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.
Michael Alford, Director of Athletics at Central Michigan University, joins A New Gameday to discuss his department’s message during the COVID-19 crisis, new revenue opportunities that have arisen out of this unusual time, and how they are engaging fans now and moving forward.
Alford started the conversation by talking about Central Michigan messaging during the COVID-19 crisis and how they are planning to reach out to fans once college athletics starts up again. He says the biggest priority on moving forward with events will be the health and safety of their student-athletes, staff, and, of course, fans.
He says they are still examining the different options available to ensure they function in a safe environment. But the messaging will let fans know they are open for business and preparing for a 2020 season.
He says that they’ve been busy building content and working to connect with fans during this frantic time. Alford says a goal has been trying to connect their fans and programs. He tasked his team with looking at their various social media platforms and paying attention to messaging.
Michael Alford says a focus has been message creativity and cohesiveness. He says without the ability to interact in person, social media has become more important than ever. Alford gave a few examples of some of the creative content they are pushing out. One was a weekly feature on donors, this content from highlighted the donors and their families.
They’ve also done retrospectives of past wins and Chippewa’s in the Pros, which highlighted the professional players to come from their ranks at Central Michigan. Alford says Chippewa’s in the Pros is also useful in recruiting to let prospective student-athletes know they do have a path to the NFL.
Next the conversation turned to how things will be different when college sports return in full force. Alford mentioned his background is in sponsorship driven elements and he’s been in contact with Central Michigan sponsors since this crisis began. He’s communicated with them about how to create unique campaigns that can speak directly to their constituents through Central Michigan’s social platforms. He gave an example of an Instagram campaign they did with Pepsi, where fans entered a contest to win free products, then they have it delivered to their own home for a month, they called it the Ultimate Pepsi CMU Experience. He gave another example of a content segment they did, presented by a grocery chain in Michigan. Alford said it’s all about partnering with their sponsors about getting their message out to the CMS community.
Michael Alford explains that they were pursuing these types of non-traditional advertising opportunities with sponsors pre-pandemic, but have begun bringing their ideas directly to sponsors since the pandemic started. He says his team has brought ideas and campaigns directly to their sponsors and the push has helped them hold on to sponsorship dollars at the same level as before the crisis.
Then Alford discussed potential new revenue that might be available this year, he mentioned the unique experience that CMU can provide fans, not just through going to a game but through campaigns, they do in partnership with sponsors. He says his team is working on ways to keep fans entertained during any future scenario but also provide a unique experience. He says they are constantly looking for new revenue streams and looking for ways to engage the donor base, corporate sponsors, season ticket holders, and fans.
He says they are working towards this fall and will be ready to play no matter the form the games take. Michael Alford says the coaches deserve credit for stepping up and continuously engaging fans through podcasts, zoom calls, and other means. He says fans are showing a real interest in what happens next at Central Michigan and it’s thanks to the engagement they are working to create. He explained that content drives everything, and right now people are dying for content, even just quick interviews with coaches on twitter and Instagram have helped people stay engaged with the various programs.
Alford says as for the message he’s driving home when he interacts with fans and donors it’s that CMU needs their support now more than ever. He says he’s trying to share the vision of where they are heading as a department and not lose the momentum, they had pre-pandemic. He says the university had 4 coaches of the year going into the spring sports and probably would have had a couple more knowing where their programs were heading in the spring.
He says they were excited about the spring sports season ahead and that generally there is a lot of excitement on campus about where they are heading in the future. Alford says they have to bring that excitement to the students, fans, and community by sharing stories. He says just talking about the high-quality student-athletes at CMU makes people want to partner with the university and share in their success.