Colorado, Kennesaw State, Mississippi State and MSU Moorhead win 2023-24 CSC ChangeMaker Innovation Awards (2024)

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University of Colorado, Kennesaw State University, Minnesota State Moorhead and Mississippi State University earn recognition for their innovative projects and initiatives created during the 2023-243 academic year. This is the fourth year of CSC ChangeMaker Innovation Award honors.

by Barb Kowal – CSC Director of Operations and Professional Development

Athletic communications staffs (and colleagues) from the University of Colorado, Kennesaw State University, Minnesota State Moorhead and Mississippi State University have been selected as recipients of the 2023-24 College Sports Communicators (CSC) ChangeMaker Innovation Award for their creative work projects during the academic year.

This is the fourth year for this CSC award, recognizing individual members or departments who have created and managed innovative content during the current academic year. The purpose is to recognize forward-thinkers who bring new ideas to life — and strengthen the position of sports communicators and creatives and their work — with special content, a branding and messaging campaign, new storyteller packages, social media initiatives, a digital series and other initiatives.

The University of Colorado's winning entry focused on the development of "Skiing Live Team Scoring System/Software" – a first statistical scoring technique for team scoring in collegiate skiing - which was developed by Curtis Snyder, CU's associate athletics director for athletic communications and the media relations contact for the sport at CU. A national leader in NCAA skiing, Snyder is not only the primary Colorado SID for skiing, but the conference contact, the coaches association secretary, three-time co-tournament director of the NCAA Ski Championships and official scorer and media coordinator of nearly every NCAA Ski Championship. By implementing this scoring system, he was able to provide almost instaneous official scoring results at the 2024 NCAA Championship - in 22 seconds - allowing for a "One Shining Moment/March Madness" spontaneuous celebration for the winning team - which happened to be Colorado this season. That celebration was captured on video and shared across numerous platforms, resulting in record engagments and views. The live team scoring page in March resulted in a 1000 percent increase in web page views over the February views, and Instagram engagements and video audience views were also significant.

Kennesaw State's winning submission was its "Be Here Basketball Ticket Campaign"with creative and humerous social media and video content highlighting staff, student-athletes, fans, the basketball band and more; this generated unprecendented social media interest and engagement and good will surrounding the basketball program and the athletic department. One of the major accomplishments of the campaign was that KSU doubled its basketball season ticket sales from the year before. The entry was submitted by Nolan Alexander, KSU's Assistant Athletics Director of Communications and Broadcasting.

The winning entry submitted by Minnesota State Moorhead took its celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day to another level with its #PlayforHer campaign. This campaign, saluted female student-athletes and female staff members with a video incorporating historical and present-day footage and with an all-encompassing social media graphics campaign across all sports accounts – men's and women's – to call attention to the NGWSG annual celebration. The campaign was bolstered by surveying all Dragon female athletes in the fall, asking questions about being a female athlete and the impact sport has had in their lives. These survey answers were incorporated into their extensive photo galleries and quote graphics which were displayed across all their social media channels. Submission of this initiative came from Elizabeth Hennen, former MSUM GO! TEAM Video Production Manager.

The "Student Intern Program Advanced Class" initiative was Mississippi State's entry in the ChangeMaker contest, submitted by Brian Ogden, Associate Director/Communications. Last May, Ogden was challenged to enhance MSU's current student internship program to better develop candidates who could immediately step into full-time fellow roles in the MSU department upon graduation. Working with University of Tennessee athletic communications colleague Josh Lively who taught a PR course on his campus, Ogden developed a semester-long curriculum for his students.

This optional course, held weekly with guest speakers and meetings with coaches, focused on basic writing, InDesign skills, game notes research, social media planning and execution, story pitching, building award nominations and more. Mock interviews and a senior year exit interview were incorporated along with a year-long "skills and advancement assessment worksheet" that students kept to mark their improvements, growths and achievements in specific skills and tasks required to be a successful sports communicator.

This is the second ChangeMaker Innovation Award honor for MSU and Ogden, also earning recognition in 2021 for developing Press Box Pages.

"The interest in and visibility of our ChangeMaker Innovation Awards continues to grow," said CSC Executive Director Erik Christianson. "Through their impressive work, our award winners demonstrated how they are living out our collective brand through strategic content, innovative and meaningful storytelling and collaboration as they tell the stories of college sports."

The annual ChangeMaker contest is open to any current CSC individual member or team of college athletics communications professionals. If they collaborated on an initiative with department or campus/conference colleagues, the initiative must include at least one current CSC member who was integral to the project. Nominations will open in January 2025 for next year's contest.

