2017 NCAA SELECTION SHOW WATCH PARTY & AUTOGRAPH SESSION
The 2016-17 Women’s Basketball season was a special one here at Mississippi State, which was capped off by receiving the National Runner-up designation. Before tearing through the NCAA Tournament on their way to the National Championship game, we hosted a selection show watch party at Humphrey Coliseum which was open to all fans and admission was free. Prior to the selection show, the team held an autograph session for all fans to be able to meet and get autographs from the team. Fans were lined up outside of the arena as much as an hour before the doors opened, in order to get autographs and a front-row-seat for the selection show. The players were introduced in a “starting lineup” style with spotlights and special effects, our emcee filled commercial breaks with trivia to ensure the night was fun for all who attended. Over 1,500 fans filled the arena to watch the Bulldogs be selected as the #2 seed in the Oklahoma City Region.
NCAA HOST SITE BRANDING
After being selected as a host site for the 2017 NCAA First and Second Rounds, our marketing staff worked to provide a great welcome to all teams and fans attending the games. We partnered with the City of Starkville to place unique NCAA branded “Welcome to Starkville” light pole banners throughout downtown and the entrances to campus, while also providing all visiting coaching staffs and NCAA liaisons welcome baskets which showcased Starkville’s unique culinary culture. Around the Humphrey Coliseum, unique NCAA feather banners lined the streets and sidewalks as fans approached the building, while all doors were branded with NCAA First and Second Rounds window stickers.
ELITE 8 COWBELL TO ROBIN ROBERTS ON GMA
During our Final Four run, Mississippi State pride was at an all-time high from alumni and fans to women’s basketball spectators from around the country. Television personality and Mississippi native, Robin Roberts was one of those individuals. Roberts was a sportscaster on ESPN for 15 years and she is currently a co-anchor on Good Morning America. After our Elite 8 win over Baylor, a group of students from campus delivered Robin Roberts a Mississippi State Cowbell on Good Morning America, where she praised our Bulldogs and even rang her cowbell on-air. This appearance was the SECOND time Miss Roberts has appeared on GMA supporting the Bulldogs, as she held up a Bulldog Basketball jersey on-air following the selection show on March 14th. After defeating UConn in the Final Four, Roberts surprised our girls by visiting the locker room to congratulate them.
FINAL FOUR SEND OFF FROM STARKVEGAS
When it comes to Women’s Basketball, Mississippi State has some of the most die-hard fans in the country. Before and after every road games, fans will line the street to meet the bus back at The Hump and welcome the team home, win or lose. Fans arrived hours in advance to line-up and see the girls before departing on the bus. Before the team left for the Final Four, we organized a special send off where more than 400 fans lined the parking lot with cowbells and pom poms in hand to wish the team well as they departed for Dallas.
FINAL FOUR WATCH PARTIES
Throughout the Final Four weekend, we knew there would be many fans who would not be able to make the trip to Dallas, so we worked with our Alumni Association to organize watch parties for fans all around the state, and even stretching as far as Denver, CO. These were added to a special watch party website for fans to locate an organized party in their area. For fans in the local Starkville and surrounding areas, we partnered with Learfield to bring on a local restaurant sponsor, Mugshots Grill & Bar, to host the official watch parties in Starkville, Columbus and Meridian. Fans of all ages were invited to watch the games and enjoy some delicious food at Mugshots, with special food and drink prices for fans watching the games. Students who attended these watch parties also received bonus Hail State Rewards points, by checking in using their GPS location.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WATCH PARTY
After defeating top overall seed UConn, we knew our watch party would need to grow for the National Championship game. For this Watch Party, our staff organized a special watch party at our home basketball venue, Humphrey Coliseum, and lowered the video board down to the court to provide a great view of the game. Since this was our first time playing in a women’s basketball National Championship game, we wanted to provide a location where thousands of Bulldog fans could gather together to enjoy the moment. As expected, thousands of fans and students packed into The Hump to take in the sights and sounds of the National Championship game. In true Mississippi State fashion, The Hump was rocking with cowbells and all. We opened concession stands, and played music during commercial breaks in order to provide a great atmosphere for students. ESPN worked with us to have a live camera available to take reactions from the huge crowd live during the broadcast.
