Always Next Season... by Samantha Hughey

I was 12. I wasn't even a teenager yet.

Bill Clinton was still president...

Y2K hysteria was getting ready to have the population hold it’s breath…

Barbie turned 40…

West Nile made it’s way into the United States…

Star Wars Episode 1 destroyed our faith in George Lucas…

…and the Buffalo Bills made a playoff appearance

That was 1999...17 years ago. The Bills haven’t made it back since. To be a fan of the Buffalo Bills one must have heart, one must have the ability to BILLieve, and one must have the unstoppable capability to continue drinking after it’s realized 10 games into the season that “OH! Next season - yeah we got it NEXT season!”

When I tell people that I root for the Bills I get two responses:

Um…why?? Well, my family is from Buffalo, NY. I was born there - it only seems right that I follow in those foot steps.
Wow. That sucks. Yes. Yes it does - but that’s okay because we always have NEXT SEASON!

The Bills are the only team to win four consecutive conference championships, and are the only NFL team to play in four consecutive Super Bowl games - all of which they have lost. The early ‘90s were a very rough time for my family - and I do admit my boyfriend comes home too often than not to find me weeping from having watched The Four Falls of Buffalo for the umpteenth time.

But I have stayed true to my team. Because you know…there is always NEXT SEASON. And so starts another season - one where we (yes, we - because I am clearly an NFL player) will undoubtedly kill it for the majority of the season; and then blow it because hey! why NOT just wait until next season to end the drought?!

Now for the social component of this post that I am certain you all are dying for. It's one thing to work for a winning team and be strong on social media. It's an entirely different skill set to work for a subpar, or even losing, team and continuing to have that strong social presence. And the Bills have been pretty consistent in their content distribution - from videos making fun of themselves to gifs and graphics. 

While they may not be always winning on the gridiron, they are in the #SMSports stadium. I'm especially excited to see how they capitalize on being the FIRST NFL game being streamed on Twitter. 

But today starts last year's next season and I am stoked!


Two Escobars - One Hughey by Samantha Hughey

Once again I have traveled to another country that had my father precede my departure with the words: if you get taken - we aren’t paying a ransom.

  1. Where are my parents when I make decisions to travel abroad to potentially unsafe locations?!
  2. Yet again I have surpassed the odds of being, in fact, snatched off the streets of Colombia and am safely back in the US of A. 

So why Colombia? I haven’t seen as much of the world as I would like and now that one of my dear friends recently moved there I thought “why not?!”

However, the main reason I jumped continents is simple: I needed a break. 

This summer I was fortunate to travel quite a bit for the Olympic trials; coming home for 60 hours in between trips to do laundry, repack, and work a few days in the office before catching another flight. Then there were the actual Olympics: an entire year of work, love, sweat, and stress eating condensed to seventeen days of amazing content. (MAJOR props to the whole Digital Media Team for killing it.) But after the closing ceremony (which was SICK) - it truly felt like we had been running a year long marathon, and there wasn’t enough Netflix to binge on to help in the recovery (I say that and I totally went through Last Chance U AND Stranger Things within a matter of hours). 

To be honest, in the #SMSports industry, it’s hard to turn off. To not constantly be checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. To not have your phone buzz with emails and push notifications. To not spend a little too much time with Snapchat filters and on Reddit. But I knew that this was something that I needed. I needed to not live behind my phone. I needed the buzzing to be restricted. And while I will admit I did work a little bit while I was gone, I needed to hit the restart button…

 …and it was AMAZING.

 My friend and I were able to have real conversations. Conversations that had been reduced to WhatsApp messages in the past, but also ones that went uninterrupted because my phone was either not on me or stashed out of view. We went on a coffee tour - and I wasn’t consumed by the need to Snapchat or Periscope the entire thing. The four hour walk through the jungle we did on Sunday morning was filled with comfortable silence and chit chat - instead of my Hipster BBQ Pandora station singing in my ear as I would half pay attention to the conversation and mostly mouth the words to the song that popped into the queue next.

I even found the time to read (not one, not two, but THREE books), which is something I haven’t been able to do in who knows how long. I wrote without a character limit. I sat in a café enjoying my coffee without a project to worry about. 

