It's that time of year that we all look forward to as much as we dread. Yes, I'm talking about College Football Bowl Season. With championship weekend now behind us, the match-ups are set to see who will be crowned college footballs elite programs for the 2013 season.
So what does that mean for you the DMO you ask? It means visitors, it means economic development, and it means room nights. One of the great things about working at a DMO for me was having the opportunity to see my community on the big stage, and know that even at an infinitesimal level, I played a small part in something that would bring thousands of visitors and millions of dollars into the community in the form of overnight stays, food and beverage and sales meeting space rentals to name a few.
Back in Tampa, each year we worked with a number of entities to promote and support the OutBack Bowl, the annual New Year's Day bowl game pitting SEC vs. Big 10 opponents. This years game will feature the Iowa Hawkeyes and the LSU Tigers in what I am sure will be a great experience for not only the local community, but for each set of fans.
In my time in Tampa, I had the opportunity to work on the Outback Bowl, NCAA Women's Final Four Basketball, and NCAA Frozen Four Hockey just to name a few. In working and promoting each of those events, I came to know what I considered to be the holy grail of promotion for each event.
If you haven't had the chance to experience it yet, I can attest that first hand, college sports fan bases are some of the most, if not the most passionate out there. Pro sports fans are great also, don't get me wrong, but in addition to the battle on the field, the battle off if and in the stands is of most importance and college sports fans simply do it better.
When promoting events like these, there are few better resources than three entities to leverage in getting access to the fans, alumni and students:* Collegiate Conferences - Here i'm talking about the participating conferences such as SEC, ACC, PAC-10 etc. Also in the case of bowl games you can also include the actual naming entity such as Sugar, Tostitos, or in Tampa Bay's case the Outback Bowl.
- The University - This is where the rubber begins to meet the road, as these institutions have a variety of channels with which to push information and are a trusted source including but not limited to the school's current students and their parents. So now that you've got the students and their parents on board to make the trip, you need to turn to their alumni with...
- The Alumni Association - Each school is likely to have an active Alumni Association on campus and then regional/local chapters throughout several cities. These are people with a sincere affinity to the school and you're hitting the sweet spot by trying to connect with them while their school's team may be closer in proximity to them than usual.
- The Athletic Department - Often, but not always, within the Athletic department individual sports will have their own accounts and distribution channels. A good example of this, in regards to the LSU Tigers is that they not only employ channels for LSU Athletics as a whole, the LSU Football team also has its very own channels that proud passionate Tiger fan-bases that support them. During the NCAA Final Four, these channels for each of the four finalist teams were some of our greatest assets. But who in the athletic department do you want to talk to? Keep reading...
- The Athletic Department's Communications/Sports Information Staff (SID) - In my experience, this will be your most reliable source for pushing information and creating a buzz about the game. Athletic departments wield a powerful ax when talking about the game, and every bit of detail that goes along with, from fan hotels, to watering holes to game-day tailgating information. Their sites are usually highly trafficked, and distribution channels plentiful in terms of information.
Building hype for these games amongst the fan bases will be one of your most important jobs in ensuring that fans travel and have great support for their teams, as well as information about things to do while they are in town. Be sure to leverage the above and your traveling fans are sure to have a great experience!