Live From Women’s College World Series: University of Texas Creative Team Tells Tale of Program’s Underdog Run to the Championship

The department’s goal is to be the voice of the Longhorn fan

No one in the collegiate softball world expected the University of Texas to be one of the two last teams standing. The deck was stacked against them and the naysayers had a list of reasons as to why they couldn’t or shouldn’t be in this current position, but as the age old saying goes, when you mess with the bull, you get the Longhorns. The program’s social media staff has been on this ride since the beginning of the regular season, and now that they’re two wins away from claiming their first ever National Championship in the sport, they’ll continue to share the story of these players with the utmost flair.

Kelli Konzen, Olivia Ramirez, and Liam Oram at the Fayetteville Super Regional.

“It’s been said a lot throughout the week, but if you told this team that they’d be in the National Championship series right now after starting 0-5, they would’ve never believed you,” says Liam Oram, athletics creative, University of Texas. “As we’ve progressed through our storyline, we’ve become the underdog that’s very vocal on social media.”

Gameday Workflows: Crew Captures Team in Pregame, In-Game, and Postgame

Ever since the crew made it to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series (WCWS), the onsite social media team has adapted to a new routine in a new environment. Although Assistant Director, Social Strategy and Creative Development Kevin Richardson is back in Austin to amplify the team’s story through the main Texas Longhorn Twitter account and Associate Director, Communications Brian Davies is assisting in Oklahoma City, the trio of Oram; Manager, Social Media and Creative Content Kelli Konzen; and Learfield IMG College Social+ Correspondent Olivia Ramirez are the three individuals leading the charge 390 miles away from campus. Since they’re the only individuals onsite, the biggest reason for their success has been preparation, communication, and going into each game with a clear plan of attack. This system also requires the need to be ready at a moment’s notice and being at the right place at the right time.

The job begins in the hours before first pitch. While Oram stays with the players and coaches during their pregame team meeting, Konzen and Ramirez head to the boss to snap photos of the team arriving to the bus and the stadium. As the team heads into the locker room, the pair will begin working on the content that they already captured, dress these visuals up, and send them to social media to set the scene for fans eagerly awaiting on their phones:

As the team hits the field for warmups, the staff scatters to their respective positions: Konzen putting together the starting lineup graphic in either the press box or media work area, Oram with the team, and Ramirez shipping over more content via Box file share.

Throughout the course of the game, this same strategy will remain in place, but posting to social media is done with intention. Video of a dramatic home run that ties the game or takes the lead can be pushed out at the right time, or more recently, the double play that sent the Longhorns to the portion of the WCWS bracket:

During the postgame rush, Ramirez has graphics prepped and made in advance. Konzen will post the final score graphic, sift through photos, and send out all of the content generated by Ramirez and Oram. Some of these graphics could be more pronounced, like the one announcing the trip to Oklahoma City or still photos of players and coaches celebrating their win in the Fayetteville Super Regional.

When it’s time to head back to the team hotel and adrenaline from the day has died down, the trio reconvene to break down what they can use in the following days leading up to the next game. Thinking in this creative way without the distraction of a live game, the group is able to deliver cinematic recaps of some of the season’s most poignant moments, including a video of the same Super Regional Victory:

As for gear, Oram and Ramirez are utilizing their own set of tools as the two main gatherers of content. Oram is mainly using a Sony FX3 with a FE 70-200mm lens and will switch to a 28mm lens for close-up shots. As for Ramirez, she has a Sony a7 III with a Sony FE 400mm lens, a Canon EF 24-70mm lens, or a Sony 50mm PRIME lens.

Hook ‘Em for the Long Haul: Inside Access Brings Fans Closer to the Players Year

The secret ingredient to the department’s high following and large social engagement is the behind-the-scenes access that they’ve been given by Head Coach Mike White and his staff. After a few years where COVID-19 took that access away, the social team is going heavy on providing unique angles of the players. In an effort to bring out the personality of the student-athletes, Oram taps into the fun and entertaining side of the players he’s covering.

“They love to hold and be in front of the camera, so at an event like WCWS Media Day, we handed them the camera to have some fun,” he says. “We’ve done it for everything from freshmen move-in day to random days at practice, and we’ll edit it like a vlog.”