Guys - I actually UNPLUGGED. Granted it was for only 4ish days (c’mon now, I do work in a very sensory stimulating industry - I can only last so long before I get fidgety), but it was so worth it. If you are not doing this every once in a while, you truly need to. I’m so bad at it, so I’m not going to harp too much on it but work-life balance is imperative and I will try to do better - by reading more (got a book suggestion?!), by going outside, I really want to try yoga so maybe I’ll commit to doing that? Who knows. But I will promise to find ways to turn off every so often for my mental health. And this way I don’t have to jet off to a still developing country where I don’t have a choice but to turn off my phone. 

Now I am itching to get back to conversations that consist of 140 characters and studying emerging trends & strategies now that football season is among us, as well as looking ahead to holiday content & PyeongChang!

 PS. In reference to the title of this blog: I watched the 30 for 30 on Pablo Escobar, Andres Escobar, and Colombia of the 1990’s. Now I do NOT recommend watching that right before you travel solo to the country, but I do recommend it. It’s beyond interesting to have watched that, then traveled there and see first hand the progress that Colombia has made in the last 20 years. Also, I was able to ask a local about he-who-must-not-be-named (I am a naturally curious individual, no wonder my folks continue to assume I am going to get kidnapped), and it was a great conversation - one that has caused me to geek out even more about the culture. With that - much love, and appreciation, to Roger for being so open to the nosey American.
And to Lucy - thank you for showing me a whole new culture that I would have never in a million years paid attention to; I love you and you can come back to the States now!

It smells like pumpkin spice + football season by Samantha Hughey

It has been six months and twenty-five days since the Super Bowl. One hundred and twenty-four days since the first round draft pick was named. While this summer has been laden with sporting events (note: the Olympics) it's time to get back to America's best past time: Football. While the NFL preseason is a thing that you know...exists, and that Hawaii/Cal game in Australia could only hold us over for so long. In other words, folks are getting antsy for College Football to be back in full swing! 

The changing of the seasons brings about a slew of changes in the digital space: new creative - new strategies - new campaigns. So with that here are my top five must follows, based solely off their Twitter presence, this football season:

01. Clemson

Season after season Clemson's digital team impresses their followers and even converts those who aren't following their coaches and players on Saturdays to fans of their social feeds. Why? Because they know what's up! They constantly collect content and turn it into something, even if it's for the following season. Nothing gets wasted. 

Also, can we just take a moment and appreciate their behind the scenes video showing fans an exclusive look of their new stadium?! 

02. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish are one of the most tried and true in terms of tradition on the gridiron. Sometimes they test the bounds of social media - seeing what they can and cannot do on their platforms while staying true to those who came before them. This season they really took that mentality and we're able to showcase it. By far one of my favorite captain announcements. Each student-athlete was recognized in their own, well-executed video. And the lead up?! I personally LOVE a good gif and this one had me checking back on the account to see who was given the jersey with the "C" on it. Props on staying true to their brand voice but still bringing it to the fans. 


03. Nebraska

When it comes to a solid creative, in-house team - Nebraska has it all. From sleek video, to killer graphics, to their willingness to jump on a bandwagon, the Cornhuskers get it. Not only do they use organic content with their players but the coaching staff allows them access to be a part of the team. There isn't that type of integration everywhere, and because of this aspect the digital team is able to execute at a completely different level. 

Plus, did I mention their flexibility to join conversations?! One, they opened up Memorial Stadium to the general public to play Pokemon Go (whaaaaaa?!). Two, when Twitter gave out branded country codes with emojis for #Rio2016 their hashtag was taken over by Great Britain. Instead of instigating Boston Tea Party 2.0, they had fun with it! Fun is a trait that a lot of teams, and brands, can learn from.  

04. The U

If you know me, you know that I appreciate and love a good gif. Holy 🐮 is this a good gif! One of the better, more exciting parts of this time of year is the anticipation of the upcoming season - so capitalize on it.  

Fan engagement is something that everyone strives for. And the U made it easy for fans to engage and feel about of the upcoming season. The use of polls is an easy win from time to time, and it's often lost in the strategy plan. So props to them for remembering that it exists and using it in a fun, interactive way. 


05. Ohio State

A team that can get a high profile coach on social and ACTIVE on social is an automatic win in my book. Not a lot of coaches get it, they are starting to, but still there is that line that not a lot of them are willing to cross just yet. Urban Meyer though - he gets it. 

Also, their graphics are different from the normal college football look and feel that you tend to see out there. Their typography is more on the gritty side of things, opposed to the clean look that is present in a lot of graphics. If they are willing to push the bounds on something as simple as the font in their branding, then I'm interested to see what else they do this season. 

