The University of Arkansas basketball program is at the forefront of promoting and branding its basketball players.
The importance of branding is at a higher level now with the NCAA expected to finalize details on how players can profit off their name, image and likeness at the NCAA convention in January.
The ability to earn an income while in college is now part of the recruiting process.
Arkansas director of recruiting Michael Musselman and the Hogs have been active on social media in selling how the program can help Razorback players can earn potential income.
"I feel like we're a little bit ahead of the time on basketball," Musselman said. "I haven't seen too many basketball programs promoting it yet.
"It's kind of difficult because we don't know the exact set of rules and regulations that's going to come into play because the NCAA hasn't voted on it yet, but we know the general outline of it and we think we're well-equipped to promote as good as anyone else in the country. We believe it's a great selling point for our program."
A partnership with marketing and branding company Influencer is key in Arkansas' efforts to promote players. An INFLCR app allows players to instantly receive videos and photos of themselves.
"They have an app where all the photos go directly to their phone that they're tagged in, and it's kind of a way to get them content for them to post and help themselves build their brand," Musselman said. "We get our guys content, and we use our platforms to help promote them as individuals."
Musselman said Arkansas' ability to help athletes promote their brand has impressed 2021 and 2022 recruits.
"They're going to be the first classes to be able to make money off their name, image and likeness," Musselman said. "They're going to be really the first classes to really experience this and see how it works. They're excited as we're excited."
Last week, Musselman tweeted a graphic showing that former Hog Mason Jones' social media growth grew by 179.63%, which was third best nationally. Only Dayton's Obi Toppin and Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu had more growth.
Jones' play on the court and his postseason awards helped his social media activity explode.
"Big things for him were AP co-SEC player of the year, SEC scoring title," Musselman said. "The Georgia Tech game-winning basket was huge. Anytime you have an award or have an achievement or a big-time play or something like that that gets picked up, you see immediate spikes in their following growth and in their interactions."
Arkansas' visibility on the national level because of TV contracts helps promotion of players. Because the athletic department has 11 employees in broadcast services, the Hogs can promote players through video or photos.
"They're able to send photographers and videographers over to shoot our guys doing whatever," Musselman said. "It could be testing their vertical that day, or being in the weight room, or interviews with our guys in getting to know them."
The Razorback logo is one of the more recognizable logos in collegiate sports and is another selling point in recruiting.
"There's a lot of schools where you see their logo and there's not a lot of history," Musselman said. "It doesn't jog your memory about whether it be memories, history facts anything like that Just seeing the Razorback logo is definitely a big perk for us to have."
The Hogs meet daily to discuss branding and have competition among the staff members in trying to think outside of the box. Coach Eric Musselman noticed some schools immediately promoting the upcoming season when the NCAA announced plans to start play Nov. 25.
"Coach Muss was pounding our phones with text messages, 'They beat us to the punch. This is a great idea. This is extremely creative. Why didn't we think of something like this?' " Musselman said. "There's always someone trying to outdo someone. We all take it personal when someone beats us to the punch on something."
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