College football turns to immersive entertainment5 minutes
How schools combine social media and display technology to best engage fans
Put several thousand college students in one place and there is at least one certainty: They will be sharing their experiences with their friends via text message or social media. Some 88 percent of millennials aged 18 to 29 use Facebook in some capacity while 60 percent of the same group use Instagram, according to a PEW Research study.
Because of these trends, college stadiums are currently working to implement many of the same ideas that have encouraged fans to socialize their experiences at professional sports stadiums. “Today you can’t design a new sporting facility without focusing on social spaces, and there are plenty within Atlanta Braves SunTrust Park. An illustrative example: fans hanging out on the upper-level cabana social space, all on their smartphones and watching the game on a video-board,” according to BallPark Digest.
Florida State Seminoles Associate Athletic Director Jason Dennard says the school merges the ubiquitous social media with its new video-board to engage fans on both fronts and pull them deeper into the game.
“Whether it’s pictures, Instagram posts or anything we can populate on to the board, we do those things,” he says. “The first thing in mind when we made the decision of what we were doing was fan-first and enhancing that experience.” He says this kind of fan experience and engagement was top-of-mind for Florida State University when the school was upgrading the technology in its stadiums. At the center of that upgrade was a 7,200 sq. ft. Panasonic video-board.
In addition to the roughly 16,000 students at Seminole football games, the school has about 64,000 others who attend as well. During downtime, whether it’s at tailgates or other game related activities, fans are encouraged to use a specific hashtag and send in photos so the school can populate the high res video-board, according to Mr. Dennard. “Everyone loves to see themselves up on the board,” he says.
While the team’s primary focus for its boards is to enhance the fan experience during games, giving fans the chance to appear on the board also has a welcome side-effect: It helps drive traffic across social media. Mr. Dennard says that’s more valuable than any advertisement the team could purchase.
“If someone is having a great time and posting on social media and everyone in their timeline sees it, it’s a personal endorsement for why you should be coming to a Florida State football game. That’s priceless,” Mr. Dennard says. He points to the advantages of social media’s multiplier effect. When friends or relatives post photos of themselves at a game, it generates interest among those who see the posts to attend. “It paints this great picture of Tallahassee on a Saturday in the fall as a place to be.”
The same can be said for one of New Jersey’s biggest cities—New Brunswick. The city is home to Rutgers University football’s Scarlett Knights. New Brunswick is transformed on game days. Rutgers University student Christian Wityk, who follows his school’s teams on social media, says the New Jersey state university uses similar approaches to make fans a part of the excitement.
“They’ll do things where you tweet and Rutgers Athletics and you’ll get your tweet on the video-board,” Wityk says. “They’ll pick a few tweets and put it to a song.”
Social engagement is one way sports venues are using technology to deliver an immersive fan experience.
“College football turns to immersive entertainment” is the first in a series of blogs that will culminate with a white paper on how colleges are designing sports spaces with tech and social media to help get fans off the couch and into the stadium.