As competition in driving fans to games continues to grow, fan experience continues to be on the forefront of the minds of athletic departments across the country. At Mississippi State, we have placed a strong emphasis on the experience fans have while on campus and at games, with the hopes of adding value to their experience, to in turn garner repeat customers. In the past year we have expanded our “Maroon Memories” program which provides fans once-in-a-lifetime MSU experiences, increased our pre-game fan offerings at football, basketball, baseball and softball, and created new experiences to keep our fans engaged year-round.
In striving to create the best experience possible for our fans, we launched a new fan experience program in 2014, known as Maroon Memories. Our athletic department aims to provide fans of all ages an experience they will never forget. This program is a partnership with experience (EXPAPP.com) in which we share revenue based on each experience or item redeemed. Since the program initial success, the Maroon Memories program went through a rebranding period this year.
We started Maroon Memories in 2014, we had high expectations. When our expectations were met in 2016, we had to raise our standard. With the addition of new logos, a new tent set up, and more exclusive memories, we have upgraded our brand to a premier program.
We really wanted to emphasis on the idea of a memory being created through a picture. We strive to “create memories that will last a lifetime” and we do this through photos. All of our memories come with a commemorative photo of some type. The new Maroon Memories logo, highlights the “M” in memories encased in a polaroid print out. At one time Polaroid instant camera was the item of the future. Not only capturing that split second, the Polaroid camera was able to print instantly letting that moment be forever catupure. Since retro themes, styles, and items coming back in style we took advantage of the iconic image.
Maroon Memories offers in game experiences as well as merchandise and giveaways for all MSU home football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball games. Our newest additions to Maroon Memories includes the South Loge seating, SEC Championship memory packages, and proposals.
Bully’s Kids Club is the official kids club for children 12 and under of Mississippi State Athletics. Being a member is the best way for our young Bulldog fans to show that they are True Maroon! We strive to provide a kid-friendly environment at our games and other exclusive events.
At all home basketball games, we set up Bully’s Kidz Kourt in the women’s basketball practice court. We have an obstacle course inflatable, other basketball themed inflatables, face tattoos, an open space for shooting, a specific area for younger children with smaller basketball goals and a small playset, and more! This provides an opportunity for fans who arrive at our games early to have a place to let their children have fun before enjoying a Mississippi State basketball game. We mirrored Kidz Kourt in our design of the successful Lil’ Dudes Zone at our home baseball games. There is a designated area with inflatables, corn hole, face tattoos, and more kid oriented activities for children to enjoy before and during a baseball game at Dudy Noble field.
Since we capture the birthdate for each child, we are not only able to send a digital message from Bully to the child on their birthday, but we are also able to send an email in advance of their birthday to the parent to ask if they would want to host their child’s party at one of our sporting events – and then drive incremental revenue by offering them the ability to purchase a party directly through us. Depending on the sport and the opponent, our parties range from $100 to $200. These “Birthdays with Bully” are available at soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and softball. Decorations (set-up and clean-up,) pizza, 500 BKC points, a personalized birthday button delivered by Bully, as well an in-game recognition are included in all party packages. The most popular parties are basketball and baseball. To date this year, we have brought in over $3,000 in basketball birthday parties, and we brought in over $3,500 last season in baseball birthday parties.
In addition to athletic events, we host exclusive events that are only open for BKC members. We started off the new school year with a Kick-Off Party at a volleyball game with activity packets, a clown who made balloon animals including special balloon bulldogs, MSU ice cream, interaction with our student-athletes, and more. Bully’s Spooktacular was a Halloween-themed watch party during the Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M football game in our Leo Seal Football Complex. We offered free food, fun activities, and a hay ride from the parking area to the front entrance. We are all set to host Bully’s Birthday Bash for the third year which is held before to a baseball game with an average of 250 members. In addition, we are planning Bully’s VIP Experience which will be held in late April to give members and their parents a behind-the-scenes tour of three of our athletic venues – Davis Wade Stadium, the soccer locker room, and Humphrey Coliseum. BKC members also get special invitations to participate in Anthem Buddies at basketball and baseball games. As an anthem buddy, kids stand with the team on the court or field with the team during the National Anthem.
