Instead of just simply finding a unique fan engagement story by a sports team or a sporting event for their fans and then writing about it I thought instead I would take the route of telling of my own personal experience as a fan recently at the 2012 Final Four in New Orleans. I will start with letting everyone know that the people of New Orleans were amazing (minus a crazy cab driver or two) and I have nothing but great things to say about that city every time I go there and it is always to do something different…their reach goes well beyond Bourbon Street and the French Quarter in how great their city is…but that is a different topic for a travel site!
Final Four Fan Engagement
I was actually a little surprised by the NCAA in what they did from an engagement level. The Final Four is one of if not their biggest event all year in sports, as the bowl games are not run by them and rather the BCS I think so this is “the granddaddy of ’em all” in terms of exposure and performance by the NCAA themselves.
I arrived in New Orleans on Friday afternoon and I must say the tickets they had supplied Ohio State with that I had purchased from the university were easy to pick up, were great seats, and face value was an extroadinary deal!
And no, I wasn’t stuck up here….
And they didn’t make me wait in line somewhere for 12 hours.
While this may not strike everyone’s fancy, this made my opinion of the NCAA a positive one to start the weekend.
Final Four Festivities
Located at a park within three blocks of the French Quarter, this concert series was free not only to those who were going to the Final Four but anyone who happened to be in New Orleans that weekend. So it was free, easy to get to, and YES it was simple and easy to get into the park and they served daiquris! (Always a plus in the Big Easy!)
To boot on top of all of this…they got HIGH LEVEL bands with a variety of types of music.
Friday Night: Kiss, Saturday: The Black Keys and Blondie, Sunday: Jimmy Buffet and the Avett Brothers.
We went and saw KISS and the Black Keys. I would never have paid to see KISS but I enjoyed the show and I have never seen them. The Black Keys rocked as always.
The point is they engaged me. They reminded me and everyone else in New Orleans that the FINAL FOUR was more than just three basketball games. They had me in that park Friday night and Saturday afternoon surrounded by their sponsors, their swag items to give away to us, their logos etc.
2) BRACKET TOWN
For those who don’t enjoy music or wanted to be closer to the Superdome on Saturday and Monday the NCAA did BRACKET TOWN. This party was next to the Superdome basically in the parking lot and gave kids a chance to try their skills on the Superdome basketball court, music and pep rally type atmosphere, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.
Sponsors were adorned all over the place but once again the NCAA did a great job of engaging people that it was a WEEKEND, a VACATION, not just “three basketball games.”
They are well on their way to creating an engaging high level exposure event that is more about their brand than basketball.
3) PRACTICE MAN PRACTICE
…Click HERE to see what practice means to Allen Iverson.
No practice isn’t important to everyone. But the fact that the NCAA does open up some of the practices to the fans is a unique fan engagement opportunity at the Final Four that the average fan will never get the opportunity of seeing.
What does this all mean?
Honestly I think it means a lot for the NCAA as a whole for their image and view. I went to New Orleans expecting a great time because of the city of New Orleans, the people I was traveling with, and the basketball I was going to get to see.
I never expected until I browsed on the EASY TO NAVIGATE (take note all big events it was very easy) and I discovered that I had a slew of activities and opportunities brought to me by the NCAA that they were going to make my trip one of the greatest weekends of my entire life!
That old aging parent who you don’t want to listen to?
Yes. The NCAA gave me as a FAN incredible experiences that went beyond the scope of basketball. Yes it helped that my Ohio State Buckeyes put on a killer pep rally featuring tons of great former players, both games were match ups for the ages (good try Bucks KU brought the heat in the second half), the Black Keys are one of my favorite bands, so on and so forth.
But the NCAA made my experience BETTER, MORE FUN, and ENGAGED ME! I will have nothing but wonderful things to say about the entire weekend and experience and one of the first things I will bring up was how much of a stand up job the NCAA did and how my opinion of them has CHANGED!
That is why you try to engage your fans and potential customers. To reward them and thank them and perhaps hope that they will change their view of you. Well here I am writing about it so they must have done something right…
Brian Solis put it best in his new book when he said “ADAPT OR DIE” when it comes to how we treat consumers. Engage them on a level that you never have before.
Pyro and make up/the best rock band in the world for people under 30/open practices of teams with tons of future NBA players/giveaways and V I P experiences/pep rallies in parking lots/leaving an impression of we care about you.
Not bad NCAA…not bad at all. KEEP IT UP!