I’m tired of hearing it, you’re tired of hearing it: Vandy’s James Franklin is killing it lately. They’re pulling in four-star recruits left and right and have stirred up more hype for college football in Nashville since…well, ever. So much so that I can’t really make jokes about Vandy football anymore, which is upsetting because it used to be my favorite pastime.
But, WHY is Franklin succeeding in a position in which so many other have failed? Sure, he’s a smart coach and energetic recruiter, but after seeing the video of him passing out ice cream to Vandy employees on Friday, I’m convinced that reason is marketing. Specifically, YouTube videos. And Kentucky could learn from this.
Since he took over at Vandy, Franklin has put an emphasis on promoting the program via any way possible. A few weeks ago, Franklin gave a walk-on a scholarship (a common practice in college football) and it made national news. Why? There was a YouTube video of the heartfelt moment, which now has over 350,000 views. There are also videos of drills (aka “Anchor Wars”), scrimmages (the “FlyBoyz vs. the RedTails”), and even a dance-off during a team meeting in which an assistant coach does the worm. Suddenly, Vanderbilt football, the joke of the SEC, has become cool. A simple video of Franklin passing out ice cream to Vanderbilt Employees is a study in the art of selling. Franklin competes against his staff to see who can pass out the most ice cream bars, and sells his Nutty Buddies as “nutritious and delicious” treats. At one point in the video, it’s hard not to imagine the employees as recruits and Vanderbilt football as the Nutty Buddy. Is Vanderbilt football the Nutty Buddy of the SEC, clearly not “good for you,” but impossible to resist due to Franklin’s sell?
Kentucky seems to be taking a page out of Franklin’s book, putting out several YouTube videos documenting camp so far. The video of Maxwell Smith wearing the helmet cam has almost 25,000 views so far, as does the video of the team’s day at the pool last week. Both made national football blogs. Know what also did? The photos of Kentucky “new” football uniforms, which the media doesn’t seem to realize are really just the old uniforms mixed and matched together in 18 different combinations. Some of those combinations are hideous, but hey, it worked for Oregon and the kids seem to like it. Even better? You can vote for your favorite combination on Facebook. Instant interaction!
Kentucky will never be Alabama or LSU in football, but Vanderbilt’s success in recruiting proves that they can change the tune themselves with marketing. Laugh at all you want at the notion of Twitter and YouTube having an impact on a football program, but half of the battle in recruiting is image, and right now, James Franklin is selling Nutty Buddies to health nuts.