If there is something I’m willing to bet my firstborn child on, it’s that every person in productions has had a superior come to them and say some variation of, “Let’s make this go viral.” Now personally, I have a problem with body language on certain days, and the first time I heard that request my eyes rolled back so far that they bounced against my brain stem. But it’s not our job to explain the impossibilities of making viral content. It’s our job to best meet the criteria laid out for us, and the easiest way to meet that sometimes is through social participation.
According to Youtube’s Head of Culture and Trends, Kevin Alloca, making viral content is comprised of several things including surprising your audience, tastemakers disseminating it, and social participation. Making surprising/interesting content is something only a few people have mastered, and honestly, if I knew how to make it consistently I’d probably be living in a much bigger house. That’s not the part we want to focus on. What we can focus on and do easily is social participation.
Does anyone remember the ALS ice-bucket challenge? Of course you do! Every single one of your obnoxious Facebook friends posted their personal ice-bucket challenge. Why? Because it was desirable, socially relevant, and every Joe-schmo could find a bucket of ice to dump on themselves. What’s different with working in athletics is that you have many more resources at your disposal, so in turn that means you have the opportunity to participate in viral content that most can’t. The best part is that once you decide on your “viral-content-homage” you can find new ways to differentiate it and cater it to your fans.
Today’s case study is Ole Miss’ spoof on the DirecTV Rob Lowe ads, Andy and Randy Kennedy.
Yes, I made this promo. It’s my blog, I can brag on myself if I want! Clearly, this promo is the furthest thing from original, but it’s because we took quite a few liberties with the original premise in order to make it relevant to our fan base. The largest of which is that we used a character with a name instead of a bizarrely described counter-part. This change came as a tip-of-the-hat to Rebel fans over at Red Cup Rebellion who came up with the original character, Randy Kennedy. From there it was simple enough to contrast the failures of Randy Kennedy with the successes of our talented head coach, Andy Kennedy. The piece ended up being interesting, informative, and culturally relevant. Immediately after the release, the video became a hit with the Ole Miss faithful and drove a substantial amount of traffic to the season tickets page.
And then came the tastemakers. One of the first to Tweet it out was ESPN and soon after, the man himself, Rob Lowe was tweeting it to his 1.24 million followers. Then came Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, and yes, Red Cup Rebellion (which easily had the best commentary.) So in the middle of July, the unthinkable happened. Ole Miss basketball became the national story of the day.
The success would lead to Randy Kennedy taking on a life of his own. Since the release of the original video he’s done the ultimate Nae-Nae dance, he’s had nationally televised press-conferences, and when a desperate nation came calling, he ran for president. And like most losing presidential candidates, he’ll probably retire from the public eye soon enough. If you didn’t get catch my drift on that one, I’m hinting that you shouldn’t run your material into the ground.
The bottom line is that making original, interesting content is difficult. There’s no two ways about it. So take advantage of what is already socially relevant in the world, cater it to your purposes, and I guarantee you will be able to stir up some form of conversation about your institution. But be careful, because if you execute your spoof/remake poorly, you might find yourselves dealing with the sour side of the Internet. See the comment section of the new Ghostbusters trailer for proof.