your band is a sleeping (brand) giant?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

Just like your mascot, your band is a walking, talking, and music-playing representation of who you are and want to be as a program. Be mindful of their uniforms; use that space to tell your story. Be aware of their playlist; use those music notes to tell your story. Get involved in deciding what routines they perform and when; use the choreography to tell your story. You get the picture: bands can help you get where you want to go.

you introduced the next “turnover chain”? (part 2 of 2)

Now that you’re on board with the idea of rewarding your fans, WHAT IF the reward actually built the brand? Rather than showering the crowd with free taco coupons (which does nothing for your brand), WHAT IF everyone walked away with car decals featuring your team’s logo on them instead? People love free swag and many will ultimately put the sticker on their car, which is your goal. A fully-branded parting gift to remember their experience in your stadium by. Once again, everyone wins. The fans get a free decal and memory, while the brand earns a new mobile billboard.

you introduced the next “turnover chain”? (part 1 of 2)

Rewarding on-field performance with symbols like the now infamous “Turnover Chain” took the sports marketing world by storm in 2017-2018, but WHAT IF you made 2018-2019 about the fans? Rather than rushing out to imitate the Hurricanes with a forced version of your own, WHAT IF you reinvented the concept and as a result, brought the media frenzy that surrounded South Beach for a year, to your town? Here’s how: there are moments in sports where the fans play a key role. Football has embraced the crowd’s function in the sport perhaps better than anyone. The louder the crowd, the harder it is for the opposing team to conduct their offense. The louder the crowd, the more likely the other team’s players are to move early, triggering a false start flag. And that’s where you come in. WHAT IF you rewarded your fans every time the other team moved early? In basketball, the crowd is often rewarded with free tacos when the team reaches 100 points. Simple execution. WHAT IF you took that concept to the field, only this time rewarding the crowd for their efforts in helping the team win. The louder the crowd, the more flags. The more flags, the more tacos. Everyone wins.

you modeled your stadium experience after the EPL?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

The first school to replicate the experience at an English Premier League (EPL) soccer match has themselves an atmosphere unlike any other in college sports. The EPL does it right, and college sports are ripe to emulate those packed stadiums in England. Throughout the full ninety minutes of an EPL match, you’ll hear the entire stadium rotating through a variety of cheers, chants, and songs, all supporting their team or degrading the rival squad. It’s an electricity no college stadium or arena has yet to match, which means there is a major opportunity out there for a school to create such an experience and get credit for it nationally.

Imagine the impact you can have on a group of recruits visiting your stadium, welcomed by fifty thousand-plus rabid fans chanting the same thing in unison. You have very little time to make an impression on a young man or woman visiting your campus on a recruiting trip; its scenes like these that can make or break a commitment to your program.

From my own experience, the closest thing to an English Premier League stadium experience in college sports is when the entire Wisconsin Badgers student section jumps up and down and sings “Jump Around” by House of Pain between the third and fourth quarter of home football games. It’s an experience like nothing I’ve seen in sports. The problem is that it happens when no one is on the field, so the impact on the game is minimal. Plus, it’s very brief and the only moment of its kind during the game. There’s no other significant chant or cheer that follows.

I would be doing a disservice to the school if I didn’t also mention Texas A&M and their in-game traditions, all choreographed beautifully and practiced each night before home games by the faithful student body. Wisconsin and Texas A&M represent two of the better in-game executions in the country, but there is plenty of room to grow.

Now, you knew this was coming: when orchestrating your cheers and chants, start with the brand story and work from there. Your cheers should stay in line with your position as a brand and contribute to telling that story. If it were me, this would be one of the first places I invested my time.

your fans had a “look”

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

When it comes to game-day fan gear, two basketball programs come to mind: Cal and Duke. Both distinguished student bodies are known for wearing their striped polos to basketball games, and I love it. It’s such a simple tradition, and it ties directly to the positioning of each school—scholarly institutions rooted in the polo—wearing upper crust of society. Some might call it snobbery; I call it branding.

When looking at starting your own game-day apparel tradition, start with your story and use your student ambassadors in much the same way we discussed leveraging the band. Let your students become physical manifestations of who your university and athletic program are. If you’re an aggie school, get your students in overalls. If you’re an Ivy League school, get your student section in shirts and ties. If you’re a blue-collar program, get your students in hard hats! Find what makes your program unique, dress up the student body, and own it!

Don’t forget color. When I think of fan gear on game day, I think about the experience, and that experience for me starts with a sea of color. Like we talked about earlier in this book, it’s important as a collegiate brand to own a color. When you do decide what color that is, make sure that’s the shade you blanket your bookstore with. It’s your job to make sure every fan rolling through your town on game day leaves the bookstore with that color on their back.

your entrance contributed to your brand story?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

Traditions can be born out of the simplest things—even things like entrance music. Virginia Tech football and their “Enter Sandman” by Metallica entrance is a great example. I love what the Hokies have done. By being consistent with their entrance music, they’ve created a tradition. There are few stadiums that get as loud as Lane Stadium before the hometown Hokies run onto the field to one of the most recognizable heavy metal songs of all time. Music selection has a lot to do with that.

My suggestion to you and your school would be to find a song with similar energy to play before your team leaves the tunnel—but take it one step further. Find a song that not only has energy but also contributes to your brand story. I’m not sure what “Enter Sandman” has to do with Virginia Tech; it may have a deeper meaning than I am aware of. However, if it doesn’t, there is a brand-building opportunity being left on the table. Remember that everything you do should contribute to building your identity. Find a song with energy, find a song with meaning, and start building that tradition.

your stands were always filled?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

This is a subject that has always felt like low hanging fruit to me, yet so often I find myself watching games on TV with empty stadiums and arenas. I don’t get it. Stadiums (or ballparks, or arenas, etc.) are a lot like restaurants in that perception is reality. Empty restaurants are often perceived to have bad food, poor service, or something that is generally keeping people away. Given the choice of an empty restaurant or a restaurant with a line out the door, most people are going to hold out for the more popular option, assuming the food must be great given the apparent popularity.

Stadiums can be viewed the same way. Empty stadiums are assumed to house a bad team and a lame experience; why would anyone want to go? It surprises me how many universities allow their teams to play on regional or (gasp!) national television with less than full stadiums or arenas. Fill your stands! If you can’t sell your tickets, give them away. You’re not going to sell those tickets anyway, so rather than turning fans or recruits off by your sparsely attended event, create the perception that you have the hottest ticket in town. Do that and slowly but surely, your seats should start to fill themselves with warm, paying bodies.

Speaking of giving tickets away, who better to give away tickets to than potential fans? Even better, how about potential fans who might one day become potential recruits? If you can’t fill your stadium with paying fans, find a local high school and give the tickets to that school. Invite them as your guests and make sure every attendee from that school gets a free shirt. That shirt and your brand will suddenly start showing up all over the halls of your most fertile recruiting ground: high schools.

Whether you are able to sell out your stadium regularly or not, I’d suggest developing on an ongoing ticket giveaway program that works on a rotational basis with local schools in your community and state. It’s a long-term strategy to sustain and grow your fan base. Work now to win the hearts and minds of the next generation of local fans and athletes.