One of the biggest issues facing all sports in the 21st century is the way the games are presented. The days of just going to a game are long gone; the thrill of seeing a team live now tempered against the auditory and sensory overload of 2014. From Twitter to Facebook, fantasy sports to out of town scores, everything is available before it ever fully happens.
Like every team in the nation that plays "big time college football," Boston College has a competition for its games with the allure of the couch. ESPN now offers live television coverage of dozens of games through its Goal Line channel (among others), and it's arguably more cost effective to sit at home, in a pair of sweat pants, with a can of beer in one hand and a remote in the other. It's hard to justify paying $50 for a ticket to a game when you can stay home and watch more games, following along on social media, and interacting with other fans by way of the SB Nation Game Day Live Thread on BCInterruption.com (Heyyyyyyy!).
Brad Bates clearly understands this. In his most recent post on the Boston College website, Bates directly addresses the notion that it's actually nicer to stay home and watch games in 2014. He talks about the need to "frame the gameday experience" in a way that appeals to the same things everyone loves about watching the games at home, only on a bigger scale.
Boston College will alter its gameday experience in the stadium in ways we haven't seen in the past. The concessions will change from the standard hot dog and pretzel fare, and audits are underway to increase ease of use to things like restrooms.
In terms of the stadium itself, Alumni is receiving a facelift this offseason. New, bigger video boards are being introduced, and renovations will place video ribbons around the perimeter of the sidelines, effectively replacing the bowl games that dotted those areas in the past. The entire speaker system is being gutted and replaced, something that should cause the stadium echo effect of the band to go away when they strike up in the corner.
The video boards will allow for more television-style replays in the stadium now that the ACC is allowing for multiple replays of the same play on the board.
The school is also improving accessibility with updated shuttle service. The current shuttle service to free parking lots was an issue in recent years since the buses rarely left until they were full. That meant people who had to come to a game couldn't ride the bus unless they were able to factor 35 minutes of sitting until the bus arrived. I distinctly remember not being able to take a shuttle bus two years ago when I was forced to leave Alumni early for a later commitment because I couldn't sit for the half hour (I didn't have the time). Having to take a taxi to my car was a hassle, and the next year, I nearly skipped a game during a similar situation. So this is truly a "nice to have."
Bates does gloss over the issues facing BC with tailgating, but to be honest, that's something that's a long term fight. Originally, I wanted to really get into that aspect and look into what has to be done, but how many times can we talk about that? As I thought about it over time, I really didn't see a purpose to get into all of that. Use it as an end goal, but use something else to build up to it.
One of the things I'd love to see BC incorporate is more use of social media. They've been really great in terms of using Instagram and Twitter for images and game updates, but they've lacked a little bit by way of the social interactivity with the fans. With the introduction of new video boards, there's a great chance for BC to capitalize on Twitter and fan interactivity at the games. This is something I've utilized first hand in marketing with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
This summer, for the first time ever, the Y-D Red Sox are utilizing a hashtag theme all season. This hashtag allows fans to post their own pictures from the field for all to see by using the simple tag of #SummerSox. Already there's been a great response of people posting pictures from the field, of their kids, or talking about hearing the game. With announcements and radio broadcasts, it created a level of interactivity that had never happened during those games before. That type of interactivity is something that has been a little bit slower to gain traction, but it was totally untapped before this year. As crowds become larger as schools let out, July 4th weekend will be a great chance to see the potential for success in this area.
In that regard, BC can tweet out "fans of the game" or "images of the game." It gives them a chance for fans to interact and send out images with Baldwin or the live eagle, if it ever comes back. It's also free, which is a huge advantage. In the modern era, getting that level of interactivity cannot be fully quantified for newer fans of the digital age, people who have an attention span measured in nanoseconds. You don't so much as "present" a game with presentations and replays anymore. Game presentation is instead designed for fans to greater interact with those around them and those who aren't there. And you have to get the fans closer and closer until they're all but calling plays or being analysts in your stadium.
Examples like that are some of the initiatives Brad Bates can walk his marketing team into. Getting people off the couch is to make them feel like they're in charge of the game day experience. People don't want to get off the couch unless they control their entertainment, which is exactly what they control at home. That's something that's very easy to let them go nuts with if channeled properly.
Fans can't control hours or pricing of tailgating, and there's always going to be that complaint until things get fixed. There needs to be an emphasis on that, but at the same time, if the fans can be distracted from that by a big noise over there (points to the other side of the room), then they won't pay as much attention to what's bothering them. And to do that, they need to be in control of their in-game experience. Tweets. Music. Pictures. The fans that are tailgating can post these outside the stadium, which will make other fans want to experience it. Inside the stadium, the tweets and picture can enhance the experience of sitting in the seat. It's something that's never been done at BC, and it's something that, if done properly, can put on a track to the cutting edge.