BY SARAH HUBBARD
The Drake Relays cast a spotlight on Drake University each year, and as its popularity grows, so do its methods of promotion.
One easy way for people to promote themselves or their business is through social media. The Drake Relays used to televise press conferences to announce special events and the athletes taking part, but as time went on, it moved to different social media platforms. The Relays’ social media platforms are managed by Niki Smith, a social media specialist, and Tyler Patton, assistant athletic director for athletic communications.
“Our main social media platforms are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,” Smith said. However, with each platform comes a different media strategy.
The almost instantaneous nature and wild popularity of Twitter earns it the most attention from the social media team.
To set the Relays Twitter account apart from everyone else that may be live-tweeting the events, the social media team tries to post photos that have been taken by the event photographers during the event within ten minutes of the event’s conclusion.
“Making the quick selections for the best event photos to use on our Twitter account is definitely a high-pressure situation, but the analytics have shown that it pays off,” Smith said.
It is her job to sort through the hundreds of photos that are taken for each event. If there was a particularly momentous moment that was captured, it goes straight on Twitter. If nothing spectacular happened in an event, it’s a matter of skipping over blurry photos and deciding which shot is the most flattering.
The Facebook page is used as a place to get people excited about the Relays. Smith said they found a lot of success in gaining popularity through a “Then & Now” Facebook campaign. The campaign uses historical photos alongside photos from recent Relays to show the difference and growth over the 107 years the Relays have been taking place.
The other primary use for Facebook is raising awareness for the different family-friendly events.
In particular, the social media team tries to promote the Grand Blue Mile, which is a run sponsored by the Drake Relays and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield to promote healthy habits for people of all ages. The Grand Blue Mile walk and run takes place annually in downtown Des Moines during the week of Relays.
Instagram takes a back-seat in terms of Relays social media. Smith stated that the Relays Instagram account is used as an all-around celebration of the Relays and its events.
Moving forward, Smith hopes that Relays social media will be able to expand to have its own separate Snapchat account and Snapchat story.
One common misconception about the Relays social media is that its target audience is current Drake University students and Drake alumni.
“Our overall social media goal is to reach the athletes participating in the Drake Relays,” Smith said. “If we reach them, we reach their fans and followers.”
Once the fans and followers of an athlete become aware of their role models’ participation, it becomes easier to get them to buy a ticket.
“The Relays are a great opportunity to see big-name athletes in your own backyard,” Patton said, referring to the elite athletes, some of whom are Olympians, who compete in the Relays.
He said that the social media coverage is mutually beneficial for sponsors and athletes alike, since many of the athletes use the Relays to kick off their track and field season.
While focusing on reaching the athletes on social media is good, some students may not be aware of the effort that goes into the accounts. Talia Hertz, a junior who transferred to Drake this past fall, was oblivious to any Relays social media.
“I didn’t even know there were any social media accounts specifically for the Drake Relays,” says Hertz, “I’d be interested in them since I follow other Drake accounts, but they don’t seem to be as easy to find as the others.”
The Drake Relays Facebook page is a verified page with nearly four thousand likes. The Drake Relays Twitter account, @DrakeRelays, has just over nine thousand followers. On Instagram, the Relays have just over one thousand followers.
While the Drake Relays do not have their own YouTube channel, the Drake Athletics YouTube channel has posted several videos from Relays and boasts nearly one million total video views.