FINAL FOUR PEP RALLY IN DALLAS
Before our Final Four match-up with UCONN, we partnered with the Alumni Association to host a pre-game pep rally for fans in Dallas. A capacity crowd of over 1,000 fans piled into a ballroom at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas to enjoy the festivities. The event began with a video showcasing the team’s path to the game, with highlights of the season, as well as each NCAA Tournament win. Following the video, the pep rally continued with speeches from President Mark Keenum, Director of Athletics John Cohen and Head Coach Vic Schaefer. Fans were also able to take photos with the NCAA Regional Championship trophy, in front a special Final Four backdrop that we worked to get printed prior to the event. Fans were able to pick-up pom poms for the game, commemorative Final Four buttons, and also grab photos with our mascot and live Bulldog, Jak. Following the formal pep rally, we transitioned fans into a line to send the team off to the arena through a football-style Dawg Walk.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PEP RALLY IN DALLAS
After defeating UConn, we knew we needed to secure a larger venue for our next pep rally. We worked with the Hilton to secure a larger ballroom which could host up to 3,000 fans and provide us an opportunity to create a memorable event for fans attending. After the UCONN pep rally, we realized that we had gone through so many marketing material and promotional items, that we asked extra members of our staff to drive 8+ hours from Starkville through the night, so that we could restock on pom poms, buttons and stickers for this pep rally. For this event, we started it off with a new video highlighting the previous night’s memorable win over UCONN, and followed it with speeches from Coach Schaefer, Dr. Mark Keenum, and AD John Cohen. The Famous Maroon Band and members of our spirit groups led the fans in cheers, and helped us create a unique atmosphere in advance of a National Championship game. We then invited all fans to line the lobby from the elevator lobby to the bus to help send the team off to the game.
FINAL FOUR AND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BILLBOARDS
Immediately following our win against Baylor that sent us to the Final Four, we launched a billboard campaign throughout the state of Mississippi to highlight the memorable win. After our win against UConn in the Final Four, we extended this reach to other parts of the state and ran a commemorative billboard highlighting the win, as well as one promoting the National Championship game time and broadcast information.
NATIONAL FINALIST WELCOME HOME IN STARKVEGAS
To honor and celebrate the team’s historic accomplishments throughout the NCAA tournament, and to fill the gap until the formal “Celebration” efforts were set to take place, we organized a quick welcome home event to provide fans an opportunity to celebrate the team as they arrived back in Starkville and unloaded the buses from Dallas. This welcome included a special “Maroon Carpet” for the girls to step onto as they unloaded the bus, greeted by more than 1,000 Bulldog fans.
NATIONAL FINALIST SBW CELEBRATION
One week following women’s basketball’s historic run, our annual spring homecoming, Super Bulldog Weekend, was set to be held in Starkville. We harnessed this opportunity to plan a weekend full of festivities to honor our National Finalists at almost every event.
The weekend began with a special “Bulldog Family Day” celebration in Downtown Starkville on Friday night, where the city honored the team with a block party and the unveiling of a special proclamation celebrating their accomplishments. The festivities continued on Saturday with a 2+ hour autograph signing session in the concourse of the football stadium prior to the spring football scrimmage, where fans were able to pick up a commemorative National Finalist poster and get it signed by the entire team. The team was then recognized at halftime of the football game, and again in front of thousands of fans that evening at the home baseball game at Dudy Noble Field.