Here is a closer look at the four winning ChangeMaker Innovation Award entries and the people behind the initiatives and campaigns.

University of Colorado: Skiing Live Team Scoring System/Software initiative
Submitted by: Curtis Snyder, Associate Athletic Director/Athletic Communications

Campaign coordinator and award recipient: Curtis Snyder, Colorado Associate Athletic Director/Athletic Communications

Colorado Buffaloes Skiing Scoring Software Assets and Video Links

As the media relations contact for Colorado's nationally-recognized skiing programs, Curtis Snyder created and developed software to live score a ski meet with team scoring included, as the team scoring component for collegiate skiing has been non-existent. He built the live scoring system into the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) webpage. The only team scoring in competitive skiing is at the college level, and NCAA Skiing is coed and combined alpine and Nordic, four teams into one, and eight races into one meet. Because no two meets use the same timing software and the Alpine and Nordic timing systems are vastly different, timers and timing systems have not been interested in team scoring.

As Snyder relayed in his submission, "I came into college skiing in 2007 and quickly learned one big thing missing was the spontaneous moment a student-athlete knew they had won a national championship. Skiers didn't have their March Madness moment, their 'One Shining Moment'. I believe my team scoring software has fixed that issue of no spontaneous celebrations, and the proof was never more intense or under the spotlight as the events unfolded at the 2024 NCAA Ski Championships when CU came back from the second-largest final-day deficit to win by the closest margin in history."

As mentioned above, by implementing his scoring system, Snyder was able to provide almost instaneous official scoring results at the 2024 NCAA Championship, allowing for a spontaneuous March Madness celebration for the winning team - which happened to be Colorado this season - and was captured on video.

The RMISA page views jumped by over 1000 percent, from 13,046 in February to 151,523 in March. Hits were even more profound, jumping from 93,152 to 1,522,711. The live team scoring page was responsible for 86,933 page views while the individual race pages - where Snyder also did live timing/team scoring on - generated 57,420 page views. In total, this live system generating 144,413 page views, all but 7,110 on the entire site. The celebration video was seen by over 73,000 people and generated 6,000 interactions on Instagram alone. The video generated an incredible 60 hours of watch time.

Kennesaw State: Be Here Basketball Ticket campaign
Submitted by: Nolan Alexander, Kennesaw State Assistant AD/Broadcasting and Communications Director

Campaign coordinators and award recipients:Nolan Alexander, Kennesaw State Assistant AD/Broadcasting and Communications Director; Carson DeMoss - KSU Owl Network Student Intern; Sanders Sullivan - Kennesaw State Director of Video Services

This "Be Here" basketball-focused initiative, according to submitter Nolan Alexander, Assistant AD Broadcasting and Communications, "Was a fully inclusive view of what makes Kennesaw State appealing in its personality and experience. Our staff looked to capitalize on a lively basketball atmosphere from the year before, and feature its athletes, students, band, and staff. We mixed seriousness with fun, excitement with humor, and brought our stars on the court and behind-the-scenes to our fans. The campaign helped KSU double its season ticket sales from the previous year and set a new high-water mark, as well as set KSU's single-game attendance record."

The Be Here campaign used footage from the team's conference tournament run in social media short reels to show the excitement around the program. The basketball band's "war chant" was a fan-favorite the year prior, and Kennesaw took social media and message board replies from other fanbases and used it as a humorous "infomercial" using their own students and staff. Additionally, Alexander and the staff spotlighted their athletic ticket staff with a Office TV show-type spoof of breaking out of a ticket sales slump. This promotion led to an outpouring of support and engagement, helping Kennesaw double their season ticket sales from the previous year.

Minnesota State Moorhead University: National Girls and Women in Sports Day #PlayforHer campaign
Submitted by: Elizabeth Hennen, former MSUM GO! TEAM Video Production Manager

Campaign lead project coordinators and developers: Elizabeth Hennen, former MSUM GO! TEAM Video Production Manager;Nolan Schmidt - Assistant Athletic Director for Media and Public Relations; Jon Wepking - Associate Athletic Director for External Relations

Additional project participants who were the social media team leads for the sports listed: Morgan Bachelor - Women's Basketball; Codi Bunting - Swimming & Diving; Dustin Eichten – Football; Charmaine Haas - Cross Country/Track & Field; Becca Hanson - Men's Basketball and Volleyball; Abinfoluwa Iwayemi – Softball; Aidan Kampsen – Dance; Tara Larsen - Women's Soccer; Brenda Mendes - Swimming & Diving and Tennis; Avery Nelson - Men's Basketball; Genevieve Nelson - Women's Soccer; Alli Steffen – Wrestling; Maddy Stuvland - Women's Basketball and Women's Golf; and Anya Williams - Softball

Minnesota State NGWSD #PlayforHer campaign materials

Minnesota State's #PlayforHer campaign centered around highlighting and empowering all the women in sports throughout Dragon athletics: female student-athletes, coaches, athletic staffers and administrators.

