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Off field, Clemson keeps on winning


Off field, Clemson keeps on winning
By: Ron Barnett,

The Clemson University football team’s rise to the top of the college rankings during the past season helped push national awareness of all things Clemson to unprecedented levels, as measured by social media and other metrics, according to a report presented to the school’s Board of Trustees on Thursday.

The “Visit Clemson” website saw a 189 percent increase in page views in December over the previous year, a 249 percent increase in the first half of January over the previous January and a whopping 1510 percent increase on the day Clemson played in the national championship game, according to Cathy Sams, chief public affairs officer and assistant to the president.

“We saw a 600 percent rise in social media reach from the bowl week to the championship game week,” she said.

It was all part of a three-year marketing campaign called Go Big that has helped push applications to Clemson and donations to the university to new highs, she said.

The university couldn’t afford to buy a TV ad during the national championship game against Alabama on Jan. 11, but it bought Google rights that directed people who searched “Where is Clemson” to university sites.

During the championship game week, Clemson Facebook pages had 8.4 million organic impressions, drew 187,390 “likes” and 366,657 video views, according to her report.

Its Twitter accounts had 462,312 organic impressions, and Instagram had 1.8 million potential impressions.

The university bought time on 22 digital billboards in the Phoenix area, where the championship game was played, with rotating academic and athletic messages during the week leading up to the game.

Beyond riding the momentum generated by the football team, Clemson has been building an audience for its webbased ClemsonTV channel.

In the 18 months since it waslaunched, 639 videos have been uploaded, livestreams of 125 events done and more than 224,000 people reached — over half of them on their smartphones, Sams said.

During the last quarter of 2015, ClemsonTV had more than 698,000 views — an increase of 120,000 from the previous quarter, according to the report.

In another report, Chuck Knepfle, associate vice president for enrollment management, said Clemson’s football success over the past four years may be a factor in a 25 percent increase in applications.

“We can give a lot of credit to our sports teams’ successes but not just this year,” he said. “What we’ve seen over time is that we are a major player in athletics right now, we have been for a while, and we’ve been building upon that.”

The number of applications rose from 16,865 in 2010 to 22,396 this year, according to university figures.

Final numbers on acceptance aren’t complete, Knepfle said.

The university expects to enroll 3,550 freshmen this fall, with about 65 percent of them being South Carolina residents, he said.

Meanwhile, Clemson is ontrack for a fifth consecutive year of topping the $100 million mark in fundraising as it pushes to reach its $1 billion goal in its Will to Lead capital campaign, Brian O’Rourke, associate vice president for advancement, reported.

“Brian, isn’t that kind of like winning 10 football games in a year?” one trustee quipped.

“I think it is, yes sir,” O’Rourke replied.

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