HURRICANE RELIEF EXHIBITION GAME
After Hurricane Irma struck the state of Florida, Mississippi State hosted Big Ten foe Nebraska in an exhibition game to benefit Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Representatives from the MSU Student Relief Fund and Salvation Army collected monetary donations at the door as fans entered the arena, and commemorative, “Stronger Than Storms” shirts were made for fans to pick up as they entered. All proceeds for the shirts and donations at the doro went back to Irma relief efforts.
“This is a great opportunity to help so many people in need who were affected by the hurricane,” third-year MSU coachBen Howland said. “Hurricane Irma was devastating, and our hearts and prayers have been with everyone as they have dealt with horrific and tragic loss. This is a chance for us to do our part in helping those in need.”
MAROON MADNESS FEAT. iLuminate
With the goal of harnessing excitement for the 2017-18 Bulldog Basketball seasons, our marketing team worked to create this year’s “Maroon Madness” event, a basketball tip-off event held in Humphrey Coliseum to signal in the traditional start of the practice schedule for the teams. While this event has varied from year to year in style, this year’s event was designed to create a great experience for families, who were encouraged to bring out kids of all ages to experience a fun, action-packed evening.
This event was held on the night prior to our Bulldog Football game versus BYU, in order to help in driving a strong crowd who would already be in town for the football game. This year’s event was designed much more like a “performance” than a practice, as we assembled a full stage on one end of the court for our team introductions and family-friendly act. We also partnered with a lighting and production company to create a full scale lighting display with 360 motion lights, gobo lighting, beam lights, dry ice and smoke effects to open the event and use throughout the performance. In order to fulfill our goal of making the event as family friendly and exciting as possible, we brought in nationally-renowned act “iLLUMINATE” from America’s Got Talent. iLLUMINATE opened up the evening with a thrilling musical performance among a fully blacked-out arena, lit only by the light from their costumes. In between their three musical acts, we introduced the Bulldog Basketball teams, by welcoming them through a custom built modular LED display, complete with video screen doors which opened to reveal each player.
Both the men’s and women’s team held 3-point shooting contests, and conducted on-court practice drills, which concluded with a men’s dunk contest, complete with celebrity and fan judges. This change in event style, to that of a family-centric event, it yielded our largest Maroon Madness in history with over 5,000 fans attending.
GREEK 3-ON-3 BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
In an effort to increase student support at Maroon Madness, we organized and held our inaugural Greek 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament on the main court of the Humphrey Coliseum. Beginning two hours before the actual Maroon Madness event, Greek students were invited to participate in a 3-on-3 tournament against each other, with the grand prize being participating with the men’s and women’s basketball teams in their challenges during Maroon Madness, as well as being the judges of the Maroon Madness Dunk Contest. Members of our Howland’s Howlers student support group assisted in organizing the event. The championship game was held in front of a crowd of thousands of fans, just minutes before the official Maroon Madness event began. Members of the Greek community came out in large numbers to support their fellow fraternity brothers during this pre-event contest, while also staying to support the Mississippi State basketball teams during Maroon Madness.
Howland’s Howlers is the student section group created in 2016 to increase student involvement, attendance and engagement with our Men’s Basketball program. This program was expanded this year in hopes that, with time, we could grow our student section numbers, use these students as a tool to lead cheers during games, leverage them as a focus group to help us make decisions on what the student body may like or dislike, and work with them on creating unique experiences for students in our arena for each game.
INTEREST MEETING – In our first interest meeting, the program drew over 200 students. At the meeting Coach Howland spoke to the students on the importance of their involvement and setting the tone for the rest of the arena. Our staff also spoke on traditions, new ideas, and gauged their interests on a number of promotions we had planned for the season.
DINNER WITH THE TEAM – Following our initial interest meeting, this same group was invited to attend a private dinner with the team following practice. This event was intended to create a relationship between the students and players, so that the students would feel more connected to the program itself, in hopes that they would more strongly support the team throughout the season.
OFFICIAL T-SHIRT – In an effort to show unity in the group, and their support of the basketball program, Coach Howland provided t-shirts to each of the Howland’s Howlers.
