An SEC Shocker: Digitally-Enabled Fans Run Up The Score On Flatfooted Conference

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is trying to restrict the use of social media by its core constituency–its fans.
According to Michael Kruse of St. Petersburg Times:

The SEC, one of college sports’ biggest, richest, most prominent conferences, earlier this month sent to its 12 schools an eye-opening new media policy. It places increasingly stringent limits on reporters and how much audio, video and “real-time” blogging they can do at games, practices and news conferences.
But even more interesting is that the policy also includes rules for fans in the stands. No updating Twitter feeds. No taking photos with phones and posting them on Facebook or Flickr. No taking videos and putting them on YouTube.
A conference spokesman said this policy was meant to try to keep as many eyeballs as possible on ESPN and CBS — which are paying the SEC $3 billion for the broadcast rights to the conference’s games over the next 15 years.

Steve Bryant of NBCChicago says, “Like the record companies, the SEC can’t possibly change learned social behavior simply by mandating it. They can’t even adequately police infractions.”
Granted, the ruling can not be enforced. But why is it there in the first place? Does the SEC not have a clue? Well, that seems obvious. Yet, Kruse wisely points out that the SEC does understand social media and technical innovation–that’s why they want to get a jump on the problem before all 90,000 fans at a Florida vs. Auburn game have mobile video devices (a.k.a. phones) capable of sending competitive non-monetized live feeds to the world.
“The idea that people can’t capture their own lived experience is a losing proposition,” according to Clay Shirky. Which is true, so the SEC stands to lose this battle. But for me, the very idea that it’s a battle baffles my mind. I know it should not surprise or riddle, but it does. Of course, there’s nothing unique about the powers that be doing everything they can do maintain their grip on things, but there is a better way. You simply incorporate the innovations and let them work for you, not against. This is so obvious and I guess that’s why I’m taken aback by the news.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.