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Social Media

March Madness Mystery: Why Are so Few Elite College Basketball Coaches on Social Media?

You would think college coaches would at least be on Instagram to help recruit players, but few bother.
March Madness Mystery: Why Are so Few Elite College Basketball Coaches on Social Media?
Image credit: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images
John Calipari, head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats
- Guest Writer
Sports and entertainment expert and entrepreneur
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship is underway, and while some players will go on to be branding and marketing machines when they move on to the NBA, the brand equity of the coaches is not as present. More often than not, college coaches are the mainstay for elite programs, well beyond the two to four playing careers of even the most elite stars. Yet for their name recognition, financial compensation and worth to the team, few maximize their business potential as brand storytellers.

In an age where the social space is the primary way millennials interact, college basketball coaches are lacking in engagement for the most part. Is it lack of time, lack of understanding, lack of resources or a combination of all? For the second year in a row Complete SET Agency conducted a social media audit of the head coaches at each school. The study focuses on reach and engagement (standouts below). Of the 68 schools in the tournament this year, 49 head coaches have Twitter accounts and only eight have instagram accounts.

Many of the coaches choose to sit on the sideline when it comes to social media. They have the ability to be authentic storytellers for brands, yet many remain undervalued and underutilized.

Related: Planning a 'March Madness' Promotion for Your Business? Beware the NCAA's Wrath.

“I think when you look at the numbers, there is huge untapped potential not just for the elite coaches, and Kentucky’s John Calipari has certainly set the standard, but for young up-and-coming coaches as well,” said Joe favorito, longtime sports marketing and communications executive and professor of strategic communications at Columbia University. “You see engagement much more in college football…where maybe the budgets are bigger…than in college basketball and it is ironic because college coaches are competing for the attention of young student-athletes and are usually pretty astute in finding ways to engage. Twitter and Instagram would be a great, and strategic, way to tell a personal story to a core audience, yet few do it. Maybe it’s like CEO’s; they let the brand speak for them. However if you are the face of the program I think taking the time to build and engage an effective social profile would be a huge step, and I think down the line you will see more, the coaches just aren’t there yet."

Related: With No Clear Role Models, This Female NCAA Commissioner Made Her Own

Here are a few standouts from Complete SET Agency’s longitudinal study that are doing it right as we head toward the next step of March Madness:

John Calipari, Kentucky.

He has more twitter followers (1.77 million) than the entire field of 68 teams combined. The same is true for instagram, (300k followers). The brand of Coach Cal is as strong as his Wildcat program.

Bill Self, Kansas.

Nowhere near as flamboyant or animated as Calipari, and with no Instagram presence, the Jayhawks mentor has over 200k twitter followers (third-most)  on twitter and is ripe for brands looking for Midwestern consistency.

Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech.

If you are a brand looking for an engaging personality and a great media rep, Williams of the ACC would be your guy. Active on all forms of media with growing followings, he is funny, sincere and loved by coaches and players alike. Unlike Self and Calipari, he is less polished and outspoken, which may send younger, edgier brands rushing to Blacksburg.

T.J. Otzelberger, South Dakota State.

He is the only coach NOT verified; it will be interesting to track how long until that changes. Otzelberger has grown his twitter following from just over 100 last year, to over 300,000 this year. He will need to become active and engaged on instagram but he has the potential for both local and mid-market engagement in the next year.

Shaka Smart, Texas.

The former NCAA tourney darling while at Virginia Commonwealth, is young, hip, engaged and has the world at his fingertips as he rebuilds the Longhorns program. A solid 30k twitter followers and an engaged and rising Instagram audience make him a great investment for companies trying to find their way into the national college space. A safe bet with one way to go.

Related: Ones to Watch: 12 Athletes Show Us How It's Done on Social

There are honorable mentions like West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, but for brand engagement big and small, we think our “Fab Five” are worth the watch.

A quick note on social media tactics to entrepreneurs reading this - get in the game!

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