SEASON PROMOTION - TABLE TOPPERS IN RESTAURANTS
In an effort to continue promoting basketball season ticket sales through new and grassroots efforts, we partnered with a local print-shop to print out 400 tri-fold table toppers with season ticket information for both our men’s and women’s programs. The goal of this campaign was to get season ticket information in front of fans who cannot be reached through digital marketing efforts. Each piece was assembled by our staff, delivered and placed on tables at numerous restaurants and bars throughout the city of Starkville. The campaign was launched at the beginning of October and played a role in record ticket sales for our women’s program, and continued strong sales for our men’s program.
FINAL FOUR BANNER CEREMONY
In a final effort to commemorate the historic run of our 2016-17 women’s basketball team, a special Banner Ceremony was held prior the start of the first home game of the 2017-18 season. The 2017-18 season for both of our basketball teams was held on November 10th in a double header match-up at Humphrey Coliseum. The night began with our men’s team hosting Alabama State at 5:30 PM, followed by the women’s game at 8 PM. The official Banner Ceremony was held between games.
The lights were turned off in the arena, and a full season recap video began highlighting the memorable moments throughout the entire season. During the video, the covered banner was lowered to the court in the dark arena. As the video ended, each of the members of the 2016-17 team were introduced one by one, followed by the full coaching staff. Head Coach Vic Schaefer entered with a mic in hand, and addressed and thanked the crowd for their support during the team’s memorable run. Following Coach Schaefer’s remarks, the seniors from last year’s team were invited forward to officially unveil the banner. With the arena lights off, the banner was then raised raised it to its permanent location in the arena, with spotlights following it up to the ceiling.
To commemorate the evening for fans, we gave away 2,500 mini replica “National Finalist” banners to fans. This simple giveaway was incredibly successful as we celebrated the program’s best season in school history.
HANK FLICK COMMEMORATION
For many years, the halls of Humphrey Coliseum echoed with the memorable voice of public address announcer Hank Flick. Beloved by many fans for his energy in the classroom as a professor, and at the “Hump for Hoops,” Hank retired and stepped away from the microphone in 2010. After passing away during the offseason, we wanted to commemorate his career here at Mississippi State in a very special way. During our first men’s basketball game of the season we located an old recording of his iconic PA welcome and introduction and played that for fans in the arena, while we invited his family down to the court to be recognized. We invited all students and alumni who had taken his class while in college to stand up and be recognized, to show the impact he had on so many lives here on campus. We concluded the recognition by revealing a new Hank Flick logo, which displayed “HANK” on a classic-looking microphone symbol, on the floor in front of the public address person’s seat at center court.
HOOPS AT THE DRILL FIELD
To encourage and drive student attendance for basketball this season, we wanted to create a unique and grassroots experience to bring basketball directly to them. Prior to the start of the season, we packed up our large “pop a shot” basketball inflatable, and set it up on the Drill Field in the academic heart of campus. We worked with both basketball teams to have players out there to shoot with the students throughout the day.
To drive attention and attendance for this promotion, we promoted it as a Hail State Reward event and rewarded members via our mobile iBeacons with 150 Hail State Reward points if they came within 50 feet of the inflatable hoop. Students then had the opportunity to earn up to 500 additional points by making shots on the goal. Students had the option to 1) shoot against a friend, where the winner would receive 100 points, 2) shoot from one of four different marked spots to accumulate up to 500 points, or 3) shoot against a player on either our men’s and women’s basketball teams to earn points. Option number three was the most popular option for students throughout the day, as they competed against the players in a shootout to earn 500 points.
BULLY’S KIDZ KOURT
As a way to drive families to our basketball games, we offer a kids area knowns as “Bully’s Kidz Kourt” free to all fans before every home men’s and women’s game. In this area, kids are invited to the women’s practice gym, located in the Mize Pavilion at the Humphrey Coliseum, prior to the game for a number of fun, kid-oriented activities. Kidz Kourt opens when the Hump doors open and closes 15 minutes before tip-off, to encourage families to go ahead inside and find their seats before the game begins.
