Stadium technology and digital engagement7 minutes
Not only is Georgia Tech one of the nation’s top research universities, it also ranks among the top Colleges for Sports Lovers. The 2017 designation by Money & Sports Illustrated includes schools distinguished for gridiron greatness, Olympic medal hauls and other athletic wins as well as high-quality, affordable education.
But how are these schools preparing for the next generation of stadium technology and digital engagement?
Georgia Tech’s digital makeover
Brad Malone is responsible for telling stories of Georgia Tech, its student athletes and its fans. Hired in 2012 as director of digital media for the athletic department, today Mr. Malone directs the Brand and Ideation department, and digital engagement is a big push. “We’re almost serving as an in-house agency when it comes to telling our story using graphics, video and digital tools,” Mr. Malone said. One example: a video about a student athlete — a football player who is studying mechanical engineering — to help Georgia Tech grads in the same field connect with athletes and the school in a new way.
That connection is easier now thanks to an investment Mr. Malone and his team made in a marketing automation and customer relationship management systems as well as gathering new data and gaining new insight from data it had already collected. It’s a major change from the “spray and pray” methods that characterized the athletic department’s approach to digital engagement when Mr. Malone first joined. The department would aim for a number of impressions and hope the message resonated with those who saw it.
Now, Mr. Malone says Georgia Tech focuses on fan purchase history and patterns and is more efficient with its digital marketing dollars including campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Google AdWords. “We are able to focus in on targeted messaging. If an individual had purchased a family pack of game tickets or had come to a homecoming game, we are able to use that data to geo-target or target based on history,” he explains. Mr. Malone estimates Georgia Tech’s digital campaign ROI grew by 400%. The digital engagement investment also helped to build new alumni connections.
Thinking outside of the grid
For recent inspiration, Mr. Malone looked to SunTrust Park and how the new home of the Atlanta Braves weaved stadium technology into the fan experience. “The way they integrate their app with the game day experience is something that we’re definitely trying to emulate,” he said.
Georgia Tech ended up redesigning its own GameDay app to provide live audio of its games. “We made that a free component of our app and that’s been huge,” Mr. Malone said. “Fans don’t uninstall because they want to be able to listen to the next game.” Previously, games had only been streamed on the team’s flagship station in the Atlanta market, and that didn’t help the many graduates who live and work elsewhere and wanted to catch the game.
How Bloomfield College reaches across oceans
About 800 miles north of Georgia Tech, Bloomfield College faces a similar challenge: How to reach fans and alumni who live in other parts of the country or world. Bloomfield is a four-year liberal arts school in Northern New Jersey with a Division 2 sports program. The school’s Sports Information Director Gladstone Harris said it has many athletes that are from the Western parts of the U.S. or other countries, and their family and friends can’t attend games in person. To connect these far-flung spectators to the action, the school created a feed of its sports events and streams them online — for a price.
Mr. Harris said this capability is important in recruiting athletes from around the world, and it also generates revenue for the school: Streaming purchases spike when Bloomfield plays teams from different conferences at their stadiums as fans for the visiting teams are unable to attend in person. This type of fan engagement is something Mr. Harris would like to expand as the school grows its athletic program. And he hopes to upgrade the team’s camera and Wi-Fi capabilities to better serve fans that rely on the streaming service to keep up-to-date with team games and athletes.