Five FCS programs defeated FBS opponents in Week 1 of the football season – Nicholls State over Kansas, Northern Arizona beat UTEP, North Carolina A&T won at East Carolina, Villanova defeated Temple and UC Davis was victorious against San Jose State. ADU caught up with Nicholls AD Matt Roan and Northern Arizona AD Mike Marlow to learn how the two leaders are leveraging their respective season-opening wins.
How extensive was your team’s pre-planning process to be fully prepared to capture the moment and residual momentum?
Roan (Nicholls State): With our staffing, we had to determine who would actually make the trip due to the fact that we had soccer and cross country at home over the weekend. Our SID, Jamie Bustos, made sure he had our University photographer on the trip to help him with taking action shots, as well as capturing reaction/celebratory shots. For a ‘Power 5 game’ and with our optimism it was important she was there. The same can be said of our video team; we had someone on the field documenting the experience and we turned this footage into a highly-viewed recap.
We had graphics ready to go. Our plan also included our external staff on the road and near campus being prepared to collectively pour over social media for things news outlets, our alums, student athletes, fans, etc., were saying to help build up the hype of the moment. As you can imagine, there was plenty of content out there. (Athletics Twitter / Football Twitter)
For ticketing and development, we had pre-written all social media posts and emails. We were also prepared to boost posts in order to maximize visibility. We ensured all online transactional outlets were working properly so that fans could purchase or donate easily and without having to ask questions or wait until after Labor Day. The previous week we had sent out our annual review and Colonel Athletic Association solicitation simultaneously hoping we would win and those would be hitting mailboxes around the same time.
We also had discussed last week whether we would put single game tickets on sale following our games at Kansas or Tulane (September 8th). If we won, we made the decision to wait until after the Tulane game so as to provide ourselves maximum time with heightened excitement to capitalize on season ticket sales.
Marlow (Northern Arizona): Beginning last spring our staff prepared for the rebranding of our annual giving program. Associated high impact video was produced and unveiled the week prior to the game. Specific messaging from our quarterback was widely distributed to our alumni and fan base. We also traveled a newly hired creative video coordinator and social media coordinator to capture pre-game, in-game and post-game content.
What were your first few action items – be them marketing, fundraising, etc. – immediately after the final horn sounded?
Roan: Like others who are similarly situated, we try and maximize social media. We saturated our channels with graphics, videos, photos, etc., to constantly impress upon our followers news of the win, info regarding tickets for this week’s game at Tulane and season ticket plans, and awareness of our Colonel Athletic Association and the impact it makes. Sunday morning, emails were sent to our ticket and donor lists with more detail. We also made one last push for our season ticket referral program. Releasing more information about our Colonel Athletic Association was also done via mail and email. Our sports properties GM was busy scheduling new appointments, as well. I have to mention that our University marketing and communications team has been a great partner, as well. Their involvement supports the notion that Athletics is the front porch to the great things happening here.
Marlow: From a marketing perspective, we boosted awareness and purchasing opportunities for our home opener, distributed video and photo content from the game. Additionally, we captured our ESPN Top Ten College Football Plays of the Day and distributed. Our fundraising effort focused on a targeted email solicitation regarding the rebranding of our annual giving program. The ESPN distribution resulted in a significant (500%) increase as compared to our normal reach.
Are you tracking specific metrics to gauge the long-tail impact of the win? If so, which metrics?
Roan: We have tracked our website numbers with Google Analytics. Our traffic to geauxcolonels.com increased by 372 percent compared to the previous Saturday. Also, our final Twitter graphic had over 100,000 impressions. For comparative purposes, our best tweet in August had 20,000. We also had a 300-percent spike in profile visits and mentions compared to last month’s summary. The three videos (game recap, final play, and post game interview w/ Coach Rebowe) we’ve posted following the game have collectively received 48k views, 3,956 likes, 908 shares, and 373 comments.
We’re easily able to track all ticket sales after the game to see the impact of the win. While we were already at record levels for season tickets, we’ve seen even more of a push since the game.
We are also tracking all other social media outlet posts as far as interactions, link clicks, and the demographics we are receiving from the regular and boosted posts.
Marlow: We are tracking both renewals and new memberships within our annual giving program, which demonstrates a 15% growth in new members. Also, we are comparing ticket purchases for our home opener as compared with opening games from previous years. Finally, we are tracking media requests for coaches, players and athletic staff members.
How can ADs leverage this type of victory to buoy internal department momentum just as much as the external brand story?
Roan: It’s a great time to be a Nicholls Colonel, and Saturday is just further proof. This type of win gets our staff excited and displays the fruits of their labor. It makes all of us want to work that much harder and engage our stakeholders so that nights like Saturday become the norm. It’s amazing the momentum that a win like this can create at our level, both internally and externally.
Our coaches and staff continue to achieve at unprecedented levels and this win only strengthens our belief that the culture we’ve collectively created will lead to comprehensive success. We’re proving every day that we can compete for championships and make a positive impact on our SAs, our University, and the Bayou Region.
Marlow: A culture of shared ownership in our success is critical. This is something that Bill Moos was the very best at – making sure that everybody knew that they truly have a role in the success of an athletic program, staff, coaches, players and FANS! It is imperative that the AD consistently emphasize a silo-free workplace based on team work, this type of image is embraced by external constituents as well.