How does someone show you who he really is by pretending to be someone else? One day, he’s roaming the sidelines at Williams-Brice Stadium. The next day, he’s Michael Scott from The Office. The day after, he’s looking in a mirror to make sure he’s got his swag on.
Let’s talk Beamerism. Not beamerisms, which would be notable quotes or phrases Shane Beamer uses as USC head football coach — he really, really, really, really likes one adverb. Beamerism, to coin a term, is a philosophy of communicating culture that deploys all the tools of the media age.
“It really helps get our brand out,” says running backs coach Montario Hardesty. “The biggest thing is, he’s genuine. You can feel that throughout what he puts on there. He’s establishing a great culture here where guys can be themselves. I’ve been a part of football teams where the guys get uptight when they enter the building. The way Coach Beamer is every day, he lets them be free and relaxed, and that’s when people can be the best version of themselves.”
Gamecock social media often turns the tables on a tradition-bound sport. A video of the team shows them playing hide-and-seek at the football facility. A video shows Coach bringing the entire squad on a trek to the upper reaches of Williams-Brice Stadium for a lesson on what fans go through to see the players. There’s Beamer’s code-talking via emoji on Twitter — the “spurs up” is ubiquitous, plus there’s the #welcomehome hashtag that may or may not have something to do with recruiting.
Video parodies show the replication of a scene from The Office, featuring Beamer sprinting past a vehicle speed detection sign, and of the classic opening sequence from The Sopranos TV series, substituting Gamecock Country landmarks for those of northern New Jersey. While Coach is often the star, Justin King is the associate athletic director whose production team makes the magic happen behind the scenes.
“It really is a team effort — even other coaches will have ideas,” Justin says. The goal is to endear the football program to fans as well as potential recruits. “There’s a huge recruiting element to it, absolutely. A recruit is going to remember Coach Beamer. That helps the coaches build relationships, and it’s all about relationships.”
The Gamecocks went viral with Beamer’s video parody of Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On,” released prior to 2022 SEC Media Days. Mark Stoops, the University of Kentucky football coach, seemed to mock Beamer’s video before walking back his comments, creating even more buzz. Then came the rebuttal.
“My favorite video would probably be the one made when we won against Kentucky and he put the shades on after the game,” says defensive back David Spaulding. Hat on backward and donning swagtastic sunglasses after beating UK 24-14, Coach broke into dance as players sang Soulja Boy’s lyrics. “That one was pretty good because of the backstory.”
It wasn’t the only time Beamer turned social media lemons into viral lemonade. A Twitter exchange with a journalist resulted in Beamer suggesting the scribe “find some joy.” While Coach and his foil were making amends offline, “Find Some Joy” was popping up in hashtags and on T-shirts.
Offensive lineman Vershon Lee says he enjoyed the parody video of the opening sequence from the TV sitcom Full House. Tight end Trey Knox sometimes finds himself scrolling through his Twitter feed and seeing Beamer “all over” his timeline. “He connects with the younger generation, and I think that’s what you have to do to get your message across,” Trey says. “Do what the kids that you’re recruiting like to do. They want to be on their phone.”
Justin is cautious about what projects get greenlighted because poor execution can hurt as much as good social media can help. He says they do it well because of the culture provided by Beamer. “My job would be infinitely harder if I had to pull teeth to get people to come out to a video shoot,” he says. After nearly three years of TikTok, tweets, and YouTube, Beamer has had ample opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.
“I think what works is being genuine, just showing who we really are,” Coach Beamer says. “That’s why we do what we do — to give a look behind the curtain of what we’re about as a program. I wouldn’t say there’s anything that doesn’t work. Certainly some things resonate more with recruits than others. Soulja Boy resonated more with recruits than The Office skit did. They’re all things that everybody enjoys, and we love doing them and we’ll continue to do them.”