- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- One of the first rules in marketing is to meet your customers where they are -- to essentially seek out the circumstance or medium where your message is most likely to resonate.
That’s the concept that was in play when Georgia’s football program started developing a free app -- titled “The Georgia Way,” after coach Mark Richt’s catchphrase for how he expects players and staffers to go about their business -- that recruits and their families can access on iPhones or iPads.
“When you poll teenagers and ask what they use a computer for, they say their homework,” said Mike Thrower, president of the company that designed the app, Overtime Software. “They don’t do social media on a computer, they don’t browse for information on a computer. It’s all on mobile devices now. That’s just kind of the direction it’s going. So if you want to reach them, that’s the way to reach them.”
Georgia is not the first major program -- LSU’s Overtime-built app, “The Les Miles Method,” debuted nearly three years ago -- but the app trend is only beginning to catch on in the college football world. Bulldogs video coordinator Brett Greene, who helmed the app project, said Georgia is “one of maybe five or six schools that has put one out there,” and he believes it keeps the program on the cutting edge in the recruiting game.
“It’s a great tool for our coaches to have when they go into recruits’ homes to show their parents, show the recruits. It’s kind of an icebreaker,” Greene said. “They can sit there for 20 or 30 minutes and the mom or dad who hasn’t had a chance to come over here can come here on a visit. They can sit there for 20 or 30 minutes and see everything about Georgia, see everything about Athens, our facilities, academics and all that.”
The app is divided into three main categories that break down the past, present and future of Georgia’s football program. In scrollable timeline fashion, it showcases a number of former Bulldogs who went on to play in the NFL like 2009 No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford and Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green. It features the Bulldogs’ gameday traditions, their coaching staff and current players’ accomplishments. And it shows off many the layers of a student-athlete’s experience as a Georgia football player, including the football facilities at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, the East Campus dormitories, the Rankin Smith Center and other academic buildings, and the social opportunities that exist in Athens and the surrounding area.
It also features a number of videos that Greene and his team produced, including one narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson that plays as the app first opens. That’s one of the features that separate Georgia’s app from others in existence, Thrower said.
We hope that it will be something that recruits, especially, enjoy. But it’s not just for recruits, it’s for the Georgia people.
”-- Georgia coach Mark Richt
“They’re the first app that I know of to have a celebrity participating in the app. That’s really a cool thing,” Thrower said. “The other thing that’s pretty unique is the way the story’s told, the whole concept of a timeline. You say, ‘Some people have come before you and this is what coming to Georgia will do for your future. And while you’re at Georgia, this is what you can expect.’ That whole past, present, future concept is pretty unique.”
The concept also serves as a means for Georgia’s fans to learn more about the program they follow, which Richt said gives it added value.
“We hope that it will be something that recruits, especially, enjoy. But it’s not just for recruits, it’s for the Georgia people,” Richt said. “And as I’m watching it be put together, it looks pretty slick. Hopefully it will help draw attention to our program in a positive light.”
The app has existed for only a few months and has already been updated twice -- a trend that will continue when Greene and company deem it necessary to update the player accomplishments, videos and other features in order to keep its message fresh.
Keeping it fresh is what developing the app was about in the first place, and Greene sees it having value for at least another few years as technology continues to evolve.
“Kids these days, they want to see cool things on the phone. They want to see flashy things like videos. They want to see pictures -- interactive stuff. The app has all that stuff,” Greene said. “It has interactive animation, it has videos. That’s what kids are looking at.
“Obviously they stay on Twitter and Instagram all day long, so we wanted to make sure that stuff was connected to our app so they can stay in touch with that. I think that’s what is catching high school kids’ eye now.”
3hMark Schlabach and Sharon Katz