As the Clemson Tigers battled the Alabama Crimson Tide on the field for the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship title, a University of Iowa Hawkeye was covering the action from the sidelines.
Jennifer Fisher, a San Diego, California, native working toward her master’s degree in sport and recreation management at the UI, joined media members from across the country working Jan. 7 at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The social media platform Instagram chose Fisher from more than 100 students at more than 60 universities in its Instagram Student Section program to take over its official @Instagram account’s story, which has more than 277 million followers.
San Diego Sports Consulting Practicum
This three-credit summer course for University of Iowa undergraduate and graduate students includes one week in Iowa City performing projects for organizations such as Hawkeye Sports Properties or the Cedar Rapids Kernels and two weeks at the University of San Diego working on projects for organizations such as the San Diego Padres and Farmers Insurance Open PGA golf tournament.
Applications for the summer 2019 practicum are due Feb. 15, 2019. Learn more.
Fisher didn’t intend to focus on social media as a career path when she started at the UI as an undergraduate, but a career in sports was never far from her mind.
“I grew up playing sports, watching sports, and getting involved with sports drives in my community,” Fisher says.
While working on a certificate in event planning, Fisher, who graduated from the UI in May 2018 with a BA in communication and minors in sport and recreation management and fine arts, was encouraged to volunteer for an event. After helping with the Iowa Hawkeye football banquet for two years, she was inspired to get more involved in the athletics department.
“I’ve always had a passion for art, and I was always looking for ways to incorporate sport with art,” Fisher says. “Social media became the best platform for me to integrate the two.”
Volunteering with the Iowa Athletics Marketing Department led to an internship and her current position as social media marketing manager. While there, she learned about the Instagram Student Section program, which partners with universities across the country to provide students with best practices, information about the latest product updates, and other opportunities to collaborate with partners in the sports world. As part of the program, students are given access to their schools’ Instagram account with the goal of making fans feel like they’re at the games through first-person content via Instagram Stories. At the end of the season, Instagram chooses one participant to take over its official account and show the student experience at the College Football National Championship.
Fisher learned Dec. 7, 2018, that she had won.
“I was in complete shock,” Fisher says. “I was confident in the stories I submitted to Instagram, but it was huge to receive the phone call.”
Fisher flew into San Francisco on Jan. 4. During the first couple days, she got a VIP tour of the Facebook and Instagram campus in Menlo Park and attended the National Championship media day. After relaxing and exploring the city on Sunday, she was ready for the big game Monday.
Upon arriving at the stadium, she did what she always does before a Hawkeye game.
“I like to look around the perimeter of the field and get a sense of my boundaries,” Fisher says. “Where can I get into the stands? What’s the easiest way back to the media room? What are unique angles I can capture?”
Each member of the media was issued a vest, the color of which indicated their level of access. Fisher’s was bright yellow.
“We had some restrictions on where we could go, but we were close to having the same access as ESPN,” Fisher says. “It was exciting to be on that level of professionalism.”
As kickoff approached, Fisher got to work. She talked with former college and professional football players Tim Tebow and Jordan Rodgers, and she made friends with the mascots. During the game, Big Al, the elephant mascot for the University of Alabama, gestured to Fisher to kneel with him as an injured Alabama player was treated on the field.
She also filmed an intro for the Instagram Story.
“That took quite a few takes because I’m not used to being in front of the camera,” Fisher says. “I couldn’t stitch the words together for the life of me, but we finally got something that worked. I surprisingly loved being in front of the camera.”
Fisher says covering both teams equally was a challenge, as she usually only focuses on the Hawkeyes and not their opponents. She and an assistant producer for Instagram swapped sides of the field each quarter and adapted their coverage as the game evolved.
“It was unpredictable and stressful, but stressful in the best way,” Fisher says. “I enjoyed every moment of it.”
As she worked alongside longtime professionals in the business, Fisher says she felt confident in her work.
“I was prepared,” Fisher says. “Instagram prepared me, and the University of Iowa prepared me.”
Along with her work in the UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, Fisher credits a summer practicum as an important aspect of her preparation. The San Diego Sports Consulting Practicum is a three-credit summer course for UI undergraduate and graduate students that includes one week in Iowa City performing projects for organizations such as Hawkeye Sports Properties or the Cedar Rapids Kernels and two weeks at the University of San Diego working on projects for organizations such as the San Diego Padres and Farmers Insurance Open PGA golf tournament.
Fisher was one of 16 UI students to make the 2018 trip to San Diego.
“It’s a small world when a practicum at Iowa can bring me back to my hometown,” Fisher says.
As a lifelong Padres fan, Fisher was thrilled to be assigned to work in a team of four to develop a project related for the organization’s 50th anniversary. Packy Moran, lecturer in the Sport and Recreation Management Program and co-founder of the practicum, says Fisher brought a needed skill set to her clients.
“Her social media acumen as well as her understanding of where revenue can be created helped Jennifer lead her group to recommendations that were well received by the Padres,” Moran says.
The practicum also included lectures and activities related to networking and giving an effective presentation.
“I’ve been able to put these skills to work both at Iowa and the National Championship game,” Fisher says. “I’m much more confident walking up and introducing myself in networking situations and speaking to a group.”
Fisher says she’s putting a few things she learned in the Bay Area to use as she goes back to work covering Hawkeye sports.
“I learned a totally new way of editing,” Fisher says. “I’m now storyboarding a bit more. We take the top posts and organize them visually to figure out how best to tell a story, thinking of it like a movie. We want to give fans a unique, exclusive perspective and make them feel like they’re part of the experience.”
Fisher says she was overwhelmed by the support she received after the Instagram Story published.
Fisher plans to graduate in May and is applying for positions in sports organizations across the country and internationally.“I got a lot of love on my personal Instagram account,” Fisher says. “It was also amazing to feel the support I got from the University of Iowa. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
“I’m open to all opportunities,” Fisher says. “I just know I want to continue creating content and capturing a unique perspective for fans.”