Our latest Bully’s Kids Club activation has been the creation of “Passports” for members. Inside these passports are listings of all international student athletes in our department, and a history about their nation of origin. Kids are encouraged to attend events where they can get sport-specific passport stamps and autographs from these student-athletes.
One feature of Bully’s Kids Club is invitation to exclusive events. We added Bully’s Halloween Spooktacular as one of those events. The Spooktacular was a Halloween party combined with a watch party of our away football game versus Texas A&M. We held the party in the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. This is typically an area exclusive to football players and personnel.
One issue we faced early on is the lack of parking. For away football games, players, coaches, and staff park in the lot at Leo Seal, leaving us no available parking. This problem led to one of the highlights of the night. We had families park in a nearby lot, and then picked them up on a hay ride that brought them to the venue.
Once inside, BKC members checked in and then went to a “What’s in the Box” station. There were boxes with holes in the side for kids to stick their hands inside. The boxes contained “witch hair,” “eyeballs,” “veins,” and “worms” which were really craft moss, olives, wet spaghetti, and gelatin molded by straws, respectively.
Members then were led into the multipurpose room. Many of our football trophies were on display including the Golden Egg, Dak Prescott’s Conerly Trophy, and our most recent bowl game trophy. Members had an opportunity to see these up close and take pictures with them. In addition, we had a balloon arch photo booth, candy stations, balloon animals, and a cupcake-decorating bar. To help keep members entertained throughout the game, we created 10 different versions of Football Bingo that included elements of the game such as kickoff, rushing touchdown, and interception.
NEW SOUTH WEEKENDS
Maintaining a strong town and gown relationship with the City of Starkville is vitally important for us, as we work together to bring fans to the City of Starkville for our events, and work ensure they have an experience which makes them want to come back again. In an effort to create a full-weekend experience for fans coming to football games in the fall, the athletic department partnered with the City of Starkville a number of years back to create “New South Weekends.” This calendar of events is designed to ensure events take place in the city or on campus on every Friday night before a home football game, and on every Sunday following a home football game. This works to ensure fans who attend a game have an incredible full-weekend experience while in town.
A committee was established with athletic department, campus and city leaders who work in partnership to create a detailed calendar of events. This events calendar is then mailed out with football season tickets and is then promoted at each home football game. These events range from the largest free outdoor concert in the state of Mississippi, “Bulldog Bash,” to our basketball tip-off practice, “Maroon Madness,” Starkville’s “Pumpkin Palooza” event and the Homecoming Pep Rally and Parade. This partnership not only greatly improves the fan experience for those in attendance, but it drives fans to make a weekend trip to Starkville, rather than just traveling to town on game day. In fall 2017, tourism revenue continued to thrive, due in large part to these events which encouraged fans to stay in town for the entire weekend.
SUPER BULLDOG WEEKEND
One of the most anticipated weekends of the year for Mississippi State fans comes every spring as we host our annual Super Bulldog Weekend on campus. This spring homecoming event has become a valued tradition at Mississippi State, bringing families and friends together for a full weekend of events on campus and in the city of Starkville. Each spring, one weekend is designated at Super Bulldog Weekend on campus. Our marketing team works in conjunction with our administration, teams, and city and campus officials to line up as many home sporting events and campus/city events as possible and they are scheduled in such a way that fans can attend nearly every event on the schedule. This weekend is always highlighted by our spring Maroon vs White football game and a marquee baseball series. The schedule of events also includes student recruitment and alumni events by each college on campus, a competitive Pig Cooking Contest, Fan Zone at Bulldog Baseball, the Cotton District Arts Festival and the 5K Cotton Mill Run.
The weekend as a whole brought huge crowds to campus, including 20,000+ for the Maroon vs White spring football game, and more 30,638 fans taking in Bulldog Baseball vs Kentucky in a three game series.
Planning is in the final stages for the 33rd annual event, set to take place April 21-23, 2018