Indiana Football, led by Coach Tom Allen, is one of the most social media-savvy programs in college athletics. We caught up with Coach Allen to learn more about the importance of social media in his program and how it impacts areas of recruiting, branding, and personal development.
Promoting the program to prospects
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit college athletics hard, impacting both current and future student-athletes. Recruits have been unable to visit campuses and witness the full game-day experience, so Coach Allen and the Indiana Hoosiers have brought the locker room to them. Coach Allen spoke about how he’s only as good as the players and coaches he can recruit to his program – and social media has allowed those prospects (and the public) to get a personal feel for what the IU Football program is about.
“You want people to have a desire to be a part of what you’re building and that to me is critical,” said Allen. “In this day and age of social media, the players live on social media, which is why I live on social media, because I have to stay connected with them and that’s a big part to me. What they see on a few clicks, what they get from the stuff that we put out is critical.”
Coach Allen is a firm believer that everyone involved in his program is a valuable piece of his program. From starters to the coaches behind the camera, everyone is in the locker room, at every practice, and at every home game. The Indiana Football cultural brand is L.E.O. – “love each other.”
“When you think about all the people that are involved in a football program, it’s a massive amount of people and I want them to all understand and believe they have an amazing role to play and they have tremendous value in our program,” Allen explained. “Their value is because of who they are as a person and what they bring to our program. So to me, I feel like that’s L.E.O, because it’s not about trying to get myself recognized. It’s about the team. I’m going to have a mindset, I want our team to have a mindset, coaches to have a mindset, I don’t care who gets credit. It’s not about me. That’s the foundation of L.E.O.”
Encouraging authentic content
Since becoming Head Coach, Coach Allen has worked closely with Indiana’s Cuban Center. A big piece of advice they gave him was to be authentic when posting on social media and it shows on his channels. Understanding this, he also empowers players to share their own individual story. Not every player can speak at the podium post-game. By encouraging them to use their own channels, they’re able to get their own story out to their audience.
Coach Allen says, “Be who you are, be genuine and the people recognize that.”
With social media becoming so visual, the Cuban Center has played a vital role in getting Coach Allen visual content like photos, videos, and graphics in a timely manner so fans can connect with the program in the moment. In 2020, 37 of these moments and pieces of content were sent to Coach Allen using Opendorse.
“They’ll send me the content and I get a chance to view it quickly and approve it, and say yay or nay. I would say they do a tremendous job, so I don’t think I’ve ever rejected any of them and I say, yes, I want to post that. I don’t have to create it. To me, it’s an efficient way for us and we’re all aligned and it goes back to the beginning of those that work here. Everyone is part of our program. They know who we are. They know and understand the things that I value, what’s important to me. They know what to kind of put out, what to put together for me to approve.”
On November 21, 2020, less than 2 hours after a loss to Ohio State, Coach Allen posted a one-minute video of his locker room speech. The authentic moment inside of the locker room earned significant national media coverage, receiving over 4.5 million impressions.
When asked about the speech Coach Allen responded, “You start talking, you just talk from the heart. I think to me though, I thought in that moment our team had just, you know, I thought we grew up. I thought we showed unbelievable character, even though there’s no moral victories at this point in our program. That wasn’t what that was about. But it was a message to our guys reminding them and then our fan base to let them understand the mindset of this team, this program, and where we’ve come from and where we’re going. I had no clue it would be received the way that it was and spread the way that it did. I think it got a very real and genuine look into the passion of my heart about this team and what I think of these guys.”
The ability to share media in the moment connects with fans because it’s live and fresh in their minds. A piece of media posted the next day doesn’t make as strong of an impact. Most coaches wouldn’t post after a loss, but as Coach Allen mentioned, “it’s bigger than just a game – we’re teaching life.”
Preparing for Future Success
Since Coach Allen began coaching at Indiana he’s experienced Indiana’s investment in it’s program. Life lessons are learned in the locker room and fortified with resources like the Cuban Center and supporting athletes to build their personal brands. The program is helping athletes share their story to bring awareness to the program, but also teaching them to market themselves after college, whether that’s a future in athletics or as a member of the traditional workforce.
Coach Allen also discussed the importance of character and leadership development within the program. Every player has a story worth being told, and for most of these athletes they’ll go pro in something other than football.
“I just think life is about choices, so we’re trying to help them make great choices, and then when they make great choices, they do learn how to handle themselves in the right way. They have a platform and they have the means to be able to show the world who they are and that allows them to be able to have a voice. As we’ve said, it allows them to have an impact in the lives of others, which I think is the most important responsibility you have is both D1 coaches
and D1 players is to lead and to make a difference in this world. That’s what we’re trying to do here at Indiana.”