Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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April 17, 2012

Pinterest & Athletics: How to use platform strategically for engaging fans and recruits about program culture

Pinterest has certainly become a prominent force of nature in the social media community, and many articles and blog posts have been dedicated to what exactly Pinterest is, how to use it, various guides, and how it can be beneficial for an organization and agency.  Many students here at the University of Louisville have talked to me about how one of the duties they have been assigned to has been to research and determine the strategy for a particular brand on Pinterest.  It is a very interesting platform that does capture the inspirations from a visual perspective we all have been looking for in social media.

Families, home designers, cooks, fashionistas, and other businesses have taken to the site to establish their presence as well as trying to separate themselves from others in their respective industries.  From businesses to government agencies to the military, many have created boards and uploaded pins from various places all over the Internet.  Mashable just came out with a post that got me thinking about recruiting – how to use it for the job market and recruiting the best talent.

However, the former athlete in me is saying, what about using Pinterest as a platform for athletic recruiting?  Professional sports like baseball have gotten on board with Pinterest in a very big way. How would athletic departments and others use this particular site to their advantage to recruit possible athletes, transfers, and reach out to parents / schools / and coaches to name a few.

Why would it be good for athletic departments to establish a presence on Pinterest?  Here are just a few reasons I thought of:

  • Reinforcing athletic department brand presence:  Creating boards dedicated to each of the sports at the university shows some of the personality and character displayed by all parties involved in the program.  Highlighting all individual parties (athletes, coaches, staff, etc) is key since we are part of the reputation economy, and programs are judged not only by the results they produce, but by the people behind the brand.  Having boards dedicated to the students giving back to the community with community service and visits would also be a way to present this brand image to the Pinterest community.
  • Highlighting athletes for their accomplishments:  Rewarding student athletes and sharing their accomplishments with the social media sphere is one way to encourage participation, interaction, and positive comments from fans on Pinterest. Celebrating wins at competitions and even tournaments are just one way to do this.
  • Showcasing the athletic atmosphere:  Pinning pictures of various athletic events, competitions, interviews, videos from YouTube and Vimeo, and highlighting the overall experience of what it means to be an athlete representing the university.  There can be a board dedicated to paying homage to former athletes and coaches that have helped create the established reputation of the university and athletic program. Also, highlighting key athletic events hosted by the program are key to use as well – look at what Drake University has done with the Drake Relays.
  • Educating fans about traditions:  There are certain traditions that are unique to each university, and what better way to use visuals to inform others about some of these traditions through photos and videos? In addition, showing fans various appeal they can wear to be part of an athletic culture is also another possibility.  Here is what USC Athletics has done to their Pinterest page.
  • Fan contests: What a better way to incorporate brand ambassadors for the athletic department to upload pictures from these various athletic activities?  Interaction, crowd sourcing, and engagement can all be accomplished with this.
  • Monitor and evaluate what pictures are viewed and repined the most:  Evaluation and research will continue to be a factor, and athletic departments can use  this to determine what people are sharing, liking, and commenting on to keep in mind for the future.

These are just a few suggestions.  However, with all of these opportunities, we have to look at the potential risks and challenges that may come arise with establishing a presence on Pinterest.  Integrating this into the main athletic department social media policy for staff members, coaches, and student athletes is important.  Also, copyright restrictions for images / photos as well as setting guidelines, permission to upload photos of athletes, and expectations for fans on what they can and cannot post while maintaining a professional atmosphere is also key to implement as well.

Something also to address is what about athletes being able to have a presence on Pinterest – are there going to be guidelines what they can and cannot pin? Recruiting students via Pinterest is also an issue as well – where are the boundaries for coaches and others in the athletic departments to follow potential athletes on this new social media platform?  I am not sure that the NCAA would like this.

This is where athletic departments have to take into consideration both the benefits and the risks associated with every emerging platform coming into the scene.  Anticipating both points of view will make an athletic department successful and strategic – and recognized as a leader in the industry.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,




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