The content team collaborated closely with the coaching staffs and student-athletes across all sports, male and female, to promote #PlayforHer with a major video and graphics package. The content team produced an overarching video featuring interviews from head athletic trainer Andy Scott, head women's basketball coach Karla Nelson and student-athletes Demi-Lee Carlisle, Shaelyn Johnson, and Evey Evans. Each of them explained how women's athletics has evolved at MSUM and how the growth of women's sports has impacted them, and their sport. This video used archive footage from 1990 juxtaposed with current shots of female athletes to show the growth of women's athletics at MSUM. A teaser video was also created and posted across social media prior to celebrating NGWSD.

"Prior to content development, a survey was sent to all females in the MSUM athletics department, asking questions about what it means to be a woman in sports", noted video production coordinator Elizabeth Hennen, who submitted the entry. "We used the survey responses to create photo and quote graphics that were posted on our department social media accounts as well as each of our individual team accounts across all platforms (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) in 1x1 orientation.

This campaign showed innovation and depth by including content from every one of our teams, department members, and our media team," Hennen stated. "We did not want to leave any stone unturned. Rather than just post something from each of our women's team accounts we included our men's teams as well in content creation and amplification, to show that NGWSD isn't something celebrated only by women's teams."

Colorado, Kennesaw State, Mississippi State and MSU Moorhead win 2023-24 CSC ChangeMaker Innovation Awards (1)Colorado, Kennesaw State, Mississippi State and MSU Moorhead win 2023-24 CSC ChangeMaker Innovation Awards (2)Colorado, Kennesaw State, Mississippi State and MSU Moorhead win 2023-24 CSC ChangeMaker Innovation Awards (3)Colorado, Kennesaw State, Mississippi State and MSU Moorhead win 2023-24 CSC ChangeMaker Innovation Awards (4)

Mississippi State University: Student Intern Program Advanced Class initiative
Submitted by: Brian Ogden, Mississippi State Associate Director/Communications

Lead project developer and award recipient: Brian Ogden, Mississippi State Associate Director/Communications

MSU Student Assistant Advancement Checklist
MSU Student Intern Program Class Curriculum
MSU Student Program Application

The Mississippi State entry was a unique, collaborative and creative idea to promote and enhance student internship training in the athletic communications office. Noting the difficulties that many students face when transitioning into a graduate assistant or full-time role in sports communications, Brian Ogden partnered with fellow SEC colleague Josh Lively (Tennessee) who was teaching a PR class at UT, to create a curriculum for the students.

Ogden then developed that curriculum and offered it as a volunteer class for those students who wanted to pursue a career in athletic communications. The optional course details, noted above in this announcement, included meeting with guest speakers, tactical skill development, writing techniques, social media and story execution. An important component for each student was a year-long "skills and advancement assessment worksheet" that they kept to mark their improvements, growths and achievements in specific sports communications skills and tasks. Mock interviews and a senior year exit interview also were held.

"After seeing a few prior students make that jump and struggle in a full-time role, our senior associate AD. for communications and creative Brandon Langlois pitched the idea of writing a few case studies for them to participate in," Ogden noted in his submission. "I took this a step further and developed a semester-long curriculum for our students to complete. Out of a staff of 18 students in the fall, I had six sign up for the course. We met every Tuesday night for an hour, and I also held office hours for them. They worked on their assignments at home or during free office hours as they would for any other collegiate course."

"Overall, our student program has grown tremendously over the past year. Along with our developmental offerings, I completely retooled our application process to identify more qualified students," Ogden wrote. "All applicants must now complete a few skills evaluations, which are also attached, before coming in for an interview. This has allowed us to weed out students who are just sports fans and find those who are truly interested and willing to put in the effort to succeed."

Colorado, Kennesaw State, Mississippi State and MSU Moorhead win 2023-24 CSC ChangeMaker Innovation Awards (2024)
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