Powered by Nevco, A New Gameday from CollegeAD focuses on how athletic departments are working towards the eventual return of sports and what that will look like on gameday. North Texas AD Wren Baker joins the show this week to discuss the importance of new media during the pandemic and finding new ways to connect with sponsors and fans.
Wren Baker who served as North Texas AD since 2016 started the conversation by acknowledging how difficult these times have been but saying that North Texas is doing well under the circumstances. He says it tough for ADs and campuses in general right now, it’s tough because everyone wants answers. Right now, his team is working on a variety of scenarios and solutions, but he knows a lot could change before September.
He says they are modeling what stadium capacity would look like, social distancing sections, prepackaged foods, etc. Baker says they’ve sent out a survey to fans to help with the process. He says the results are interesting because there are some people less likely to come if their section had those preventative measures in place and some people who’d be more likely to come. Baker explains he wants fans to know they have options, ranging from refunds, to rolling it forward, to converting those gifts to donations. He says the main takeaway for fans should be that there will be options on the table.
As far as the use of social media during the pandemic, Baker explains that North Texas started to move part of its budget to the digital space three years ago. He says they’ve increased their expenditures in things like graphic design, video staffing, and more. He believes they would be worse position had they not made those moves years ago. Baker says while they don’t have everything finalized for the fall, they are working on ways to use social media to drive attendance and keep fans engaged, even if they can’t attend.
Baker acknowledges the future may contain some widespread cuts and marketing is an area that often gets looked at closely. He says they are pulling back on some of the more traditional advertising streams but at the same time, they are investing more in non-traditional advertising. He believes the digital market really rallies people they know are interested in North Texas Athletics. Baker gave an example of an event they are cutting this year, wrestling night that was done in connection with football. Although it’s a personal favorite of his, it was one of the first events to get cut.
Baker says his team is working to make sure current sponsors are getting value for their dollar even in the current climate. They are also working on new ways their sponsors can be involved. He gave examples of a “Greatest Team of All Time” where brackets were released because people missed out on March Madness. He also says staff members have been doing special features and points to “At Home with Hank” which highlights some of North Texas’ greatest athletic moments. These have been sponsored pieces that have had to remain flexible with the times.
He says that their partners have been great throughout this whole ordeal. He says if you can provide enough of a benefit to partners and show them that you care, that you are trying to provide those opportunities, most of the sponsors see that and respond to it.
Wren Baker says in his role as the North Texas AD, the one message he’s driving home to fans, donors, staff, and student-athletes is that the Mean Green appreciates them and they are grateful for their support. He says that while people may not be in a financial position to show monetary support like in years past, that he wants the folks that are in a position to support North Texas to know they are needed and appreciated. Baker also says that sports are part of the healing process for great times of stress and tragedy and he can’t wait until they can get back to playing so we can all move forward.