Last but not least - I will also be keeping an eye on accounts like Oregon and UDub because of content like this:

So here's to chips and dip, crazy special teams, and a dope social media strategy this season!

Hello + Welcome by Samantha Hughey

My name is Samantha. Sam for short. And I have a minor obsession with all things sport & social. 

Why sport?

In my bathroom there is an adidas ad. David Beckham is celebrating a victory and these words overlay on his image:

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. it's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

I cannot tell you how old I was when I cut this out of my ESPN magazine, but this single clipping has followed me from my parents' house to the dorms at Western Kentucky to my first, second, and third house in Bowling Green back to Louisville, and now continues to inspire me in Colorado Springs. That quote - that campaign - sums up the intensity of what it means to live life and the power behind those who play sorts or are sports fans - there is a magic there unlike any other. 

Why social?

I have also been known as the innovator to my group of friends - my father is sort of a nerd and thus the gene has been passed down to me. My siblings and I had an Apple 2 growing up, we had iPods before discman's had even thought of being obsolete, my folks were on the first waiting list for the first iPhone, and it's a running joke in our family that Apple is our favorite fruit. Hell - I have the Apple logo tattooed on my wrist. Anything that is deemed the new coolest tech toy, my dad has it, has bought it, or is on the waiting list for it. 

This train of thinking has carried throughout my life; causing me to sign up immediately for Facebook when I arrived in Bowling Green, KY (because you had to have a valid college account back in the day to do so). And my fascination with social media began.

The merging of the two.

Every child growing up has a dream of what they want to be when they grow up. I was no different I wanted to be the next Mia Hamm - bringing home a World Cup and being a role model for girl athletes all over the country. Somewhere along the way, however, my dream morphed into something a little more attainable - to work for some aspect for the sport industry. In everything that I have worked on I have always had that dream tucked away - the thought of when I grow up... being something that I was still working towards.

I joke (kind of, but not at all) that my favorite part of any sporting event is the beginning: when the team comes running out of the tunnel, when promotional videos and highlights start to play and the players are being announced, and when the fans get on their feet - hyped at the possibility of what these four quarters or what the next 90 minutes will bring. 

And with social media this hype - this feeling - no longer exists just when the home team is being announced but rather it’s something that each account strives to create with every post. Or at least that should be the goal. 

This website has two purposes. The first should be fairly evident - it’s a portfolio of my work. In an industry where the humans get lost behind the handles I wanted a place to showcase what I have done on the inter-web. The second may not yet be understood in it’s entirety - I’m a self-proclaimed (and sometimes not self-proclaimed) nerd. I love research and staying current with trends within the industry constantly, and I throughly enjoying sitting behind a keyboard and using more than 140 characters to express myself. 

So let’s give this a go, and see what comes out of it shall we. Until next time.


A Glass Like View by Samantha Hughey

My family isn't from Kentucky. We relocated here for my father's job a couple of decades ago, but we weren't from Kentucky. And because of that I never had an opinion on whether I belonged in Cardnation or Big Blue Nation (though, from a young age, I thought it was silly that folks said that they bled blue...right...). I graduated high school in Oldham County, a neutral zone, and was accepted into Western Kentucky University for my undergrad - I was a Hilltopper. It was as simple as that.

Then something strange happened. After graduation I moved back home, though instead of camping out in the country side of the OC, I moved to the city that was just up the road - Louisville. And my allegiance began. I live five minutes from campus. I date a guy who is a UL fan first, and a UL student second. What sealed the deal - I started working for the University on a grant project and then was admitted into their Master's program. There was no longer any doubt - I was Cardnation's newest citizen and I couldn't be more stoked.

I'm not one of those fans who just woke up and decided that red looks better on me; I have a real investment with the University of Louisville - I have met great mentors on this campus and am continuing my education within it's Communication department. Within that I have gotten an amazing opportunity to intern with the university's athletic social media director, @ULFlyingCard, who is on the cutting edge of everything hip and trendy. Which, and if anyone really knows me, knows that this has geeked me out more than anything. I was raised as an early adapter, the coolest tech toy sat under my Christmas tree, and I live and breath anything Steve Jobs has touched.

