Well, we weren’t able to predict the tournament’s outcome by any stretch of the imagination. We did learn that no matter what people say, Cinderella stories are very much alive and well. Sure, parity amongst teams and a youth throughout the NCAA makes the tournament increasingly more difficult to predict, but people still love an underdog. This year, a Cinderella story emerged both on the court and on social media.
This year’s Cinderella
Almost every NCAA tournament, a Cinderella team emerges from the lower ranks to take down a powerhouse team or two. This year was no different. A young squad from the University of Dayton made a run into the Elite 8, unseating some pretty big teams along the way.
Congrats to the @DaytonFlyers on a huge upset win! Devin Oliver, I may need to take you up on that pick-up game one of these days. -bo
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 23, 2014
Obama’s congratulatory tweet demonstrates the magnitude of the Flyers’ first-round upset. The Flyers’ shocking run, however, was better told through the reactions of their fanbase. Mere minutes following their first victory, pictures and videos of Dayton’s campus flooded with revelers were shared thousands of times. Their campus, its team spirit, and Dayton University President Curran became stars on social media.
President Curran, carried down Kiefaber as students shout “Dan! Dan! Dan!” pic.twitter.com/ZGmHw36dkj
— William Garbe (@wgarbe) March 23, 2014
Twitpics and Instagram videos of their on-campus mayhem show the improbability their team’s run. It was unexpected, it felt rare, and people wanted it to soak in. To everyone’s surprise, #FlyerNation got to celebrate 3 more times. People from all over the world got to celebrate with them.
The Cinderella Effect
Dayton’s fan celebrations were shared thousands of times. At the start of the second round, Dayton Basketball’s official Twitter had doubled its follower count. By the time they were ousted in the Elite 8, they had quadrupled their following.
In the few days since their ouster, Dayton’s social media teams have amplified messaging from their coach (he became a media darling himself during their run), responded to fans and media attention, and created original content that highlights the run. Their messaging has focused on the future of their team, which was composed mostly of sophomores and freshmen, and amplifying the overwhelmingly positive sentiment surrounding them.
Special events of any kind can create a spike in social media activity. Managing mentions and direct messages can be overwhelming. By listening to your audience and managing engagement, you can create opportunities to build your brand. Thus far, @DaytonMBB has been able to work with their rapidly growing fanbase, capitalizing on their opportunity to share content with newly engaged fans.