Wednesday, September 23, 2020

How pregame outfits changed Universe Sports social media

What started out as an idea in an advanced reporting class became something that was seen all over the BYU Twitter community.

Journalism Professor Miles Romney asked his advanced sports reporting class for ideas that would do well on social media platforms. After listing off ideas and much deliberation, the idea of pregame outfits came from senior broadcast student Ben Winters.

The advanced sports reporting team immediately put the idea in motion — photographers were assigned, sports information directors were contacted and social media schedules were made in order to fully utilize an idea that possessed an unknown outcome. The idea came to fruition days later when BYU men’s basketball played San Francisco on Feb. 8 in the Marriott Center.

Evan Troy walked in with an outfit he credited to a Russell Westbrook inspiration, which included a Louis Vuitton pouch in hand. Gavin Baxter, Dalton Nixon and TJ Haws also came dressed to impress with Nixon repping a hoodie saying “Hawkins Phys. Ed.,” the name of the school that the characters in Netflix’s Stranger Things attend. Head to toe, shoes included — Nixon with the Jordan 11 Legend Blue and Haws wearing Jordan Off-White Chicagos — the players embraced the idea of pregame outfit photoshoots.

The first outfit post brought 7,025 views, 1,700 photo clicks (media engagements) and 24 likes. For a small-scale Twitter platform like @dailyunivsports that, at the time, had around 650 followers, this was a great start.

The next photo shoot that took place was a women’s basketball game against St. Mary’s on Feb. 13.

Junior guard Paisley Johnson stole the show with a Chanel bag in hand and a vintage Nike tracksuit that she borrowed from her mom, Stephanie Johnson, when she came to BYU because she figured she would get good use out of it at some point. Her teammate Maria Albiero came to the Marriott Center dressed in Nike gear from head to toe, while assistant coach Ray Stewart also got in on the pregame outfit action.

The post containing the pregame outfit pictures for the first women’s basketball game gained more traction than the first men’s game, tallying 9,931 views, 2,086 media engagements and 101 likes.

A poll was taken following the women’s game against Saint Mary’s to see what outfit BYU fans liked most. BYU men’s basketball Troy and women’s basketball Johnson had their photos posted side by side while BYU fans would cast votes via retweeting the Twitter post to vote for Johnson, or by liking the post to vote for Troy. Retweets inherently always get fewer votes on polls because people are more inclined to like a post rather than retweet it and have it show up on their respective Twitter feeds, and with that in mind, Troy received more votes than Johnson.

This poll post received 17,996 views, 2,602 media engagements and 54 likes. Troy won the poll with 54 likes, while Johnson received 25 retweets.

Women’s basketball had another game just two days later as part of their two-game homestand, this time against Pacific.

The following weekend placed the men’s basketball team on center stage as they played a pair of home games against Santa Clara and Gonzaga while the women’s team went on the road.

Troy, again, stole the show for the men’s basketball team wearing a turtleneck and gold chain, similar to a look that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sported in the early 1990s, and a 2020 version of Joseph’s amazing technicolor dream coat. Tying his whole outfit together was the Nike Kyrie 6 ‘Chinese New Year’ kicks.

It was at this point that other sports media entities picked up on the idea of the pregame outfits, with the BYU men’s basketball social media accounts following suit. Troy’s outfit made waves in the social media world, with Jimmer Fredette also picking up on the photos and posting them to his personal Instagram account. Due to the high volume of views that posts were receiving on social media, a problem of having social media outlets use pictures without giving credit to The Daily Universe occurred. Though it was a small bump in the road, it was an issue that created a large problem that needed to be resolved.

One of the main differences between entities like BYU Athletics and The Daily Universe is that The Daily Universe is filled with student reporters that aren’t on a set schedule, and even the paid student staff don’t work full-time. This made it difficult to keep up with other, larger entities because weekend games meant people for The Daily Universe were working unpaid and/or volunteer hours, while their crew that was covering the events was typically much smaller than other entities — one or two students as opposed to four or five full-time staff and paid interns. In a race to upload the pregame outfit pictures first, larger entities with more staff will always finish first.

This is when creativity played a role in what The Daily Universe was doing. Knowing that one photographer — who also had to edit their own photographs before they could be uploaded — would not beat a team of full team of full-time staff in the race to upload the pictures, The Daily Universe decided it needed to take a different route. Rather than just upload the pictures, they realized they needed to connect with their audience through the captions of the social media posts, an idea that kept The Daily Universe relevant in the race.

The men’s basketball team showed up to the Gonzaga game meaning business, and their outfits reflected that. Though there weren’t any particular show-stoppers, the outfits worn by the players illuminated their focus going into the matchup against the Bulldogs.

Twitter analytics took a hit this weekend due to other, larger social media entities using the idea as their own. Up to this point, the Daily Universe Sports Twitter was seeing an average of 5737 views per outfit post, but the final two posts for men’s basketball only received an average of 1192 views. It was flattering that larger social media organizations liked the idea, but it came with a consequence.

The final homestand of the regular season for the women’s basketball team rolled around, marking the final weekend for pregame outfits. The last weekend of the regular season showed a pair of Jordan 1 low’s, designer bags, Nike gear, leather pants fur collars and designer shades. Though attempts were made to pry the exact designer of the sunglasses out of Johnson, she wouldn’t budge, quoting the popular sitcom Gossip Girl in saying, “that’s a secret I’ll never tell, xoxo.” Despite efforts to get confirmation from Johnson via social media, the best guess is that the shades were gentle monster x song of style. What is known is that Shaylee Gonzales came wearing Jordan 1 ‘Obsidian’ sneakers.

Typically, athletes walk down the hallway that leads to the locker room on a set schedule, generally two hours before tip-off. When athletes were late, The Daily Universe would often be the only media outlet left standing as other outlets would leave under the assumption that players were no longer dressing up for pregame pictures. This was the case for the final men’s basketball regular-season home game against Gonzaga, as well as the final women’s basketball game against Loyola Marymount — a photo shoot that received more social media views than any previous post.

The seniors showed up to their final game at the Marriott Center wearing house robes and requesting a photoshoot on the hardwood, while Johnson made her final appearance wearing her favorite player’s jersey, Shaquille O’Neal.

Sara Hamson stole the show on the final weekend, wearing a vintage Team USA tracksuit that was worn in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by the women’s basketball team. The tracksuit belongs to her mother, Teresa Hamson, who played as an alternate for the women’s Olympic basketball team.

The final weekend of the men’s and basketball seasons saw the most engagement on Twitter, receiving 72,409 views, 304 likes and 9,601 media engagements.

In total, the @dailyunivsports Twitter account received 138,567 views, 647 likes and 22,707 media engagements through the three week period that it posted pregame outfit pictures, while also being featured on dozens of athletes personal Twitters and Instagrams. Posts from this three week period were featured on BYU Sports Nation, with Jarom Jordan and Spencer Linton commenting on the popular threads.

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