Technology is rapidly changing around us all; continuously evolving passed society's wildest imaginations. The first computer was created in 1939 by David Packard and Bill Hewlett - the HP 200A Audio Oscillator, which was mainly used by engineers and Walt Disney who wanted to use the machine in the 1940 movie Fantasia. This was roughly 45 years prior to Steve Jobs dropping out of college and creating the Apple computer, and Bill Gates starting Microsoft. Another two decades passed before the dream of a smart phone is in consumers hands. By this point, technology wasn't taking years and decades to advance, but rather snippets of time - months, weeks, days - the newest and greatest things are constantly outdoing their competitors and trying to race to get the latest piece out there.

The Google start up was no different. Created by two twenty-somethings fresh out of college, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and wanting to be a part of the technological conversation, touching every facet that was available to consumers and creating innovative ideas that were not yet even conceived by the very same demographic. This ranged from Google Docs to Google Wallet to Google Play to tablets and smart phones. And now they have tapped into a market that is quickly becoming a hot item of demand - wearable technology. According to an article by Wired, this technology is creating a revolution; "In many of the most cutting-edge applications for wearables, the time between intention and action is actually negative: The device knows what users want before they want it."

While businesses are trying to find ideal ways to implement Glass into their strategic plans; athletic departments for teams such as the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers are already using it to their advantage. The Kings teamed up with CrowdOptic to produce a vantage point that fans had never before seen. Players, coaches, dancers, and others who are right along the court side are wearing Glass and, with the help of CrowdOptic, were able to produce that coveted view on their arena jumbotrons.

But you know who also has Google Glass? The University of Louisville.

And you know who gets to be a part of pushing the bounds? This girl!

That's right - the biggest rivalry in college sports is meeting up at the Sweet 16, and I, along with @ULFlyingCard, will be there, Glass on head and ready to show the nation a unique perspective - one that has not yet been seen yet - the fan perspective! I will be traveling to Indy tomorrow morning, attending the J. Wagner Group and ESPN 680 big pregame party, and I will be sitting with the fans - all the while I will have Google Glass on my face capturing the experience.

This piece of wearable technology is going to change the sports, according to an article by Albert Costill in Search Engine Journal. It will enhance the way players train and referees officiate. Scores will now be updated live, instant replays readily at hand. Yet, the University of Louisville is already taken it upon themselves to be a big player in the conversation, connecting with fans in a way that has not been done thus far.

So, come tomorrow - make sure your phones are charged, you're plugged in, and you're following @ULFlyingCard for a court side view, and that you are following me @samanthahughey for a new take on the fan perspective.

It's social media, babyyyyyyy by Samantha Hughey

Conference play has ended, and the teams have been selected - the 2014 NCAA tournament is hours away from beginning and while the players and the coaches are strategizing fans are taking to their smart phones. Whether it's filling out brackets or sizing up their team's opponents social media has continued to prove to be a vital resource for fans. But in a digital world were content is king and snackable content is being demanded at a faster rate - how are teams beating their competition on the virtual court?

It seems that last year's article done by Mashable was taken seriously by those schools who didn't  have a strong social media presence. A few of the key players, both in the sports world and the social media world, offer their insights on who should be crowned this year's Social Media Champion.

University of Louisville's Nick Stover (@ULFlyingCard) and myself looked at how teams were in fact measuring up - if their social media game could back up what was happening on the court. Looking at the three most used platforms, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, the Elite 8 came down to who had the most followers and who was being the most active, appealing to their fan base. From there the race got a little heated and relying on the use of unique hashtags the Final Four came down to UCLAMemphisWisconsin and, last year's National ChampionLouisville - these were the schools that were creating content that was outside of the box, hashtags were consistent among all platforms - some were even using other avenues to promote their school (VIne, Google+ and YouTube). Though it ultimately came down to the two schools who were sharing behind the scenes exclusive photos and videos - UCLA and Louisville.

UCLA ultimately would take the crown as the Social Media Champ based upon the amount of fans that they were reaching and engaging with, amongst the innovative tactics that were set in place.

While others, such as HootSuite, focused purely on the followers that they had on Twitter based upon those who were enrolled in the university. Though they also incorporated key players, mascots, and coaches who had an active presence on the platform as well. The Final Four for schools with a mass Twitter following included: @KUHoops@MSU_Basketball@KentuckyMBB and @BlueJayMBB. The champion being @BlueJayMBB (Creighton University), with their following doubling the school's enrollment.

The road to the finals in now underway; games being live streamed and live tweeted non stop, with the championship game being played April 7 - until then it's nonstop madness.