The University of Mississippi sits in the heart of the south, a four-to-five-hour drive away from the closest major professional team. Amateur sports reign supreme in this part of the country, so it’s a big undertaking to serve the intense interest of students and alumni as well as local and national followers.
It shouldn’t be altogether surprising then that it takes a big team to do it. As many as 20 members of Ole Miss’ sports marketing and communications staff are creating content for the school’s athletically-minded social media channels. It wasn’t until they started to employ Slate, however, that they could ensure everyone touching the accounts was adding value.
“The biggest benefit of using Slate has been the ability to control our brand and messaging… no matter who has the phone in their hand,” said Janice Rubbert, the school’s assistant director for fan marketing and experience. “Before, each sport’s story was catered with a different feel, depending who was posting. Now, each page is on-brand and cohesive with the Ole Miss brand.”
The school signed up for Slate beginning in August 2019. It was a timely kickoff before their football season commenced, putting the technology into the hands of even more users: operations staff and student interns. They were empowered to post on all-important game days when social engagement typically peaks.
As Rubbert said, the functionality “allows multiple users, from beginners to the experts, to achieve our brand and look.”
Slate is now a fixture on the general @OleMissAthletics and football- and other sport-specific Instagram accounts.
Previously, staff bristled at the fact that IG’s one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allow for consistent stylizing. Posts wouldn’t match, as fonts changed, and colors bled in different directions.
With Slate, however, the school’s crowd of social media posters have a uniform but customizable menu of options to choose from when creating content. Their account contains filters, graphics and overlays — and, yes, fonts in the school’s preferred crimson red and yale blue.
Applying these features in Slate is also simply more intuitive than attempting it directly within Instagram Stories.
Aside from ensuring consistency, Slate also delivered a greater degree of ease, cutting out steps in the production process. On hectic game days, for example, the Ole Miss staff is no longer frantically uploading high-quality sideline photos and videos to their laptops, then downloading them to their phones for publication. Everything they need is already right there, at their fingertips.
“Slate allows us to save an extraordinary amount of time,” said former Ole Miss creative services manager Stewart Pirani, who now works for Sporting Kansas City, another Slate client. Pirani added: “Our team was skeptical at first since this was a new application, but after a quick tutorial and features showing, our team was fully invested.” Within Slate, authorized users can collaborate, utilizing the same pre-approved brand assets in different ways. For Ole Miss, that’s opened the door to a whole new group of social media posters — members of the teams themselves.
That’s been especially true for lower-budget sports beyond football that still deserve coverage. The department also uses Slate to highlight its men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and volleyball teams. Still, it’s not always possible to send marketing and communications staff to attend every practice or road game.
“A few of our operations staff members with various sports have seen what we do with Slate on our Instagram and were excited to implement it themselves,” Rubbert added. “Slate makes it so much easier to help guide them in getting this content — and help make it look just like we were there.”
On top of that, since Slate came onto the scene, Rebels coaches and student-athletes at the school have turned into influencers, sharing the department’s Instagram posts to their followers with greater regularity.
Cohesion of a large social media team is all well and good. So is consistency in an account’s look and feel. But at the end of the day, the Ole Miss athletic department keeps using Slate because it also delivers better content.
Using their unique styles, they now find ways to repurpose raw material — such as a one-of-a-kind action photo — in different ways. It’s resulted in an improved product for their fans and followers.
Non-Rebels have taken notice too. Rubbert said a few industry peers have reached out, wanting to know more. The Ole Miss’ staff even recommended Slate to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in which its sports teams compete. The SEC has since joined the Slate lineup too.
“Slate puts no boundary on how you want the consumer to see your brand,” said Rubbert, who started working in university athletics as a marketing intern at Boise State University in 2015. “When you can virtually create any specific item you want and utilize it in game day coverage, it helps you think outside the box, create more, and better engage a fan.”
Slate puts no boundary on how you want the consumer to see your brand. When you can virtually create any specific item you want and utilize it in game day coverage, it helps you think outside the box, create more, and better engage a fan.
— Janice Rubbert, Ole Miss, Assistant Director of Fan Marketing and Experience
Rubbert and her many colleagues employ Slate at least and, for now, exclusively to build Instagram Stories. But they have grander plans in mind.
“I definitely see the potential for expanding our use of the Slate app across more social media platforms,” Rubbert said. “The more we use it and expand, I see a lot of potential to utilize it with sponsored elements or helping brand other live game coverage clips used on other platforms.”
Those future initiatives could draw even more members of the Ole Miss athletic department to contribute to the school’s social media channels. Yes, there’s still room for the team to grow — and become even more effective.