The Social Media Seven: 12/18 - 12/25

By: Parth Shah, @shah_parth_

It's been a tremendous NFL season so far for the Cowboys, and they continue to operate at a high level on social as well. Check them out and more in this week's SM Seven! Lead Image Credit: @DallasCowboys

It's been a tremendous NFL season so far for the Cowboys, and they continue to operate at a high level on social as well. Check them out and more in this week's SM Seven! Lead Image Credit: @DallasCowboys

Happy Holidays! Welcome to the final Social Media Seven of 2016, where we cover the best that #smsports has to offer. This week has seen tremendous content across the board, so let's get it started by opening this week's gifts and spreading some holiday cheer!

1. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs had the opportunity to say goodbye to their legendary big man this week, as Tim Duncan's number 21 was officially retired and raised into the rafters in San Antonio. It's not every day that an organization gets to honor one of their own, especially a hero of the fan base. The Spurs social team pulled out all of the stops, with sharp graphics, engaging content, and strong videos. For number 21, the days leading up to the ceremony went something along the lines of "21 Days of Duncan-mas." We think. Anyway, the content was a hit, and each day offered a unique representation and look at the storied career of Tim, from reflective player stories to glowing endorsements of his character.

Read More: The Social Media Seven: 12/11 - 12/18

I highly recommend taking a look at that moment, which also does well in compiling all of the content into one easy location. For the big day itself, the Spurs organization handled his ceremony the same way he handled his career - with pure class. There was no need for highly-detailed content or anything extraneous; the team made it clear on social that this was ALL about Tim Duncan. Clipping parts of the ceremony, including some fantastic sound bites, as shareable videos helps fans not in attendance or watching on TV to also feel a part of the tribute. All together, an incredible night for Duncan and the Spurs organization. Well done on social, finding the right balance of subtlety and humility, yet with glowing pride and admiration. The nostalgia is real with this one, folks. Class all around. 

2. The Salvation Army with Ezekiel Elliott and Darren Rovell

'Tis the season of giving, and the Salvation Army is just one of many great organizations that continue to care for people all year 'round. During Monday night's game at AT&T Stadium, Cowboys rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott celebrated a touchdown by jumping into one of the Salvation Army's huge red kettles they had set up as sponsorship. This drew immense attention for the charity, with many claiming that it had been staged for publicity. These rumors were shut down almost immediately. Regardless, this celebration sparked hits on the website and saw an increase in donations for the organization, as the Salvation Army stated they raised $182,000 online within the first 14 hours, an increase of 61%. Incredible. ESPN Business Insider Darren Rovell remarked at the Salvation Army's Twitter pitch using Zeke for donations, saying the organization was "not subtle." But, as the SA validly points out, there is no time to be subtle in what they do. Comeback of the year? Perhaps. With this increased attention and engagement with sports, the social team for Salvation Army has been hard at work, still replying to many users and spreading their message through cheer and positivity during the holiday season. Elliott himself said he would contribute the amount equivalent to his 'excessive celebration' fine as donation to the SA. However, the league decided not to fine him, so he took measures into his own hands. Look at just how much leverage a professional athlete has on social. Great job by Elliott, and the others that have followed suit. Thank you to the Salvation Army for all of the hard work they put in to make the lives of others just a little bit better! More to come on Zeke's Cowboys in just a little bit. 

3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

There's nothing like spending the holiday season with family. With so many of our veterans across the globe serving so we can celebrate back home, I'd like to extend a special thank you to our servicemen and women who make this possible with their sacrifice and courage. It is truly a beautiful sight when our heroes come home and surprise their loved ones, and this greeting by Matt Farrell's brother is no exception. Content like this can't be put into words so I will leave this to a minimum. There is nothing that beats the raw emotion, which speaks so much louder than any words can, and comes straight from the heart. Take a look above and try to keep the hair from raising up on your neck. Truly beautiful and heartwarming.

4. Cincinnati Bearcats

No holiday season is complete without an ugly sweater! The Bearcats of Cincinnati hosted an Ugly Sweater Night for their home game against Marshall, and they took to social to get fans in the mood and actively participating. The roll-out of their platform was strong on Twitter, cross-promoting it for Snapchat and the fantastic geotag design they were featuring. The Bearcats' social team was methodical in how they attacked this, and tried diligently to cover every base for followers. This included a neat how-to guide on how to use Snapchat filters, for those fans that are slightly behind the times. Fun and interactive for all ages! Throughout the game, they asked fans to share images using the #BearcatsSpirit, and they posted the best on Twitter for all to see - a great way to get everyone interacting with the program and athletics department, building memories and connections, and hopefully winning some fans. The idea of snap filters has become a staple in sports marketing, but the execution often varies from event to event and program to program. Cincinnati shows us how to use filters to your advantage and increase sharing, while also not serving as an overburden for fans and followers. Fun and easy, yet creatively addicting! Love it from the Bearcats.

