Battle of the Brands

The following is an article provided by Palatinate.

As a student newspaper at one of the best sporting universities in the UK, it is an impossible task to cover every sporting fixture that happens at Maiden Castle, the Racecourse, in the college JCRs and bars.

However, over the last two years Palatinate Sport has found its task made significantly easier due to the social media revolution within Durham colleges. From rugby to hockey, football to darts, it appears every team now is armed with a Twitter account, to regularly update and amuse their fellow college members (as well as grateful sports reporters) about their various teams’ exploits, as well as to increase collegiate pride and bragging rights.

This year, this process has evolved further through the rise of the phenomenon of colleges branding their sports teams under a collective group name. If you browse through Facebook and Twitter this year, you may find yourself stumbling across accounts such as Team Mary’s, Team Mildert and Hatfield College Sport, which are packed with the latest news stories and photos about the exploits of their various sports teams.

This relatively new practice has involved the dispersal of a college brand across a number of social media platforms to greatly enhance the distribution of sports news from that particular college among the Durham student population. Additionally, it has also entailed the organisation of big varsity events against rival colleges across a number of sports, to increase the sporting profile of colleges further.

Team Mary’s have proven to be the standout example of this social media offensive in action. Following a big promotional campaign across social media, they launched their project in impressive style a few weeks ago, hosting two big varsity football matches against Hatfield Ds and Hild Bede As under the floodlights at Maiden Castle. This evening of sport was then followed by a large-scale college social. The night proved to be a huge success as respectable crowds turned up to experience the event, while other colleges realised the benchmark had been set for this type of college sport branding.

The pair behind Team Mary’s, Jack Tellyn and Becca Hunt, have enjoyed the positive reception that their venture has earned in Durham. Tellyn told Palatinate Sport: “The big idea behind Team Mary’s is to create a unifying identity for all of our college sports teams as well as a platform to publicise results and match reports. Increased publicity for Mary’s sport was high on our agenda so when Becca came to me with the idea over the summer, we were both keen to have everything off the ground so that the project was ready for the freshers to immerse themselves in when they arrived. It seems to have done the trick.”

Tellyn continued by noting how the new scheme has galvanised sports teams within the college. He said “New players and old faces alike are putting in great work to get the best results possible as they know there is now a place to share their success with everyone. We’re no longer a collection of clubs at the same college: we are Team Mary’s.”

However, they are quick to modestly point out that it was not a completely new and original idea. Tellyn admitted “One day while browsing through Facebook, I saw that a person from St Cuthbert’s had shared a page to publicise results and fixtures for their college. We took inspiration from this idea and ran with it, with the intention of improving the concept.” To quote Tellyn’s own words, it certainly does seem to have done the trick.

Mary’s are not the only college to have adopted this type of scheme. Team Mildert are also operating a similar venture and plan to hold their launch event in November. Like Mary’s, they also utilise their Twitter account effectively, reporting on weekly scores and achievements from their teams. They also have ambitious plans for obtaining unified college stash for all teams, as well as introducing centralised fitness sessions to improve the fitness of Mildert sportspeople as a collective, rather than just in individual teams.

On top of this, Team Mildert have also organised a series of varsity fixtures against Hill college rivals St Aidan’s, to attract big crowds from both colleges. As it stands, each college has one victory apiece. Mildert prevailed 22-19 in the rugby three weeks ago but Aidan’s managed to level the scores in the netball round last week, as they beat Mildert 22-20.

Van Mildert’s press officer Marta Ozola also spoke to Palatinate Sport about their venture. Ozola described Team Mildert as “an attempt to centralise the administration of sports, thus making the supervision easier, ensuring better feedback between Mildert teams and Team Durham, as well as trying to get all the sports clubs to follow our example.”

There are several other examples of other colleges operating similar projects. The largest college of the collegiate system, Collingwood, have been operating under the banner ‘Wood Sports’ on Twitter to publicise the achievements and results of their sports teams. Also on the Bailey, ‘Team Hatfield’ have also produced their own version of college branding to unite their teams together under one banner and have some big events planned for the future.

Needless to say, this college branding idea has proven to be beneficial for Durham’s already superb collegiate sport system. Even in their infancy, these type of projects have been responsible for organising varsity events between other colleges, fuelling rivalries, raising the competitiveness of teams even higher and greatly increasing the amount of sports news students can access about what is going on in many sports across the college leagues. With its combination of passionate sportspeople and an enterprising student body, Durham’s college sport can only get even better.

Image: Jack Tellyn