The thing about social media is the connection, and the thing about a rivalry is … the connection.
And the thing about symmetry when the two align?
Well, you get Maryland's latest pièce de résistance in the form of its “Certified Loser Boys” tweet last weekend.
The backstory is a visionary group pushing to elevate the Terps' awareness in social conversation – risk-taking if necessary; a collective pulse on current events; Mike Locksley's energy infusion back into Terps' football; a central figure with Maryland roots, his a keen understanding of the border grudge omnipresent between the Terrapins and West Virginia Mountaineers.
They're the victims, first on the football field to Locksley's rising Maryland squad, 30-24, and simultaneously felled by the digital sword of the Terps' creative troop in the moments thereafter.
“One thing I know is how much the rivalry means to our fanbase and how much it means to beat them,” said Taylor Smyth, who grew up just outside of Baltimore, is a Maryland grad and now is something of the vision-setter of Terps' athletics via social media. “I can kind of speak to the emotions of the fan base, because I have a unique perspective of the fan base.
“We went after Penn State last year, went after Minnesota last year, we'll kind of poke the Duke basketball bear sometimes, because it gets fans riled up.”
The tweet – a facsimile of Drake's 'Certified Lover Boy' album released last week that featured a dozen female emojis on its cover – saw Smyth, graphic designer Jake Rose and the creative team quickly execute a replica album cover.
Except the dozen emojis all donned West Virginia helmets; except the text read “Certified Loser Boys.”
Rose told FootballScoop the whole concept blossomed in the final 10 minutes of the matinee affair.
“Leading into the week, obviously the album came out, and we were trying to think of a way to play into that,” Rose said. “Taylor leaned over and said, 'Hey, what you think about this?' Obviously by a pretty wide margin, it was our most successful tweet in program history in terms of engagement and people viewing it.”
The numbers on the tweet are staggering: it's gotten more than 3.4 million impressions since its launch five days ago, in part fueled by being featured on ESPN's SportsCenter, and more than 37,000 engagements.
That digital dart married with another one in the game's afterglow – a take on John Denver's West Virginia anthem, 'Country Roads.' It instead featured a modified graphic that read, 'Country woes. LVU.'
“The certified loser boys, the Drake album, was us trying to enter the conversation socially and it was really the biggest news of the week in terms of popular culture,” Smyth said. “So I went to Jake during the game and said, 'Can you put helmets on these?' He put it together, you then saw it and you kind of know you have one that you think is going to do pretty well. It's not only going to evoke the emotion of the fans, after a huge win for us, but it's also socially relevant. It's maybe the biggest album release of the year. Both of them kind of came together, used that on football and the 'Country Woes' on the main account, because I think the Drake album pertained more to recruiting.”
Maryland's strategic athletics communications is headed by Jason Yellin, an associate athletics director for the school who was hired away from a lofty perch inside the Big Ten.
Coupled with Locksley's return and a renewed commitment to facilities, visibility and virtually every component of Maryland football, Yellin's hire somewhat set the stage for additional moves that showcased the Terps' athletics department's fully invested commitment.
They're not content to snack at the big boys' table; Maryland wants a seat.
So Yellin, Smyth and Rose, in part, helped the school hire Steven Jenkins, football creative director, away from Alabama – the gridiron king known also for its creative visionary, Jonathan King, who's had his work featured numerous times on national broadcasts and publications.
What helps separate the Maryland team, which includes Mike Farrell, Zach Bland and Haley Timple, among others, is a willingness to push the envelope.
This summer, that included taking a massive social shot at the University of Texas, after news broke that the Longhorns intended to jettison the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.
That tweet – the oft-used picture of a car as it scrambled to make a turn on an interstate exit-ramp – resulted in 6.5 million impressions for the (at)UMTerps main athletics account – easily an all-time record for the school.
All of the Terps' top social engagements have come since both the arrival of Locksley and the current behind-the-scenes crew.
As Name, Image & Likeness has swept across college athletics since July 1 – players now have been granted the “right” to profit off their individual brands via marketing deals and other opportunities – Maryland has continued to be forward-facing. The Terps are partnered with Opendorse.
“I think as the fan bases, any family added from now on, incoming freshmen, they grew up on social media,” Rose said. “That's how they live their lives, honestly. NIL is huge, too, as well. With this market, Washington D.C., Baltimore, so many more opportunities here. Social is a great way to broadcast that, and the majority of opportunities are probably going to be through social media.
“The team we've built here, we have a lot of talented people and we have a lot of people who not only are allowed to work but we're actively encouraged to go out on a limb and make new, creative content that is engaging. Think the top 3 posts on our Twitter are now all three like post-game type graphics. Having leadership that not only is OK with that but actively encourages is huge.”
It's part of Maryland as a focal point in athletics; all eyes on the Terps.