Big data is coming to college football, and it promises to revolutionize the fan experience across the NCAA. It won’t be long before an experiential marketing agency sets up shop in every stadium in the power conferences. The rise of big data in NCAA sports has begun, and it will soon become as commonplace at Saturday morning tailgating events.
If you have any doubts about the changes on the horizon, take a quick look at the NFL as a yardstick. NFL stadiums became entirely wired over a period of about four years. A few early adopters brought the first Wi-Fi networks to the NFL back in 2012. In 2014, more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams had their Wi-Fi networks up and running. Going in to the 2017 season, the entire league is wireless. Many teams and stadiums have already released their own feature-rich mobile apps.
It seems likely that a similar process awaits the teams and venues of NCAA football. There is no visible resistance to the mobile platform among key NCAA figures. Head coaches are using mobile apps to manage daily operations, seasonal recruiting, and more. We think the time has come for connected venues and systems in the NCAA – and the college football fan experience will never be the same.
What Data Means for the NCAA Fan Experience
Some athletic directors may resist the shift to mobile, but others will capitalize to earn attractive rewards. Programs that demonstrate an ability to harvest and analyze data from their offline fan base will have several immediate advantages over programs that have not yet started data collection.
As an example, a connected team can provide a much more personalized and enjoyable fan experience on gameday than an offline team. Fans of connected teams receive live updates about every aspect of the team. If a piece of merchandise that they are likely to purchase is on sale, they receive a mobile notification. They can order the new gear from the comfort of their seat, and it will be dropped off minutes later.
Another advantage comes from mining collected data. Leading college football programs have advanced marketing operations, but not all have branched out to begin the process of mining the deep layers of data that can be collected through mobile technology. As teams begin to learn more about the behavior of their fan base, they can tailor promotions and activations to better match the preferences of the individual fan.
These capabilities are valuable to any organization. And they are especially valuable to the big brands that are shelling out sponsorship money for equipment, scholarships, promotions, and more.
The Size of Sponsorship in the NCAA
In college football, you don’t have to be the reigning national champion to attract healthy sums from top sponsors like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor. While winning helps, sponsorship isn’t strictly dependent on a team’s record. Sponsors are looking for teams with loyal and active fan bases to create new associations with their brands.
Boise State provided a great example of this back in 2012 when they inked a $6 million deal with Nike, sponsoring all the university’s sports teams under one contract. When you factor in all of the power conferences and the perennial top 25 favorites, more than $1 billion is spent on NCAA sponsorships each season.
Here are 5 ways teams can harness the potential of big data to improve their fan experience and claim a bigger share of this enormous resource.
5 Ways to Cultivate a Data-Driven NCAA Fan Experience
#5 – Learn the New Data Landscape
While some teams have become quite adept at harvesting and analyzing data from their season ticket holders, mailing list subscribers, and online followers – those are now the tip of the iceberg. Mobile systems offer a wellspring of rich data, offering insights into fan behavior and preferences when they’re away from the stadium.
But a connected venue offers even more value. Beacon technology can turn your entire venue into a massive A/B marketing test – allowing you to gauge how the same audience responds to two different offers. You can see real-time viewing data, traffic heatmaps, social shares, and even conversion data.
#4 – Get to Know Your Local Experiential Marketing Agency
Consider partnering with an experiential marketing agency as a partner in planning. Agencies that specialize in data-driven audience activations and promotions can offer sage advice about the data touchpoints and systems available to an organization. They’re also skilled at executing these esoteric technical details amid screaming mobs of 100,000+.
#3 – Target Data Collection for Desirable Demographics
Depending on a program’s goals, its own target demographics may not exactly match a sponsor’s targets. Teams and venues should build blind systems that engage people from every segment of the audience. An experiential marketing agency can help convert the data into a set of channels that may be attractive to numerous sponsors. A segmented data stream can support multiple activations to multiple audiences on any given Saturday.
#2 – Reward Fans with an Unforgettable Fan Experience
If you take the time to gather and process all this data, you may as well put it to use for the good of your program overall. How do you do that? Create an unforgettable fan experience.
Notice that a local band is trending with your fans online? Hire that band to play a free show in the stadium. Ask your beverage sponsor to provide water and refreshments.
Notice a small tailgating group that’s generating a lot of buzz online? Have the head coach drop by before the game to give a motivational speech. Or have the whole team drop by! Supercharge your tailgating events. Give sideline access to the first 50 people to tweet selfies with your hashtag. Cover the whole fan experience on YouTube and Facebook.
The sky’s the limit. Again, having access to a good experiential marketing agency is a great idea.
#1 – Cultivate Your Relationships with Millennials and Women
You know your team’s fan base. They’re students and alumni, local business people, and folks from every walk of life in communities throughout the region. Your mental image of your average fan probably isn’t the typical millennial on a smartphone.
No matter. When your organization demonstrates its data prowess to prospective sponsors – the presence or absence of millennial data will be one of the factors evaluated. As systems and touchpoints are developed, care should be taken to include key market segments like millennials and women, whenever possible.
You’ll have plenty of data available about your average fan. Dedicate a portion of your efforts to engaging everyone else. It’ll pay big dividends over the long run.
Forging Ahead without an Experiential Marketing Agency
Obviously, converting the college football fan experience to the mobile world is a major undertaking. And the cost of bringing in an experiential marketing agency is prohibitive for some programs. But there are definite benefits to getting started right away and capturing the data that’s already available to you.
TGSM’s interactive trailers are an immediate and effective solution for organizations that want to start collecting data, and for programs that are looking for ways to expand their data capture capabilities.
Our trailers place a high-speed Wi-Fi connection right in the middle of your tailgating events. And they provide plenty of social activity with interactive games, a stereo broadcast audio system, an internet-enabled selfie booth, and more. It packs over 50 interactive digital screens and 22 mobile beacons into a small footprint to capture as much data as possible.
TGSM trailers are designed to specifically engage the most desirable demographics. Our free branded Wi-Fi network is an effective beacon that attracts millennials. And our luxurious restrooms with authentic china fixtures and working plumbing ensure a steady source of traffic from women and families.
Contact TGSM today if you’re looking for ways to create a more data-driven fan experience. We’re experts in this landscape, and we’d love to help you get started.