Kidz Kourt features custom Mississippi State-branded inflatables, corn hole boards, face tattoos, and more. The area also features special appearances from our mascot Bully every game. Bully spends most of his time taking pictures and shooting around with fans.
Bully’s Kidz Kourt is also our location for “Birthdays with Bully.” We set up a designated “Birthday Corner” in Kidz Kourt to provide birthday groups with their own space to eat pizza, cake, and open presents. This space allows birthday party members to both enjoy a private space for their party, while also enjoying the public, family-friendly area.
The area continues to grow each season, with an average of 400 fans attending the area per game, with peaks of up to 600 fans. The continued increased in fan participation is due in part to the success of our women’s basketball program that attracted record crowds this season. For games against highly-ranked opponents, we also work to bring in a number of our teams to sign autographs and interact with the kids in attendance. This cross-promotion allows us to capture an audience that might otherwise not interact with a team such as softball, tennis, soccer, or volleyball. This year, the athletic department helped celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day and we had all of our women’s sports teams come to Kidz Kourt before a women’s basketball game to sign autographs and interact with kids. This allows our fans to get to know some of student-athletes who they may not know very well.
Bully’s Kidz Kourt also provides us a great opportunity to sell Bully’s Kids Club memberships to parents while their kids spend time in the activity area.
PRE-GAME ON-COURT SEQUENCE
Back again this season, with the goal of creating a unique pre-game experience, we enlisted the help of the band, cheerleaders and mascot along with our video production team to develop an exciting lights-out sequence when the teams leave the court at the 12 minute mark. This sequence lasts for about 7 minutes and coordinates lights out videos, band song and cheers and what we like to call the “State Spellout”. This sequence ends with the cheerleading and dance teams creating a tunnel for the team to enter back onto the court for the final time before tipoff. Beginning last year, we incorporated eight 360 degree motion lights, which are mounted in the ceiling and programmed to follow patterns for different parts of the sequence. All of this combined creates an engaging and energetic build-up to tipoff in the Humphrey Coliseum.
This year, one of our fans favorite promotions returned to Humphrey Coliseum – the T-Shirt Gatling Gun! The double barreled t-shirt cannon propels 60 shirts in only five seconds to fans standing on their feet in anticipation of a FREE shirt. Branded and sponsored by the Mississippi State University office of public affairs, fans stand to their feet the second they see the Gatling Gun racing out to center court in hopes they will have the opportunity to catch a free t-shirt.
ALL NEW PYRO EFFECTS
During our continued pursuit to add to the excitement of the in-arena atmosphere, and specifically the starting lineup, we enlisted the help of a new pyrotechnics team this year. Through this new partnership, we were able to create create custom branded fire boxes to use during both men’s and women’s basketball intro sequences. These boxes were wheeled out onto the court during the lights out portion of our intro video and placed in front of the men’s bench and in front of the women’s tunnel respectively. These flame units propelled flames 14 feet in the air as each player was introduced, and continued to “pulse” to the beat of the intro music between players until the next player was announced.
In an effort to create a more exciting in-game atmosphere, we extended our partnership with a local production company to incorporate computerized 360 lights in the ceiling of the arena, used to pan the crowd during high energy breaks and during our pre-game sequence. These lights were programmed with a variety of shapes, patterns and colors to be able to be used in sync with different songs, videos and sponsored elements.
