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. Leon Costello is entering his fourth year as Montana State’s Director of Athletics. He joins the show to discuss how his team is using social media in new and innovative ways, as well as messaging during a pandemic.
Costello started the conversation by saying his staff is returning to work and things are beginning to feel normal again at Montana State. He explained that Montana has fared well during the pandemic but it’s nice to be able to socialize again.
Costello said being able to meet donors and talk about how sports bring people together shows how ready people are for sports to start up again; he believes sports will help lead the way to happier times.
He said that during the pandemic, the athletic department has been very intentional with their messaging and been utilizing social media to get that message out to fans. Costello said they valued social media as a department before, but they really plow ahead with social media for engagement and messaging during this time. He explains that they’ve become more organized in creating a social media calendar and that method has let them put out creative and meaningful content. Costello feels that social media lets Montana State engage a bigger audience because content can be shared with people they may not normally reach.
He says this is the time of year that he and his coaches would have been out on the road visiting different communities in Montana and with the help of social media they can still reach their fans. Leon Costello says they’ve been very intentional about what they’ve put in the social media space and have done more features about student-athletes and coaches. He explains they have been able to provide more depth to the personalities in their department and says the way they’ve approached social media during the pandemic will be a road map for the future.
Another observation that Costello shared was how this new and more structured approach to social media has brought his external team together. He says they have time to discuss new ideas and approaches to engagement and they are all working together to create these new media experiences; they’ve realized they can accomplish more by working together rather than working in silos.
Costello says the thing they have learned through this deep dive into social media will be applied on game days in the future. He believes social media has made their engagement more personal. He says they are exploring ways of incorporating what they’ve learned into future game days. For example, engaging fans on their way to a stadium through Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter. That engagement could be a fun pregame type show or it could also be valuable information on weather and road conditions that could impact their game day.
He says the same types of ideas apply to stadium engagement as well, rather than just putting up a sign for the sponsors, may be engaging them in a chat on social media to make the experience more personal. Leon Costello explains that this type of engagement is allowing their personalities to show more to fans and the fans really want to get to know them better.
The conversation then turned to how the new game day at Montana State could look with social distance measures in place. He said they installed metal detectors, so fans are used to a procedure upon entry to the stadium, and he thinks other safety measures can be added to that entry procedure if necessary.
The $18 million Bobcat Athletic Complex is under construction, Leon Costello says projects like that can be a beacon of hope that sports and life will go on. He says they have been using the new facility, along with their ticket campaign, to say ‘we are not stopping, we are moving forward.’
Costello explains that they are working towards new revenue streams in the digital world. He gives an example of an event they are having that’s being sponsored by a local bar and then online conversations, he compared to a podcast, are already being sponsors by Conoco. He said it’s all helping add a personal side of their department and sponsors. He also added that they will work with sponsors to make sure their advertising dollars are reaching the same amount of people on game day, even if the stadium has to remain at a lower capacity because of the pandemic.
Costello says the one message he’s been trying to drive home to fans and the community is that ‘we hear you, we understand, and we are all in this together.’ He explains Montana State cannot do the things they do without their fans and donors; they drive the revenue and private support that keeps the department going.