Yale Athletics

Before early February, disjointed graphics, poorly formatted captions and the occasional smartphone video scattered the underused @theofficialyaleathletics Instagram account. Though the handle itself hasn’t changed over the past nine weeks, practically everything else has — from content and captions to the person behind the account.

Director of Athletics Vicky Chun hired Nina Lindberg as the department’s first-ever Director of Creative Services and Digital Strategy in February, and her control of Yale Athletics’ social presence has already netted the Instagram account around 800 new followers, increased engagement on Twitter and improved Yale’s multimedia presence across all platforms. Lindberg’s addition has helped the Athletic Department realize a strategy that takes advantage of Yale’s international brand and promotes all 35 of the school’s Division I programs with unified graphics, photos and videos.

“Bringing [Lindberg] in was so key and creating that position [too] because communications in general has just changed,” Chun said. “I wanted someone who had that experience and who’s had proven experience in terms of getting followers, creating a consistent message from Yale Athletics. … It just seems so different depending on whose Twitter you’re following, so we’re working with the coaches and the teams to have a more consistent message.”

Branding has been a goal of Chun’s since she assumed the helm last year. She redesigned part of the interior of Ray Tompkins House last fall, altered Yale’s primary athletic logo and identified Yale Athletics’ multimedia presence as a way to drive online exposure deserving of the school’s 35 teams and storied athletic history.

Lindberg inherited largely underutilized platforms whose content was sometimes subpar. An Instagram post last May celebrating the Yale men’s lacrosse team’s national championship victory featured shaky, handheld footage from the Gillette Stadium fan section, while another from 2016 misspelled Pierson College in its caption twice. Responsibility of the account was previously split among various athletics personnel.

Now, Lindberg runs all of the athletic department’s general social media accounts and has access to almost all individual team accounts, whose respective coaching staffs maintain partial control. The impact has been immediate. In her first week, she captured an iconic shot of men’s basketball guard Miye Oni ’20 posterizing Penn forward Michael Wang from the opposite baseline of the John J. Lee Amphitheater. A post with the photo celebrated a 78–65 Eli win that night and earned more likes than any Yale Athletics Instagram content since a Dec. 1, 2018 photo commemorated the passing of George H.W. Bush ’48.

Chun and Lindberg said they have received lots of positive feedback from fans and followers who have noticed the changes. Student-athletes have taken note as well.

“Yes, I definitely did notice a change,” men’s basketball guard Azar Swain ’21 said. “There was incredible improvement in the video quality and graphics detailing our team. As a player, it was great to see and something to get excited about when we did something well.”

Throughout the Elis’ end of the Ivy League basketball campaign, into Ivy Madness and down to Jacksonville, Fl. for the first round of the NCAA tournament, Lindberg posted graphics and created videos alongside Yale Athletics video producer Evan Ellis ’12.

Both accompanied the team throughout the postseason, and she noticed players often retweeted and reposted their content, helping the Yale Athletics brand reach student-athlete’s own online communities, friends, former teammates and coaches. Letters and emails from coaches are still important for recruiting, Lindberg said, but social media often provides an early glimpse that can define a prospective student or high school recruit’s first impression of Yale.

“Social media is the front door to the University,” Lindberg said. “It is the first place that recruits look when they get a call from Yale. It’s the place that anyone with a desire you know at age 13 up to go to Yale, they’re going to start following you on Twitter and Instagram… it’s a constant story, and it truly is an inside look as to what your program has to offer.”

Lindberg has created a consistent look for Yale by continually using a graphic style that strengthens the Yale brand with each score, game time and player of the week performance posted on social media. Her graphics reflect Yale’s sense of tradition, academia and history, featuring small capital letters, a textured white background that looks like loosely crumpled paper and a navy stripe that extends off the new “victory logo.”

Lindberg, who graduated from Ithaca College in 2015, found a way to pair two important passions in taking a multimedia assistant internship with the Colgate University Athletics team. A documentary studies and production major, Lindberg also played center field for Ithaca’s softball team and later worked on the social media team for the NCAA Women’s College World Series. The former Athletic Director at Colgate, Chun promoted Lindberg to director of multimedia and video production in June 2017.

After talking with some alumni and considering what truly represents the Yale brand, Chun, who said she loves visuals and Instagram, helped create a vision with the firm Global Prairie. She now has full trust in Lindberg to execute it.

“Yale is Yale,” Chun said. “Honestly we have nothing to prove. People just love it, so we just need that ‘Y’… I don’t want it to look anything other than something that we can be proud of that gets posted around the world, and [Lindberg] has full oversight. She does go check with me, but we’re at the point now, I’m like, ‘Go.’ Because it’s just so good.”

Although the digital revolution may begin with the Bulldogs’ ticketed teams — basketball, football, lacrosse and hockey — Lindberg plans to expand her work to all 35 of Yale’s teams as she continues to grow and professionalize the department’s online presence. She said she hopes to ideally conduct photo shoots with every team throughout the rest of the spring and next fall, producing media that can enhance promotions, fan engagement and marketing.

The Yale Athletics Twitter account currently has 12.9 thousand followers, while its Instagram account has just over 7,600.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu