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Fan Experience Innovation: Elevating the Spectator Journey in Student Sections

Technology and how it is incorporated into live events and production will always be in a world that is fast and highly competitive. Whoever can afford the latest technology will always be at the forefront of who has a better “experience” when it comes to what it provides to spectators in their seats. My question to all game presentation/entertainment/production staffs is this: are you trying to entertain spectators with the most amazing show, or are you trying to turn spectators into fans who participate in the experience and become main characters in the storytelling process?

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” Mary Shelley’s words in her famous story “Frankenstein” are extremely relatable for every human being or organization on planet earth. For too long, game entertainment and production has focused on themselves and not on including fans as part of the show. Not capitalizing on the fact that a fan section or fans in general can be programmed is in my opinion the biggest mistake of game entertainment today. The days of on court promotions and on court competitions between only a couple people should be long gone. When fans in the building are treated like a group of people who need to be entertained, not a group of people who can be utilized to retain the greatest home court advantage, then you will have a game day atmosphere that suffer like so many do across the country at every level.

I am not writing this to tell you about what new technology you need to incorporate into your game day experience, what new flashy item or toy you need to hand out, or what food you need to give away to entice people to your games. I am writing this to tell you that if you focused on an experience that people can’t get anywhere else besides whatever team or arena you work for, it would accomplish virtually all your marketing needs every season. Invest in your students and fans in a way that highlights them as a part of the experience. Everyone wants all the benefits of a rowdy and insane fan base but doesn’t want any of the responsibility of knowing the people in the sections or crowd who could help make that happen. I rarely if ever hear about people who work in athletics or who oversee the fan section take the time to get to know their student leaders, cheer coaches, dance coaches, band directors, mascots, or production staff outside of game day. As a producer, you cannot just be the person who organizes things on game days.

Humans have an innate drive and desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We also have a desire to escape. Escape from all the outside threats we deal with daily -- bills, jobs, politics, war, etc. We have been escaping this way since the colosseum, and nothing has changed besides the severity of the entertainment. Fans dedicate more than just their money when it comes to going to an event someone produces. They also invest their time, which is something nobody can get back. If a fan dedicates the one thing that cannot get back in order to attend a live event, then the focus should be on providing experiences that they cannot get anywhere else. You have a moral responsibility to your fellow human to not cheat them by not copying and pasting ideas you have seen elsewhere. You have a responsibility as a human being to create, and to create ideas that haven’t been done anywhere else. A moment that changed my perspective on this was when I was in a meeting with GCU President Brian Mueller and he said, “Ideas rule the world.” Shortly after, we got dubbed “The Biggest Party in College Basketball” because we focused on creating a participatory experience instead of just an entertaining one.

If you subscribe to an ideology that worships “Best Practices” to get up to industry standard, then you are doomed to fail from the start. Do not let a group of individuals tell you what you need to do because that is the way it is supposed to or always has been done.

Pave your own way, create your own madness, and build experiences that haven’t been done before. In my experience, if you are constantly misunderstood, then you are doing something right. Learn to see the unseen. “Talent is hitting a target nobody else can hit, genius is hitting a target that nobody else can see.”


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