The Power of Community: How Social Media Helped Save a Sports Team


Due to financial deficits in the University of North Carolina at Wilmington athletics department, a proposal was created on May 15th which aimed to eliminate 5 sports teams from the roster. The recommendation came as a surprise, especially to the men’s swim team who have earned 12 subsequent CAA Championship victories in recent years..

It was here that the swim team decided to fight back and began a campaign which swept the greater Wilmington area and even reached the social accounts of Lance Armstrong and Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.

Social Growth

One member of the swim team, Sara Smith, created an online petition via which grew exponentially and is currently nearing the 15,000 signature mark. Members of the team also harnessed the power of Facebook, Twitter, and many offline method in order to boost awareness surrounding the impending elimination of the team.

The highlights of the campaign are shown through celebrity retweets and some statistics surrounding the efforts of the team:

Celebrity Twitter Mentions:

  • Lance Armstrong- 3,965,181 followers
  • Audrina Patridge- 2,242,106 followers
  • Ryan Lochte- 1,047,344 followers (257 retweets, 135 favorites)

Campaign Statistics

  • Total reach via Twitter was around 8 million
  • Over 50 major universities from across the country showed social support
  • 6,000 petition signatures in under 24 hours

Saved by Social

On Thursday, May 30th, the chancellor announced that UNCW would not be cutting any sports teams from the roster and mentioned that community involvement was a main reason in his decision to ignore the proposal. The student athletes were overwhelmed with emotion and continue to utilize the Facebook group as a way to connect and work to expand upon their efforts.

After writing about social media for nearly two and a half years, it is always amazing to see how influential it has become. As we move forward into 2013, it will be interesting to see other cases where people rally together to protect what they love! Have any opinions on the UNCW campaign?

For the post-announcement video: Click Here 

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