Aside from his success on the field, aside from the genius foresight of taking the A&M job at the same time the Aggies joined the SEC and the Texas economy was overrun with black gold, Kevin Sumlin's greatest accomplishment is transforming A&M's image. And while all the above certainly helped - as did a partnership with Adidas - the vehicle behind that change is AggieFBLife.
The man behind AggieFBLife is Ivan Licon, a recent A&M graduate who walked into the football offices as a student and promptly made himself indispensable. On a recent visit to College Station, FootballScoop visited with Licon about the strategy behind the A&M football program's social media marketing.
FootballScoop: You're the man behind AggieFBLife. What exactly does that mean?
Licon: Social media is a big part of what we do here. We stop at Twitter and Instagram and stuff like that. Our facilities are laced up with electronics, up-to-date stuff, so we handle that. We try to have the same designs as our social media side so when you see stuff on Twitter and you come to campus you're seeing it in real life instead of on the Internet now. There's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes in regards to getting our academic stuff out there that isn't necessarily sexy enough for the social media world but is information we do need to get out to the kids that we're trying to get to school here. We do that a lot on the side. Besides that really on game days, practices, we take all the photos, we edit all the videos, it's kind of a two-man operation.
FootballScoop: One thing I didn't know until today is that you also run all the electronics inside the football facility. What does that entail?
Licon: We got it set up and after that they kind of gave me the reigns to play around with it. Our social media reflects what we've got here. We've got Twitter handles on the lockers because we think social media is dominant now, it's important to kids. Where they're from, on the barbershop graphics you've got the logos of the different hometowns and on the locker tiles you have the states with the star on their hometowns. All of it ties in together to give A&M that whole brand message.
FootballScoop: You were kind enough to give us a peek at some of the custom graphics you send privately to recruits. How often are you sending stuff like that out?
Licon: We give the custom graphics to the coaches, we do about one a week. In the offseason we kind of revamp it and do a lot more. Everything else we do it as it comes. We don't miss a beat, SAT dates, to our next game, everything. We don't spare any expense. If we think of it, we do it. You might not think it's important but if it affects one kid it's important to us.
FootballScoop: How did the idea for AggieFBLife come about, and what was the process like bringing it from idea to reality?
Licon: In year one Coach Sumlin had this vision, they brought me on and told me what it was, which was to kind of change the image of A&M, what it's about and what it is to be a football player here. That first year was a lot of behind the scenes footage to show the personalities we had on the team, show how Coach Sumlin is. Our image has changed a lot nationally and locally, we're more hip and cool and we try to play off that. We play off Coach Sumlin. The facilities we have here are some of the best in the nation, we have one of the top coaches in the nation. We base everything we do off of that. Our uniform combinations are usually more hits than misses so we play off that, too. It's really just to get that overall feel that A&M is where it's at right now and where it'll be in the future.
FootballScoop: AggieFBLife is so different from everything else A&M does, which I guess is the entire point.
Licon: Exactly. That's why AggieFBLife was born. What we market towards is very different from what the school markets towards. They're interested in sponsorships and filling the seats and selling fans, we're worried about the kids that are on the field. Our direction is very different, from the language we use to the different things we do. For example, we put the playlist of our practices up which is relevant to kids because it gives them something to listen to at their practices, the music that they're listening to gives them the feel of what practice is like. It's based off of what 15-to-22 year-olds think, how they talk, what they feel.
FootballScoop: The majority of behind the scenes stuff you're posting is pretty short, some of it is less than 30 seconds. What's the thinking there?
Licon: The attention span is really small in today's kids. For us, short and sweet and getting the message across is more important than the video going viral. Even me now I turn videos off after a minute if it didn't catch my attention. In the world of Vine, Instagram and Twitter, videos are six seconds. If you're going anything past that the chances that you're getting your message across to whoever is slim. We cut it up as fast as possible and try to put it up as fast as possible. That way you feel like you're there in the moment. For example, when we went to the movies. If we put it out two weeks, a week, even two days later, it wouldn't have the same effect as, 'Oh, Coach Sumlin gave them today off.' It's just quick, easy and fast.
FootballScoop: How has AggieFBLife evolved since its beginning?
Licon: Year one it was just me and we focused on the behind the scenes part. What is it like to be a football player here? Now it encompasses everything, really. We've kind of made our own brand with AggieFBLife, with Coach Sumlin and the facilities now. It's about the lifestyle, the academics, the football games, it really encompasses everything now rather than just the lifestyle.
FootballScoop: Is there anyone you work with that helps produce stuff for you?
Licon: We have a design group that helps us with our designs and stuff like that, which is Fusion Sports, besides that we do everything else in house.
FootballScoop: Getting noticed on social media is nice, but ultimately everything you do has to translate to the real world to have a lasting impact. Have you noticed any of that in the last two years? For instance, do you think A&M has signed any kids they otherwise wouldn't have if not for AggieFBLife?
Licon: It's kind of hard to say they committed because of AggieFBLife. We definitely think it helps. Year one, half of our players didn't even follow us. Now that we're in year two we're not even having to ask kids to follow us. Our top kids, current players, old players, they see that we're kind of the it thing now and they want to be a part of it before we ask them to be a part of it. That's kind of the motto - not every kid is going to be able to come here, but we want every kid to want to come here.