Virginia Tech Athletics has launched into a multi-year agreement with INFLCR (pronounced “Influencer”), a mobile app platform that allows student-athletes, coaches, and staff to gain access to photos, videos, and graphics created by Virginia Tech and other outlets.
The INFLCR app is mainly used for student-athletes to access their personalized galleries and choose which content they want to post on social media.
CEO and founder of INFLCR Jim Cavale created the Birmingham company in 2017 after building a successful fitness business over the previous seven years. Cavale, who played baseball at Montevallo University in Alabama in the early 2000’s, understood the need for technology like INFLCR after scrolling through his social media feeds and seeing student-athletes continually posting watermarked images of themselves.
“It wasn’t that I was mad that [the student-athletes] were doing it. I was mad that they were having to do that,” Cavale said in a phone conversation last week. “I thought that it was crazy that athletes couldn’t get access to pictures and videos of the moments they work so hard to make. A combination of that and the growing audiences that athletes command on social versus team accounts and league accounts. People follow athletes way more than they follow team and league accounts on social.”
It all led Cavale to the question: What are college athletic departments and pro sport offices doing to get content to the athletes? He found there are tons of roles created in the respective departments to create the content, but there’s no bridge to relay that content to the athletes.
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Cavale then explored the rights to content being shot by Getty, USA Today Sports Images and AP. Once all the pieces were placed together, INFLCR was born.
“It’s a content-delivery platform,” Cavale said of INFLCR. “It’s used on an app that helps [the student-athletes] access videos, pictures and content of themselves in real time after practice, games, travel, workouts. Then, they can share content to their social media to grow their brand and tell their story.”
Beyond just the obvious benefit to the student-athletes, INFLCR can also be used as a recruiting device. Cavale noted that around 25 percent of a student-athletes’ followers on social media are recruits who want to see what the lives of athletes at prospective colleges look like.
“Seeing the program through the athletes is a big part of recruiting, and showing recruits how this platform can help them if they sign at your university and grow their brand during their four years is also very important,” Cavale said.
Beyond just recruiting, Cavale expanded further on student-athletes’ accounts, saying roughly 50 percent of their social media following are fans. The reach that student athletes have to recruits and fans is an opportunity that most athletic departments cannot afford to miss.
“75 percent of the people following Virginia Tech athletes collectively are the two groups of people that the athletic department exists to serve,” Cavale said. “The recruits because you have to get the best recruits to play on the field, and then fans because when you play well on the field, fans want to buy tickets, want to buy merchandise. The ability to engage with those two groups on a much wider scale than Virginia Tech will ever be able to do with its team accounts for any of the sports that they play is really the biggest opportunity that they attain to partnering with INFLCR.”
Going back to the athletes, they have been asking for content from the beginning of time. One of the biggest impacts for the athletic department is the operational efficiency that is created through the INFLCR app.
Previously, Virginia Tech had the content stored offline in a hard drive or online in a dropbox, and had to go through work arounds to get the content to the athletes. Now, it’s all stored in one location where the athletes have immediate access.
“In the dynamic landscape of intercollegiate athletics, INFLCR is a real game changer,” Virginia Tech senior director of photography and design Dave Knachel said in a press release. “It enables us to quickly and easily get images into the hands of our student-athletes and coaches, and in turn out through their social media accounts to help tell the story of Virginia Tech Athletics.”
When Knachel and Co. dump their content into the INFLCR app, it’s automatically sorted through artificial intelligence focused on facial and jersey number recognition, and ready for the student-athletes to use.
It’s been that way within the confines of Blacksburg for three months now even though the partnership was just announced at the end of January. The student-athletes at Virginia Tech in all sports are storytellers through social media because they’ve been raised on it.
“It’s only going to grow because the younger athletes are more sophisticated than all of us,” Cavale said. “They grew up with technology in their hands. They know nothing but social media. They arrive on campus with knowledge around technology and social that they’re native to and we’re all immigrants to.
“It’s a huge opportunity because we’re helping them build their brand and the Virginia Tech brand… We’re just building the infrastructure, the piping if you will, to be able to capitalize on that with student-athletes when it’s on the table.”
The pieces are in place, now it just depends on the content strategy that Virginia Tech institutes to make the most of the INFLCR technology. INFLCR is made to provide that insider look into a program. Will the Hokies take advantage of it?
“That’s what social media is all about,” Cavale said. “If you’re not doing that from your team account with your content strategy, if you’re not telling the story when you lose as well as when you win, then you’re missing out. Those who don’t do that will continue to fall behind the rest.
“That’s one reason I was really excited to partner with Virginia Tech because Lauren [Belisle] and the team there that we’re working with is definitely in line with us on that philosophy. They’re shooting content for all sports pretty regularly. They’re telling the whole story in a way with that content being captured, it allows their team accounts and student-athletes or coaches all to be able to tell the story from their point of view, but in an on-brand format that stays within the Virginia Tech content philosophy. I think it’s an easy opportunity, and it’s only going to penetrate their fanbase that much more and give them an authentic chance to look behind the scenes.”
The feedback of the new technology has already been positive within Virginia Tech’s athletic department. Pay attention to the social media accounts of your favorite Hokies, as the impact of INFLCR will only grow in time at Virginia Tech.
“We’re already seeing positive results, and we have only started our process of incorporating this solution into our brand platform,” Virginia Tech’s senior associate athletic director of external operations Brad Wurthman said in a press release.