How Virginia Tech fans won $130k from Allstate

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Blacksburg Allstate agent Jason Hamby presents a check to VT Director of Athletics Whit Babcock during halftime of Wednesday night's Duke game.
Blacksburg Allstate agent Jason Hamby presents a $130,000 check to VT Director of Athletics Whit Babcock during halftime of Wednesday night’s Duke game.

At half time of Thursday night’s game against Duke in Cassell Coliseum, Allstate presented a check to Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock for $130,000. The presentation was the culmination of an Allstate-sponsored Twitter challenge that started last August and ran for 15 weeks. Spurred by Hokie fans on Twitter, the contest resulted in the big payday for VT athletic scholarships.

Allstate’s Twitter challenge was simple: All fans had to do was tweet the hashtag #ItsGood2Be, along with a second hashtag specific to their school (in Virginia Tech’s case, #Hokies), and it would tally a vote in Allstate’s contest.

Each week, starting at midnight on Sunday night, Allstate would count the tweets each school received, and award $10,000 to the winning school, for athletic scholarships.

The voting totals would reset to zero each Sunday night at midnight, and the contest would start again. Fans could keep track of the contest in real time by visiting a web site (now removed) that Allstate set up, which would display a leaderboard like this screen capture:

allstate_leaderboard_09-24-2014

Allstate did this for 15 weeks, from August 25th to December 7th, resulting in 15 individual $10,000 contests, for a total of $150,000 awarded. Hokie fans — or should I say #Hokies fans? — won 13 of the 15 weeks, and that’s why Allstate showed up with a big check (literally, as you can see above) for $130,000 for the Virginia Tech Foundation (the Hokie Club).

Only one other school won any money: Louisville. The Cardinals, using the hashtag #ItsGood2Be combined with #CardNation, won Weeks 5 and 8. Virginia Tech won every other week.

How did a school like Virginia Tech, with a fan base best described as “medium-sized” in major college athletics, win 13 out of 15 weeks in a contest open to every school in the country? Therein lies a tale.

The Start

On August 25th, the day the contest started, I received an email from a PR representative that advised me how the contest worked. It sounded interesting and painless, and I noticed one rule in particular: retweets counted, too. If we used the hashtags in a TSL tweet and got people to retweet it, every retweet would count as a point.

TSL had a decent-sized Twitter following at the time (about 8,000 followers), so I thought, let’s give this a shot.

The next day, I started tweeting out on TSL’s account … read from the bottom up in the following screen capture:

allstate_challenge_week1_tweets

At the end of the first week, Tech had 321 votes, 242 of which had come from the TSL retweets shown above. It was a modest number, but VT finished first and won $10,000!

So we kept it up on TSL’s Twitter feed and message boards. In Week 2, Ohio Bobcats fans raised a challenge (not Ohio State … Ohio). I logged onto the Allstate site that Sunday night around 9 PM to check voting, and Ohio was ahead by about 100 votes, with vote totals of about 950 to 850. I rallied the troops on the message boards and Twitter, and this tweet alone (at 9:17 that night) accumulated 90 retweets and helped the Hokies pull ahead:

By midnight, VT had shot ahead and won by a few hundred votes, with a total of 1,399 votes.

In Week 3, a Pitt fan who was tweeting over and over and over put up a bit of a fight all by himself, but VT won again, this time with 1,539 votes. The Pitt fan topped out at about 900 votes or so.

Week 4 was an easy win, with just 882 votes.

allstate_leaderboard_09-21-2014

Four weeks in, the Hokies had won all $40,000.

Then came Week 5 … and Louisville decided to get into the act.

Week 5

This was the week where I thought the fun was over. VT led handily during the week, and then Louisville’s official football and athletics Twitter feeds decided to get into the act on Saturday and Sunday, and they pulled ahead to win as the weekend closed.

Here’s an example of what Louisville did that week … note the 1,151 retweets from this one tweet alone.

I realized how serious the Louisville threat was when I logged on Sunday night, September 28th, and saw this leaderboard:

Hokie fans went at it that Sunday night, trying to catch Louisville, and when the dust had settled on Week 5, VT had accumulated an astounding 8,814 votes, a ten-fold increase over Week 4 … but Louisville had 9,574. It was our first loss.

Oh, well, it had been fun while it lasted, but I figured that if Louisville was going to involve their official football feed (~40,000 followers) and athletics feed (~65,000 followers), the party was over for us VT fans.

And surely it could only be a matter of time before a huge school with a huge athletics following got into it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank: Louisville quit paying attention, and there was only one other week in which they brought that much focus to the contest: Week 8, in which they accumulated 13,108 votes, again narrowly beating Hokie fans (12,783) with Tweets like this:

But other than that, in Weeks 6, 7, and 9-15, it was a Hokie party. Virginia Tech dominated the competition in those weeks. Hokie fans at large took over, and VT started accumulating big point totals that no other school could muster the grass-roots — or official support — to match.

