Articles tagged as: branding
The growing popularity of the Texas A&M University brand is leading to record-setting licensing revenues and sales in the retail arena, but the increased interest in the university is also breaking records online. More and more fans are engaging with the university through social media — so many, in fact, that the Texas A&M Facebook page now ranks as one of the top overall in the nation.
Texas A&M is listed as one of the Top 10 Facebook pages in the United States, both in terms of average engagement rate and daily engagement rate in a report from Socialbakers, a global social media and digital analytics company. These metrics are determined by evaluating the number of posts, likes, comments and shares on a given page. Texas A&M is in fellow company with big brands like Hilton HHonors, USAA and Nokia US and is the only institution of higher education to earn a ranking.
“It’s a tremendous honor for Texas A&M to be mentioned alongside some of the top corporate brands in the country and to be recognized as a leader in the social media space,” said Jason Cook, Texas A&M’s vice president for marketing and communications. “Our social media efforts over the past four-plus years have played a foundational role in the continued growth of our brand. The key to our Facebook success has been a clearly defined strategy that focuses on engagement and not solely on the size of our online audience.”
Fans of the page routinely engage with a wide variety of content, all of which is presented in ways to encourage them to interact with the post. The university regularly posts exclusive photos, videos, academic and research stories and more, giving Facebook fans a firsthand look at all things Texas A&M.
For example, when ESPN College GameDay traveled to College Station in September for Texas A&M’s first Southeastern Conference football game against the University of Florida Gators, the historic day was captured and posted in real-time for Texas A&M Facebook fans. Photos of the College GameDay crowds and cast, tailgating and traditional Texas A&M pre-game festivities were posted, as was a gameday experience video right before the game began. In total, the university’s game-related content on Facebook generated engagement with more than 112,000 users, including more than 19,000 likes and 1,000 shares of a photo of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band’s salute to the SEC during halftime.
The university’s social media campaigns have also led to record levels of engagement, evident in the “14 Days of SEC” campaign that Texas A&M launched to countdown its official entrance into the SEC on July 1, 2012. A different member institution of the SEC was featured each day during the two-week campaign across the university’s social media platforms, helping Aggies learn fun facts, history, traditions and more about the designated school. A special photo album on Facebook containing graphics that introduced each SEC school was shared and even garnered interaction with the Facebook pages of those institutions.
With 357,000-plus fans and counting, the Texas A&M Facebook page operates with a clearly defined mission: to create an online “community of spirit” that engages fans of the page with the university’s core values. Embracing the camaraderie and spirit of the university and translating it through online platforms has led Texas A&M to become a leader in social media, says Diane C. McDonald, the university’s executive director of marketing & social media.
“Extending our campus community of spirit to social media has fostered natural, organic conversation that authentically reflects Texas A&M,” McDonald says. “We avoid taking an institutional tone with our social media or using it to simply push out campus news. Therefore, visitors to our sites feel comfortable with joining our communities of spirit and participating in the conversation.”
The university’s leadership in social media extends through many platforms. Texas A&M was cited as a case study in the book Pinterest for Business for the innovative way the institution launched its official Pinterest page earlier this year. By creating a contest to announce its Pinterest page and asking users to “pin” their favorite Aggie experiences, products and more, the university jumpstarted follower growth on the platform. Currently, Texas A&M has the largest following on Pinterest out of all higher education institutions.
Additionally, the university’s Twitter account recently became the fifth largest university account on Twitter, with more than 48,000 followers.
Earlier this fall, Texas A&M was recognized in PC Mag’s list of “Schools That Are Smart At Social Media,” and in 2011, the university was also named the most influential college online and was also acknowledged as having the most engaging university Facebook page.
Texas A&M University has yet to play its first game in the Southeastern Conference, but the Aggies are already big winners in the licensing area: the school has reached a record $3.2 million in gross licensing revenue, up 23 percent from last year and now ranks No. 19 nationally in licensing sales, according to figures compiled by the Collegiate Licensing Company.
Texas A&M has experienced a 77 percent increase in licensing growth in the last four years, says Shane Hinckley, assistant vice president for business development, and the move to the SEC has translated into more licensing dollars, he adds.
More than $60 million of merchandise has been purchased at the retail level, also a record, Hinckley says.
“We have seen a great demand for Texas A&M merchandise in the marketplace. Our local community combined with national retailers have helped to grow the program across the state of Texas. It used to be difficult to find product outside the Brazos Valley, but now you can find Texas A&M products in all the major cities across Texas and our market share is growing. Our products can be found in national chains such as Dick’s, Aeropostale, Old Navy, Justice, Target, Walmart and many more.
“Also, our new 41,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble Bookstore in the Memorial Student Center on campus has been a very popular place for our fans to find the latest in Aggie apparel and products.”
Proceeds from licensed Texas A&M products go to help the Bonfire Memorial maintenance fund, Corps of Cadets scholarships, pursuit of athletic excellence and promoting the university on a regional and national level, Hinckley says.
He adds that Texas A&M is the No. 2-selling college brand in Academy stores across the nation and Aggie merchandise can be found in 179 Walmarts, 59 Target stores and 88 HEB grocery stores across Texas.
“Just four years ago, our total retail sales were $32 million, and today it’s at $60 million, so that shows how popular Texas A&M products have grown, and the move to the SEC has been a huge boost for us,” Hinckley explains. “Generating revenues, while very important, is only one aspect of a robust licensing program. We are also charged with protecting and promoting the brand.”
Adds Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications, “Texas A&M is one of the hottest collegiate brands in the country right now. Our move to the SEC has generated a tremendous amount of excitement among Aggies, while also significantly expanding our national visibility in the media and retail space.
“We have a ‘brand first’ philosophy here at Texas A&M in which our licensing, marketing and communications groups work in an integrated environment. This has enabled us to take advantage of many new licensing and branding opportunities, particularly through our aggressive use of social media, and build on the strong affinity that Aggies have for our institution.”
Texas A&M will participate in the national College Colors Day on Thursday, Aug. 30 – the day the Aggies open the football season at Louisiana Tech. College Colors Day is an annual celebration dedicated to promoting the traditions and spirit that embody the college experience by encouraging fans across America to wear their favorite college or university apparel. Fans are being encouraged to Pledge Your Allegiance for College Colors Day, an inaugural national spirit competition by clicking here.