Saint Peter's players celebrate a Sweet 16 win. Saint Peter’s Fousseyni Drame (10) and Clarence Rupert celebrate after the Peacocks’ 67-64 win to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, March 25, 2022. Ncaa Basketball Ncaa Tournament Saint Peter S Vs Purdue In Sweet 16 Saint Peter S At Purdue

There’s a long history of underdog runs in the NCAA Tournament, part of what’s led to the popularity of the “March Madness” phrase. Those runs are more than just a fun story for the schools involved, though; a deep run helps improve their conference’s standing when it comes to NCAA “basketball fund” payouts (although those payouts are based on conference performance over six years, so any individual run isn’t that huge for it), it helps improve their school’s image with potential recruits, and it helps get the school a lot of media attention that may well lead to increased applications from students in general, not just athletes.

Just exactly how much any particular school benefits from that last category is a matter of debate. There are different ways to track media buzz, and they’re not always paired with admissions data. And for current runs, like the Saint Peter’s Peacocks‘ ongoing run as the first 15-seed ever to reach the Elite Eight, the admissions benefits won’t be trackable for a while. But there are still some efforts underway to measure what’s going on with them, with Nancy Haskell of the University of Dayton (co-author of a 2020 Journal of Sports Economics study that tried to quantify media exposure value of NCAA Tournament runs) writing a recent op-ed published across several newspapers (it can be seen at the Darien (CT) Times here) suggesting that the Peacocks’ run to the Sweet 16 (they’ve since gone beyond that) would be worth at least $3.2 million across four years in free media exposure.

One extremely trackable measure of increased interest in Saint Peter’s (players seen above celebrating their Sweet 16 win over the Purdue Boilermakers Friday) is the growth of their men’s basketball Twitter account. That account asked for verification around the team’s tournament-opening win over the two-seed Kentucky Wildcats, and soon received it. And, as per stats provided by Twitter, their growth since then has been phenomenal. Here are some of those metrics as of Saturday morning:

On the night of St. Peter’s First Round victory over Kentucky, @PeacocksMBB Tweeted a request for verification directed at @Twitter. Since then, it has gained more than 29K followers, or ~90% of its current follower count.

Mentions of St. Peter’s rose significantly on 3/17 (the day they beat Kentucky), and a total of 171K mentions have been Tweeted since then.

St. Peter’s signature hashtag #StrutUp has been Tweeted 13x more in March so far compared to February (note: this is through 3/24/22).

St. Peter’s is the fifth-most mentioned college team of the Men’s Tournament on Twitter in the US, behind Michigan, Duke, Arkansas & UNC.

Mentions of star player Doug Edert’s handle @DougEdert2 have grown 119.6x so far in March compared to February.

Mentions of Coach Shaheen Holloway’s handle @coachsha10 have grown 31x so far in March compared to February.

During the first 11 days of the Tournament, volume of Tweets including a Peacock emoji 🦚 grew 68% compared to the previous 11 days.

Twitter follows and mentions aren’t necessarily specifically likely to directly correlate to an uptick in applications, of course. But a run like this certainly does improve the national profile of a small private school, and the follower boost for the men’s basketball account here is one tangible expression of that. And this does feed into the larger ecosystem picture of increased news articles mentioning Saint Peter’s, increased people Googling their school, and more.

A lot of those impressions are not going to lead to anything tangible for the school, of course. But a percentage of them certainly will. The school is now on the radar for some people who had never heard of it whatsoever, and that will certainly lead to at least some applications and admissions. And as that 2020 paper from Haskell and her colleagues says, that’s especially beneficial for small private schools that many may never have considered. And while the increased Twitter following for the men’s basketball account and increased mentions of it certainly doesn’t do that alone, it’s one piece of the larger picture of boosted discussion of Saint Peter’s. And it is a interesting look at just how much social media growth can come from a March Madness run.

[Photo from William Bretzger/The (Bergen) Record, via USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.