This access has also driven the hype videos being created for the season’s biggest games. Whether it’s a comment made by a player that turns into a caption, a season-long mantra that defines the team’s aspirations, or a speech by Coach White that ties into the hysteria surrounding the release of Top Gun Maverick, the staff has a feel of the team’s day-to-day pulse:

“Part of our success is because of the trust of the coaching staff,” says Konzen. “Our ultimate goal is to say what we feel, and that’s resonating with our fans.”

Most recently, the message of danger has continued with their hype video before Game 1 of the title series:

Honoring a Legend: Inside the Jersey Retirement of Program Icon Cat Osterman

Aside from the postseason, one project that took massive collaboration to pull off was the jersey retirement of four-time Big XII Pitcher of the Year and Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman. Originally scheduled to take place on March 25, 2020, the ceremony was held on Saturday, April 16 vs. a familiar opponent: the University of Oklahoma Sooners. The day was capped off by a 4-2 victory over the No. 1 team in the nation, but a lot of the buzz surrounding the game was created leading up to that Saturday in Austin. On the day of the ceremony, the crew tweeted a video that recapped Osterman’s historic collegiate, professional, and Olympic careers with comments from current players and archival footage. Based on the footage that was used, Oram had an interesting time with creating the project:

“It was a difficult experience because our archival footage is very deep, so I had to scroll through to find interviews where she talked about Texas and other clips from a variety of locations,” he continues. “It was cool to compile it all together to tell the story of how she not only meant a lot to the university but also to the sport of softball.”

Aside from the video, another visual that took over social media was a graphic made by Ramirez. Putting her own spin on what Osterman has meant to the game and the university, the program icon is seen with the shadow of a goat (in this case, the G.O.A.T or the Greatest of All Time) as she delivers a pitch:

“I used an overhead shot of her pitching, but that wouldn’t have been possible without the vision of the original photographer 20 years ago,” says Ramirez. “It was fun to work on that project because I grew up following her career and watching her at Texas and the Olympics.”

As someone close to the individuals that developed this material surrounding the event, and as a fan of killer content, Konzen was in awe of the talents of her coworkers.

“There were so many people involved, and I think we did Cat Osterman Week about as good as anyone could have,” she says. “That whole week on social media was pretty undefeated.”

In turn, Osterman lended her voice to the hype video before the team’s first game in the WCWS vs. UCLA:

More Than a Game: Social Content Aims to Build Student-Athletes’ Brand

Ramirez and Konzen at the team’s preseason Media Day.

While the digital team is tasked with chronicling the season and its storylines, collegiate sports has entered a new era over the last two academic years. With Name, Image, and Likeness on the rise and the ability for players to capitalize on their hard work, creatives have more responsibilities on their plate.

At the University of Texas, the content that’s being posted serves two purposes: show the fan what it’s like to be an individual on this softball team and give these student-athletes a platform to express their interests outside of the field of play. Tying back into the overall goal of showcasing each player’s personality, the newer players and freshmen on the team have the chance to build their respective brands over their four-year careers. The staff is aiming for organic vignettes of players, but they’re also working alongside them to tell the story in their own words.

“We’re a year into NIL, so IG collab has become a huge part of our strategy,” says Konzen. “We send our athletes everything and they’ve been able to build their own brands.”

Still, there are times where a stellar year on the field encapsulates the on-field value of a player. This includes graphics to commemorate postseason accolades like senior infielder Janae Jefferson’s selection to the NCAA All-American Second Team and senior pitcher Hailey Dolcini’s selection to the NCAA All-American Third Team.

Proud to Wear Burnt Orange: Digital Team Aims to Enjoy Every Moment of the Ride

After spending a full season with the team, it’s extremely hard not to buy into the goal that they’re trying to accomplish. Despite the slow start and ups and downs that come with any softball season, the Longhorns have made it further than any other team in program history and have shattered expectations by becoming the first unranked team to make it to the final round.

The story of this magical run in 2022 can certainly write itself, but the time and dedication shown by Oram, Ramirez, and Konzen is commendable. With the support of colleagues like Associate Athletic Director, Creative Development Caten Hyde; Director, Creative Video Jeff Hanel; and Director, Softball Operations Keely McMillon, the department has fostered a culture that allows an overflow of creativity and the ability to lean on each other like a family. Throughout a grueling 70 game schedule that spans four months, there are a lot of tough days along the way, but working with people that you care about makes the job a lot easier.

“Being present every step of the way has been a really crazy, yet cool experience, and I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be here,” says Oram. “I’m also really happy that I’m doing it with people that are enjoyable.”

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