Explaining Geoff Collins’ plan to build Georgia Tech players’ brands

Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins celebrates the victory over North Carolina State at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Georgia Tech won 28-26. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins celebrates the victory over North Carolina State at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Georgia Tech won 28-26. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

A year and a half into his tenure, the value and priority that Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins places on branding perhaps doesn’t need explanation. But, if it does, his unrelenting effort to play up Tech’s location in Atlanta, his team’s mixing up its uniform combinations and his willingness to do push-ups on the sideline after the Yellow Jackets recovered an onside kick against Georgia are but three ways that he has sought to create an image and reputation for his team and himself.

It is in that vein that Collins has partnered with a creative agency and a branding consultant in a mission that figures to stand out in the FBS sea – Collins wants his team to up its social-media game.

“I think it’s going to be a big separation factor between us and a lot of other college football programs, the investment that we’re placing in how our guys are represented on social media,” Collins told the AJC.

The objective is a bit more than equipping the Jackets with the funniest GIF’s and newest emojis. Tech has partnered with J1S, which helped Oklahoma create an eye-popping recruiting campaign, and author Jeremy Darlow, who has worked with Lionel Messi, Kanye West and Aaron Rodgers, to help its players develop their own personal brands.

What is the value (or point) of a college football player developing a brand?

“It’s not my goal to breed the next generation of social-media celebrities,” Darlow wrote in an e-mail. “It’s my goal to help every student-athlete who enrolls in the course land their dream job. Growing a community of like-minded, passionate and engaged consumers supporting you within that particular industry is a critical step in that journey.”

Some might see Twitter, Instagram and other social media as frivolous or worse. Clemson players, for example, annually give up social media at the start of each preseason. But, Darlow – and Collins – see it as a vehicle for more than finding cat videos.

As Collins has used his and the team’s Twitter accounts to portray the Jackets as hard-working, passionate and fun, players can use it to paint themselves as intelligent, likeable or industrious – and help connect themselves with fans and potential employers in a way that a 100-yard rushing game cannot.

Collins said that “this is going to help them be positioned to have unbelievable success, far greater than a lot of places that we recruit against that aren’t in such a populated area with so many resources at their disposal for life after football.”

Collins already encourages his players’ use of social media. For instance, he makes the photos and videos taken by staff at practice and games available to team members for use in their own accounts. He frequently retweets players’ tweets, providing them with a significantly larger audience.

“That man’s Twitter never sleeps,” former Tech offensive lineman Jared Southers said. “He makes sure that we’re active, as well.”

Granting them access to Darlow, a former Adidas marketing director and author of “Brands Win Championships” and “Athletes are Brands Too,” is another step. Tech players will be the first college athletes to have access to his brand-development course, which is a series of video lessons accompanied by assignments to help them build their own brand marketing plan.

“A personal brand is no different than a reputation,” Darlow wrote. “If I know who you are before you walk into the interview based on the skills I’m hiring for, you have a much better chance of landing the job.”

Tech will become the second team to partner with J1S, following Oklahoma. The Sooners won acclaim and eyeballs this past December with its “Dare to be Different” campaign, which included a slick video (featuring a skydiver, flare guns and a Lamborghini), murals in Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Oklahoma City and personalized logos for each signee.

J1S will assist Tech’s recruiting efforts and its “For the 404” campaign, led by Tech brand manager Santino Stancato. The campaign will launch in the fall, mainly through social media, and will build on branding the team’s relationship with Atlanta.

“What they’ve done is amazing work already,” CEO and founder Mike Jones said. “We’re not coming here to change it all up. We’re helping take it to the next level.”

Jones, who previously worked at Texas A&M and Southern Miss in recruiting and digital media, said J1S will also provide content in the form of videos and photographs that players can use for their own social media.

Will he create logos for each player?

“That’s a coach Collins decision,” Jones said.

Being the coach who provides players with the tools to make cooler, more captivating tweets? In an industry built on capturing the attention of 17-year-olds, it’s a pretty good brand.