Jan 27, 2012
As a huge sports fan, I have been excited to write this post for some time.
Take a minute and think back to attending your first professional or college game. Although I don’t remember mine, I know my first MLB game came just a week or so after I was born. My family lived in Atlanta at the time (the Braves were terrible in those days) and we had season tickets.
It wasn’t until we moved to Nashville years later that I remember attending my first live sports event, a college football game. Although I was only seven years old, I have a distinct memory of my dad taking me to see Army play Vanderbilt. It was an afternoon game, and the forecast was no good. We sat in the bleachers for three quarters in the pouring rain. Then we listened to Vanderbilt lose the game on the way home in the car. It may not have been the best outcome, but I will always remember that game. It was my first one.
The game-day experiences provided for fans have grown immensely over the past twenty years. Consider the fan experience today: video, music, lights, activities, pre-game, post-game, etc. We have hours of dedicated footage to sporting events now. ESPN’s College Gameday for Football and Basketball are two of the highest rated television sports programs in the country. It is estimated that revenue for all collegiate athletics was $10.6 billion for 2008-09.
So how important are fans to college sports? Extremely critical. You already knew they were important. Estimates show that more than half of the $10.6 billion comes from ticket sales, merchandising, TV/Radio contracts and more.
Engaging fans is not only important; it is necessary for the continued success of collegiate athletics at the national level as well as for your institution. It is critical to keep your fan-base engaged for the long-haul and encourage new fans to become part of the family. New fans equal additional revenues through ticket sales, merchandising, etc.
New fans also drive students to the institution. How many of us dreamt of attending our favorite college while growing up? I even applied to some schools just because of their athletic programs. Driving new students equals future alumni, something I discussed last week.
So how do you engage fans appropriately? For one, you should ask them. Why do they attend games? What keeps them coming back? What about their most beloved athletic program is special to them? What concerns do they have about the activities surrounding the program?
You can also be active in communicating with fans through social media. Whether facebook or twitter, committed fans engage with their preferred institutions and other groups to learn, connect with other fans, and stay involved with the latest news. Fan appreciation days are also an excellent format for engaging fans one-on-one.
No matter what your institution does, there are always more options. The best options are creatively developed across programs, departments and other methods. They need to be spread across many media outlets as well; websites, blogs, facebook, twitter, youtube, flickr, and other sites will likely engage different groups and broaden your base of support.
And possibly the best part? You’ll know when the ideas are working. Fans will arrive earlier, stay later, remain engaged, and support the entire institution at a greater level than ever before, and that’s the goal.