Things like this started happening:

Not ... even ... close
Not … even … close

And it got so out of hand that we started tweeting things like this (Nov. 2nd, Week 10):

… and this (Nov. 19th, Week 13):

No school put up a serious challenge after Louisville’s Week 8, and by the time it was over, Tech fans had accumulated 153,486 votes/points in 15 weeks. Second place? Louisville with just 28,756, most of which came in Weeks 5 and 8 (22,684 total votes).

Here are the week-by-week winners.

2014 Allstate #ItsGood2Be Twitter Challenge Results
WeekWinnerVotes
1Virginia Tech321
2Virginia Tech1,399
3Virginia Tech1,539
4Virginia Tech882
5louisville9,574 (VT: 8,814)
6Virginia Tech7,545
7Virginia Tech2,782
8louisville13,108 (VT: 12,783)
9Virginia Tech20,443
10Virginia Tech18,684
11Virginia Tech15,987
12Virginia Tech15,350
13Virginia Tech14,270
14Virginia Tech16,518
15Virginia Tech16,169
Total votes: (1) Virginia Tech: 153,486 (2) Louisville: 28,756

I never would have imagined that Virginia Tech could win 13 out of 15 weeks in the challenge. If some of the bigger SEC and Big Ten fan bases had ever gotten involved, VT would probably have been smoked on a permanent basis, but instead, Hokie fans rallied with unmatched focus and consistency, and the result was $130,000 for Virginia Tech athletic scholarships.

In the end, Allstate’s Twitter challenge wasn’t really a “challenge” at all, thanks to a Virginia Tech fan base that embraced the contest on Twitter like no other school. Big contributors to the effort were Twitter feeds of the Student Hokie Club (@StudntHOKIECLUB), BeamerBall.com (@Beamer_Ball), Hokie Vision (@HokieVision), the Hokie Club (@hokieclub), and one of our favorites here at TSL, The Commonwealth Cup feed that counts the days VT has owned the Commonwealth Cup (@CommonwlthCup). Check their Twitter feeds from the fall, and you’ll see scores upon scores of tweets including #ItsGood2Be #Hokies.

Official VT Reaction

As you can imagine, the Virginia Tech Athletic Department is thrilled with the windfall. As the 15 week contest came to an end, @hokiesports tweeted:

Executive Associate AD Desiree Reed-Francois wrote in an email to TSL this week, “We really appreciated the whole online Hokie community, including TechSideline.com, for making this a success.  We could not have done this without the whole Hokie Nation pulling together.”

In these days of $70 million-plus athletic department budgets, including scholarship costs that have skyrocketed over $10 million per year, $130k might not seem like a lot, but it’s almost a full Position Scholarship endowment ($150k, per the Hokie Club web site).

Reed-Francois confirms that the Allstate money will go into the athletic department’s scholarship endowment. “We are setting up an endowment with the AllState funding to allow for continuous annual distributions to help pay for our ever-increasing scholarship costs.”

As we noted in an article almost a year ago, Virginia Tech has raised the specter of funding for those “ever-increasing scholarship costs” having to come out of operating costs in the future, if the Hokie Club can’t continue to raise enough to cover scholarship costs.

In a January 2014 interview with David Teel of the Newport News Daily Press (no longer available online), Associate Athletic Director John Ballein told Teel:

“We’re at a crossroads right now financially with our scholarships. We’re at a point right now where our scholarship funding may have to be taken out of our operating funds, and you’re not going to be successful with that.”

Scott Davis, Associate Director of Development for the Hokie Club, said in our March 2014 article linked above, “I guess if the cost of tuition keeps going up, and if we don’t keep pace with that growing cost of tuition, obviously it’s a possibility.”

Almost none of us can single-handedly make a donation in the amount of $130k, but collectively, Hokie fans banded together on Twitter to earn the school a significant amount of money for athletic scholarships.

“Not to be redundant,” Reed-Francois said in our email exchange, “but we cannot say it enough – we really appreciate all that TechSideline.com and others did to promote this contest to the Hokie Nation.  It truly meant the difference between winning and losing, so many thanks!”

Will the AllState #ItsGood2Be Twitter Challenge, or something like it, return next fall? That’s hard to say. But #Hokies fans will be ready if it does, I’m sure.

 

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30 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. The game theory is kind of interesting on this one. Maybe $160k isn’t that big a deal to the big boys although Alabama was in there for a couple weeks? Maybe it was psychological, VT got the jump early when other schools weren’t paying attention which made other schools feel like they were always trying to catch-up and that VT would just hit the gas pedal a little more and waste their efforts? (or visa-vesa, when you’ve won a few rounds you’ve been rewarded which makes it easier to keep going)?
    It’s not the first time, I believe we won a mascot challenge – never heard if we got the piddly $5k though) so this is not new, perhaps the format of TSL allows a little more group think than, oh yeah, those threaded blog sites.