5. Dallas Cowboys

With the help of the division-rival Eagles, the Cowboys were able to clinch the NFC East and home-field throughout the NFC playoffs, even before playing this weekend's game against the Lions. It's been a trying past few years for Dallas, a storied organization that has seen a noticeable energy return to Arlington this season with the emergence of rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Just days after a victory (and Zeke's Salvation Army extravaganza), the Cowboys sat at home watching the Eagles and Giants play on Thursday Night Football. Philly's victory helped Dallas claim the division and number one seed, and the party started immediately on social. The team started with a simple, yet bold graphic, perfect for getting the point across. Using their motto #FinishTheFight, they rolled out content that was equal parts celebratory happiness and anticipatory excitement for the playoffs. The Cowboys' video team does a fantastic job producing authentic, powerful content, and their hype video for "To be continued..." is strong. Even as an outsider, it makes me excited for Dallas football in the postseason, so the feeling must be magnified amongst the fanbase. To round-up the buzz surrounding the team, they used Twitter moments to their advantage, compiling some of the stronger content put out by the team as well as blending in fan reactions and celebrations. This gives a unique feel of unity and overwhelming positivity for followers who look through it, undoubtedly making this holiday season feel even more special. Keep an eye out for more video content from the Cowboys' social team as their season comes into the postseason. 

6. National Lacrosse League

The National Lacrosse League unveiled its new logo this week, after weeks of anticipation and built-up excitement amongst fans. The league hopes to continue the growth of lacrosse across the U.S. and Canada, and establishing a strong identity goes a long way in doing so. While not as strong in its reach as the league would've liked, the NLL has to be happy with how the roll-out was executed. The logo looks great; a solid mix of clean and sharp with a modern font and the adaptability to change variation based on each team's color scheme. The video that the team has put together is successful in building a culture and atmosphere around the league, everything they want to associate with the sport and brand. Speed, physicality, skill, and passion. With the sports landscape in the U.S. already crowded, it will be interesting to see how the NLL, as well as its counterpart, the MLL, do in growing interest in lacrosse and sustaining a following. It definitely helps to have a tremendous ambassador for the sport in Paul Rabil, and his approval of the NLL and its direction bodes well for the casual lacrosse fans and athletes that don't necessarily know of the league's ambitions. Best of luck!

7. READ MORE: Skittles with Trevor Siemian

With our final example, Trevor Siemian provides us, and his linemen, something sweet for the holiday season. Everyone has felt the struggle of holiday shopping, not knowing what to get for those we care about. Well, Skittles has the answer! The brand was able to integrate with the Broncos QB and his search, ultimately having him gift his linemen push-button parkas that dispense the colorful candy. Being able to activate a sponsorship within a story and tie-in successfully with a fun situation is relatable and feels more authentic than most. Kudos to Skittles for such creative presentation! To read more, check out Giving the Gift of Skittles on Julius, from our very own Russell Wilde Jr. To cap off 2016, this is a great example of strong content. Remember to be fun, engaging, and creative as you push forward into 2017!

Bonus: Cleveland Browns

It's the season of happiness and miracles. Congrats to the Cleveland Browns on their first victory in over a year! There's a ton of excitement and celebration going on, more than the 'W.' lets on. Happy holidays, Cleveland! Enjoy this one. 

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I want to take this time to thank everyone for making 2016 a year I'll never forget. In the half year I've been a part of the FOS family, I've felt nothing but welcome with open arms and pushed to excel with my content. Thank you to everyone who has made the Social Media Seven so successful; I appreciate your thoughts, opinions and excitement for the piece every single week, and I truly enjoy putting these together because of that. I look forward to an even better 2017, with continued growth and happiness in my personal, academic, and professional life. As always, please feel free to reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a successful, positive, and progressive 2017. Enjoy and see you soon!

Parth Shah is a second year marketing and finance student at Northeastern University's D'Amore-McKim School of Business in Boston, MA. He has a strong passion for social media and digital marketing, as well as a love of sports, which is parlayed into the weekly Social Media Seven.

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