While college football and college basketball are the main sports I follow, I try to give some love to the Olympics sports when I can here at the nc2anerd. Volleyball is a particular favorite as its games are right there in the basketball arena.
If a school knows how to promote itself, volleyball can be a revenue producing sport. With the women’s volleyball season starting the same weekend as football, let’s take a look at where volleyball programs are breaking through the football blanket to make a name for themselves in social media and where they’re failing to do so.
The most hilarious volleyball promotion on social media was this You Tube clip of the McNeese State players putting on knee pads and walking down a hallway. Are these Cowgirls going to play a volleyball game because we never see a ball, net, or court for that matter? It’s as if they were denied access to arena the day of shooting. I thought the music change in the middle was a mistake the first time I watched it too.
At lease McNeese State made a promotional video unlike these two schools.
Penn State and Wisconsin
The fact I lumped these two together is a bad sign. Penn State defeated Wisconsin in last year’s title game to win its fifth championship in seven years. Yet both schools have been lackluster in their social media promotions. Wisconsin has had more swagger on Twitter showing off their “finalist rings.”
Should have done my nails! pic.twitter.com/ozu7tqZq0T
— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVBall) June 17, 2014
Besides that and a few “Throwback Thursday” photos, both schools have been quiet and unimpressive on the promotion front. Football as is a big reason why as both schools are football powers in the Big 10.
The No. 1 seed in last year’s volleyball tournament was Texas and the Longhorns are pretty blunt about how they feel about volleyball compared with their heroes on the gridiron.
— TexasVolleyball (@TexasVolleyball) May 22, 2014
Wow, a 3.4 GPA is all it took? That’s what I had in college with only moderate effort. Sorry Mom.
Texas is complimenting their women’s volleyball team here but it also comes across as reinforcing the stereotype that women’s sports are only there to balance out the bad academics of the men. Texas missed a golden opportunity to promote its four players on the preseason All Big 12 team last week. Contrast this with Kansas State (only one player on the list) who quickly jumped to promote their star setter.
— K-State Athletics (@kstatesports) August 7, 2014
Now that is how you showcase your best players Texas. To find a school placing stock in its volleyball program you need to to select one that either doesn’t have a football team or just has a bad one. This brings us to…
The Boilermakers went all out to promote their volleyball photo day. Even set up a site for behind the scenes access. Slow motion videos capture the work that went into their team poster.
The school is also using social media to sell tickets. Purdue created the BumpTo1000 hashtag as an effort to double the number of season tickets from a year ago. Purdue went to the elite eight last year before falling to Wisconsin in four sets. With their top two leaders in attack percentage returning in Kiki Jones and Faye Adelaja, this could be Purdue’s chance to knock Penn State off the Big 10 Throne.
Purdue isn’t the only Big 10 school trying win over publicity for volleyball. The Golden Gophers have a three-game ticket plan where fans choose from a hierarchy of opponents.
— Minnesota Volleyball (@GopherVBall) July 27, 2014
Group one consists of the three schools in the conference with the most volleyball tradition and it moves on down from there. It’s a very interesting ticket plan for an obsessed volleyball fan.
Minnesota reached the Sweet 16 in 2013 but lost their two kill leaders from last season.
Out in PAC-12 country the Washington Huskies are predicted to not win the conference, just like last season. That’s fine for the Huskies as they won the PAC-12 in 2013 and made it to the Final Four in the tournament. Washington’s volleyball program is nestled in a nice situation as the school’s football team is not overpowering. Check out its short promotional video. Something Penn State and Texas don’t have.
Washington has expanded into sand volleyball in 2014, a very promising sign that the school is committed to being a power in the indoor sport as well. Senior outside hitters Kaleigh Nelson and Krista Vansant return as the two leaders in kills and were named to the All PAC-12 preseason team.
Marquette does not have a football team meaning volleyball is large and in charge in autumn. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these ticket prices.
— Marquette Athletics (@muathletics) July 28, 2014
Dang, $70 for courtside seats is almost as expensive as the Milwaukee Bucks. The Golden Eagles lost in the second round last year to Illinois. Unfortunately, Marquette has just one senior on the roster so it will be a challenge for it to improve on that finish.
Smaller schools, such as Morehead, are also promoting volleyball stronger than the finalists from last season. Take a look at Morehead boasting about its Ohio Valley Conference titles.
— MSU Athletics (@MSUATHLETICS) August 6, 2014
With #EagleEmpire you know you’re a volleyball school.
The Wildcats won the American East last season and are the favorites to do so again. The conference let New Hampshire Outside Hitter Abby Brinkman take over the league’s Twitter account in July and there were plenty of highlights.
Abby made this picture the banner photo for the conference for a weekend to put some muscle into the American East.
— America East (@AmericaEast) July 25, 2014
Things got silly for the Bulls at their media day. It’s an early candidate for selfie of the year.
Its media day!!!! pic.twitter.com/cBl3LJua6M
— UB Bulls Volleyball (@ubvolleyball) July 31, 2014
Want to know what a coach thinks of a player? Well Southern Miss just comes out and says it in its tweets.
— Southern Miss Sports (@USMGoldenEagles) July 28, 2014
The WINNER: Hawaii
The best volleyball program on social media leading up to the season has been the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine. First, the school is making a strong effort to honor its coach, Dave Shoji, who is celebrating 40 years at the program. Picture after picture has been used to show Coach Shoji at the time of each significant achievement in his tenure. To national championships to reaching 500 wins.
— Hawaii Athletics (@HawaiiAthletics) July 28, 2014
The woman on the right must be really glad the school brought back that picture.
— Hawaii Athletics (@HawaiiAthletics) August 9, 2014
Most of all though is the passion of the Hawaii fans. Look at how many were at last year’s first round win against Idaho State.
Over 8,000 fans were on hand for that first round game. That’s more than three times the attendance at Penn State’s second round game against Utah and more than twice of the second round game at Texas. Did I mention Texas was playing arch rival Texas A&M in that game? Whoops.
For volleyball to grow it needs to have schools see it as a companion to football and not as a side item. Hawaii and the Big West Conference have been the leaders on that process so far.
That’s why I’m picking Hawaii to beat Washington in the championship at Oklahoma City this December. Not because of talent but because of fan support and passion.
Will it happen though with eight newcomers? The Rainbow Wahine should be hungry after being caught off guard against BYU in the second round in 2013. They were the No. 11 overall seed last year and return some key players from their team that beat Texas in the regular season. Hawaii is deep in outside hitters with Nikki Taylor, Tai Manu-Olevao and senior leader Kalei Adopho.
Either way, Hawaii will be the most interesting team to follow in women’s volleyball this season. With its fan support you can count on that.