo of the organization. We want to make sure we are communicating effectively with the student-athletes. This is how we constructed the idea of using vibrant and impactful images along with popular song lyrics to generate maximum engagement through this campaign.
What was the most challenging part of creating and implementing this campaign?
When planning our #CHAMPSZN campaign, we wanted to ensure that we developed a creative concept that would best showcase the talents of our student-athletes in anticipation of the Winter Championship season, while connecting with our followers. It was difficult to narrow down the images that will be used throughout the campaign, but ultimately we were able to cover each conference, each sport, and highlight student-athletes from coast to coast. Our initial feedback from the campaign is that we have been able to find a balance in the athletes showcased, and we hope that the momentum will continue to grow as Championship season approaches.
You are talking about a national campaign for all Championships, but only three are nationally broadcasted. How can the other U SPORTS Winter Championships be viewed anywhere in the country?
Only Men’s Hockey, Men’s Basketball, and Women’s Basketball are to be broadcasted on Sportsnet. Of these, only the semifinals and finals will be aired. However, all of the National Championships will be available for live streaming on U SPORTS TV, our webcast platform.
Also, many of the hosts will provide social media live-coverage through Instagram Live and Snapchat. Stay tuned, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@usportsca) for updates and exclusive content throughout #CHAMPSZN.