By Konnor McIntosh
University of Oregon athletics have never been tied to tradition like other major college programs. The attitude around the athletic department for two decades has always been “what will make us better tomorrow?” In the shadow of University of Washington’s Seattle lure and competing with major California schools like University of Southern California and UCLA, Oregon has gotten creative with ways to bridge or eliminate the gap altogether for athletic publicity. From a state that produces very few high level division one athletes, Oregon does not have a built in base to pick talent from, so instead it has raided California for football and Canada for basketball. But how?
While most people look at Oregon athletics’ innovation through its uniforms and state of the art facilities, recent success in football and basketball has largely been tied to finding undervalued recruits from places like California and Hawaii for football and California and Canada for basketball. Even going back to the Chip Kelly era, Oregon never had a recruiting class higher than 15 despite its success on the field. Oregon basketball had been a steady force in the Pac-12, but most recently took it to the next level with a trip to the Final Four. The recent success in recruiting hasn’t necessarily correlated with current success in both sports as Oregon football slumped to two straight mediocre seasons and Oregon Basketball having missed the NCAA Tournament last season. But as it stands now, Oregon Football is on pace for its best recruiting class ever ranked number four and Oregon’s basketball recruiting class for the upcoming 2018 season ranked third in the nation, the highest in school history and above powerhouse basketball programs like Arizona and Kentucky.
Brand exposure is always crucial in having an appealing program to recruits, and Oregon has far and away been the best school in reaching target audiences. According to SkullSparks.com’s recent study on social media exposure with Pac-12 schools, Oregon has more than doubled exposure to the next highest school across all major social media platforms. Bol Bol, Oregon’s incoming freshman center and highest rated recruit in Oregon basketball history, wrote in The Player’s Tribune about certain factors in his decision to come to Oregon: “The last thing I loved about Oregon was that the university has one of the biggest social media brands in college sports. And if you follow me on IG, maybe you know that I’m really activeon social media.” Oregon’s social media team is conscious of where its players come from and what pipelines they have established, as shown by its Canadian Thanksgiving appreciation post towards Duck basketball alums. As for football, one of the reasons Oregon’s 2019 class as it stands has been so successful is because Oregon has launched two marketing taglines for the class: “M19HTY OREGON” and #califlock for recruits from California. Having a tagline to connect the group of recruits despite living in different states has helped them bond over social media. Oregon has ran with it and retweeted graphics made by recruits to show the brotherhood of the incoming class, 11/22 of which are from the state of California. Number one recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux, who recently visited Oregon, remarked after the game on social media; “I see why the #califlock is so big.” Time will tell if he commits here, but there is no doubt the impact Oregon’s social media presence has had, and that Oregon is now a national brand for athletes.
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