Powered by Nevco, A New Gameday is a new podcast from CollegeAD focusing on how athletic departments are working towards the eventual return of sports and what that will look like on gameday.
Chris King, Director of Athletics at Robert Morris University, joins the show to discuss the new normal, how his team is preparing for an eventual return to sports, and how his team is keeping fans engaged during this unusual time.
Like many in college athletics, the last several weeks have been a wild ride for King and RMU since the cancelation of March Madness. The men’s team was bound for the NCAA Tournament, and the women’s squad had the No. 1 seed in the NEC tournament. Then all of a sudden both seasons were over. As King explains, it was a roller coaster of emotion for the athletes, coaches, and everyone in his department. He explained that Robert Morris lost a chance for a lot of national exposure and marketing opportunities and that would have meant a great deal to the institution.
Once RMU gets the greenlight to return to sports, how will King and his department get the message out to fans that it’s safe to cheer on the student-athletes again? He said his team is spending a lot of time focusing on both the present and future. As far as the here and now, King explains his team has been working on a lot of grassroots type issues, telling the stories of their student-athletes. They’ve also worked to adjust the timeline for season tickets. He says they’ve embraced new media technology to connect with their fans and gave examples like how the men’s hockey coach took over the university’s hockey Facebook page for the day, or the Relive the Win segments where they replay older games with commentary from coaches and former athletes. He says fans have embraced what the department has been able to provide.
King then dove into how his team will incorporate those new social media skills into fan engagement once things do return to normal and fans are allowed to experience a new gameday. He explains they are looking at a number of different initiatives and still putting together a marketing and media relations plan. One of the biggest ones for fan engagement is their new athletics app that will launch this summer. He says it will have a lot of gameday exposure, a fans reward program, student rewards program that he thinks will drive attendance, and improve engagement on social media platforms and improve opportunities and value for sponsors.
King then explained that they have an emergency management team that’s created a COVID-19 ad hoc committee that is looking at what the conditions will be like for fans once they are able to return to the stadiums. They are looking at things like what are the entry points, what are the precautions? Will everyone have to wear masks? Will there be sanitizing stations? Can stadiums be at full capacity? He said the NCAA has provided good direction and his team is keeping current on all COVID-19 information to help answer those questions. He said the committee has a very comprehensive and broad responsibility, but there are a lot of unknowns to still factor into the equation.
Next King discussed how Robert Morris and their multimedia right partner are preparing possible revenue drivers when it comes to returning to sports and a new gameday. King explains they have a lot of revenue opportunities they were looking at even prior to the pandemic.
He says there has been a lot of discussion on how RMU will team up ticketing and corporate sponsors and the Colonials multimedia rights provider will zero in on standard revenue-generating and make sure that is solid. He also says there are unique opportunities they will take a look at, things like digital inventory in the new athletics app, or NEC Front row video streaming, digital sellout for games, zoom chats with coaches and athletes; he says they are exploring the various opportunities now.
King wrapped up the conversation by saying while there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future, they are making plans to deal with the unfolding situation. He says they are spending a lot of time on the various plans and scenarios they could be facing as well on how they can tell their story to fans.