  2. Great great job from TSL, I don’t know how to tweet or anything about it but I do know it was a great job by TSL.
    Thanks, TSL

    1. You could also argue it makes it a bigger deal, show up with $10k? Uh, Whit’s out of the office today… $130k? Whit will be right down (cancel the 10 o’clock) 13 mehs or one big hit.

  3. Kudos to all who made it happen. Silly me, I did not even know it was going on but after the range war between HokieCentral and Jim Weaver over the years over use of the word “Hokie” and the denial of press passes and all the rest, I think it remarkable that in the end, Will Stu is the last man standing. That’s a great story in itself and what contributed to make it happen, IMO, was the incredible restraint Will used NOT to cream JW as he had every ‘right’, but Will did not burn his bridges and in the long run, it paid off. There is a Sunday School lesson in there somewhere, I’m pretty sure.

    1. Yeah, agree with you completely and don’t have to repeat any of your points here other than to say Mr Stewart was being very coy in this article. As you may know he wrote a long article about his relationship with uh, someone in the athletic department and then basically said he had his say and would shut-up. And he did suck it up really as a long term strategic business decision. There is a Sunday school lesson here, Beamerball’s pretty much dead (they were never going to want to handle the blog space) and that an athletic administrator has recognized TSL as an asset to the athletic community. I doubt Will’s running victory laps, but maybe he allowed himself a sigh of relief and a little smile.

      1. He never would have been able to “cream” JW though, why it was a shrewd business decision.

        1. and I think Whit bumped one of JW’s guys at the git-go for Desiree Reed-Francois. Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.

    2. Today’s lessons: 1) None are so blind as those who will not see. 2) Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth.

  4. The title of the article is misleading….should read “How Virginia Tech fans won $130k for the Hokie Club from Allstate”, otherwise it made me think the fans won the money.

    Also, if I tweeted for this, can I claim $130K as my HC donation for this year? What level is that again? 🙂

    1. It should read “how TSL and VT have a beautiful partnership now that there is an exceptional Athletic Director at the helm!”

  5. Kudos Will, Chris and TSL community. The value of this website to keep Hokie fans engaged is undeniable. Fortunately this admin understands it, and likely did prior to the all state challenge. Keep up the great, fair-balanced, work!

  6. It’s the only tweeting I’ve ever done and I’m still not sure why you would want to tweet otherwise…

  7. Thanks to @WillStewartTSL and everyone @TechSideline for their support of Allstate’s #ItsGood2Be #Hokies promotion. There’s 2 days left.

    — hokiesports.com (@hokiesports) December 6, 2014

    I can’t be the only one whose jaw dropped at the above tweet. Anybody think that the previous Athletic Department administration would have sent that tweet out?

    1. Generally, I’m neutral to positive on Jim Weaver. But how he viewed TSL was (IMO) by far the most glaring ongoing screwup he had. In 1995 when I was still in Rochester, HokieCentral is essentially what kept me informed about athletics and generally connected to the University overall. Tremendous resource for VT….and JW shunned it. Dumb.

  8. I know I tweeted a few times every time I was reminded to on TSL.

    Also, I am very happy to have the money go to VT but I actually thought the money was going to some lucky individual deserving students who would be attending VT. Maybe next year Allstate could do both. We’ll be ready.

  9. Great article. What it shows, in a way, is that on a level playing field, when goliaths with more resources falter, VT can win – just like in football. And when those with more resources are on top of their game and pulling out the stops, or bending the rules, it is an almost impossible hill to climb – though VT does it now and then.

  10. Will and staff, congrats on the $130K!

    Petrino twitter = 31K followers.

    If CFB had twitter = $150K…

    Can we pay CFB $20K to start a twitter account?

  11. I love this article and it shows what we all know – TSL is invaluable to the Hokie Nation and to Hokie Sports. Congratulations to the Hokie Fans and to TSL. What a great story!

  12. Will,

    It’s great to see you, and this website getting the recognition that I think TSL deserves for what they do for VT.

  13. When they presented the check and mentioned that VT won such a huge majority of the weeks, I was amazed at how there could be yet another reason to be proud to be a Hokie (it seems like there are already too many!). I’m glad you guys at TSL were instrumental in making it happen and it is yet another reason why my annual TSL membership is worth it! I was only on the Twitter bandwagon for a short while, so I wasn’t aware this was going on this past year. But if AllState does it again next year, I’ll be sure to help out and spread the word! We can never pass up the opportunity for free money!

  14. What an awesome accomplishment Will! It doesn’t sound too far-fetched that your efforsts were the major reason VT has an extra $130,000 right now! 🙂

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