Clemson Athletics Retools Social Strategy With Facebook 360-Degree Video

By Mark J. Burns | Sport Techie


It is called the 25 most exciting seconds in college football.

When the Clemson University football team enters Death Valley prior to a home kickoff, it touches Howard’s Rock for good luck and performs the ‘Hill Run’ between a swarm of Tigers’ fans.

Yet, what would it be like to actually be a Tiger player on the gridiron but more specifically, a student-athlete experiencing those 25 seconds? It is a question Jonathan Gantt, the Director of New and Creative Media, and his digital staff asked themselves prior to the 2016 season. Sure, they have captured the iconic moment across social media before, but never utilizing 360-degree video on Facebook — until Saturday night against No. 3 Louisville.

Like other sports organizations, Clemson placed a heightened emphasis on its social and digital presence in 2014, with priorities shifting toward Twitter, Instagram and Vine. As Gantt explained, the athletic department used Facebook sparingly and was worried about over-posting and clogging newsfeeds of users.

When Nick Marquez — Facebook’s Strategic Partnerships Manager for College Athletics — visited campus last fall, he opened up Clemson’s eyes to the missed opportunities with the social channel, according to Gantt.

“Facebook is such a versatile platform and the reach that it gives us with the audience size, it’s just a really unique opportunity for us to communicate directly with our fans,” added Gantt.

“(Nick) helped us press the reset button and reinvest some of our efforts and energy into Facebook.”

Specifically, Facebook’s 360-degree video feature and providing fans an immersive virtual reality-like experience quickly became a priority for the 2016-17 athletic year. Clemson athletics wanted to find the next evolution of answering the question, ‘What is it like to be a Clemson Tiger?’ For Gantt and his staff, they might have found it with 360-degree video.

On Saturday night, D.J. Gordon, Assistant Director of Football Operations and Creative Media, dressed in full football gear as if he was a Clemson Tiger. With a tennis ball-sized camera attached to his helmet, Gordon captured the spirited entrance, ultimately bringing recruits and fans as close as possible to the field.

Facebook users could then utilize their cursor to view the entire stadium. Within an hour of the video being recorded, Gantt had edited it and published on Facebook. As of this writing, the video had garnered over 150,000 views and nearly 3,000 shares:

“It’s almost like dropping the viewer into the experience to look around,” Gantt said. “It’s a different, new and fresh way to show things that maybe we’d been showing for years now. …This is really the marquee experience that we can bring to people on a digital platform like Facebook.”

[IMAGE: Clemson University Football]