FOOD ITEMS OF THE GAME
After a successful first season in 2016-17, we expanded our partnership with concessionaire Aramark this year, to provide fun and unique “Food Items of the Game” for every midweek game this season. Each game, select concession stands would offer a unique or ‘out-of-the-box’ food item for fans to purchase at a very reasonable price. Some items served this season included Dippin’ Dots Coke floats, Pork Street Tacos, Pulled Pork Parfait, and fan-favorite, Double Donut Bacon Cheeseburgers. These items provided us the opportunity to promote unique food items to fans prior to the game, and allowed them to try a new and exciting food item at every midweek game. This enhanced the fan experience, and brought a unique twist to your average concession stand food options.
IN-STADIUM SOCIAL ACTIVATIONS (#MAROONSELFIES)
#MaroonSelfies is a unique way to tie in a sponsorsed element with a video board activation. During basketball game days, fans could tag and post their selfies on both Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtag #MaroonSelfies to have their photo appear on the video board. This activation partnered with a local clothing company Maroon and Co., which help drive attendance to their store, and also promote fans showing their support at games and on game days.
NEW ON-COURT EMCEE
In order to spice up our in-game atmosphere this season, we worked to bring in a new on-court emcee. We changed from having our PA person introduce all of our in game promotions, which included all halftime promos and games, Texaco Fan Cam, Dance Cam, and Hail State Rewards Jackpot winner recognition, and instead had our new emcee handle those live on the court or in the stands. This allowed us to make promotions more personable and provided us the opportunity to ad-lib with our contestants. With all of the promos aside the most helpful part of having the emcee was during hot timeouts late in the game, where we would put him in various parts of the arena, on camera, and use him to encourage those around him to stand up and make noise. This helped greatly in adding energy to the arena, and getting fans excited for what was to come when play started back.
Back by popular demand, we brought back the “Select-A-Cam” video board feature this year in the Hump. This element was created as a sponsored-element refresh for the 2016-17 season, as we transitioned our traditional Fan Cam element to the “Mississippi Blood Services: Select-A-Cam” feature. This element continually energizes the crowd, by capturing their attention through a spinning wheel of cams, until it selects the cam for the game. The cams included in this element are: Emoji Cam, Simba Cam, Air Guitar Cam, Home Alone Cam, Carlton Cam, Dance Cam, ET Cam, and Titanic Cam. In order to make the cams successful, each time we launched a new cam, our marketing staff would stage a fan to start it, to encourage crowd participation.
DISTRACTION DEVICES & DISTRACTION STATION
In order to improve the process of giving out fat heads and in-crowd signage at our games, we utilize a “Distraction Station”, located near the entrance to the student section, where students could pick up their favorite fat head or distraction device before entering the seating area. We offered fat heads, giant poms, giant pinwheels, and new this year — neon pool noodles — to be used behind the basket to distract the opposing team while they attempt their free throws. Our fat heads included pictures of Dak Prescott, head coaches Vic Schaefer and Ben Howland, women’s basketball star Morgan William, a crying Jordan meme, a goat, and Harambe. We use these devices to help the students create the strong home-court advantage that led our basketball teams to an 29-2 record when playing at The Hump.
DJ BOOTH IN STUDENT SECTION
With a 34-2 combined record in The Hump this year between the men’s and women’s programs, we created a raucous atmosphere that was tough for any opposing team. Much of this atmosphere begins with the music. To amp this up, we utilized a custom-built DJ Booth located directly in the bottom on this student section. With custom LED lighting, ‘DJ Glotron’ was able to be seen everyone in the arena, and keep the crowd engaged throughout the entire game.
HALFTIME ACTS AND PERFORMANCES
In an effort to enhance the fan experience at our games, we work to bring in nationally-renowned performer to perform at halftime of select games. This year, Simon Sez performed at two of our biggest games of the season: women’s basketball National Championship rematch against South Carolina and men’s basketball against Alabama. He invited around 40 fans to the court to participate in a crazy, challenging game of Simon Sez. The winner of each group had to then compete in a dance-off to determine a champion. He kept fans engaged by making jokes about Bully, participants, and the opposing team.
In this promotional element, college students and fans competed in an oversized tricycle race. We select two groups of two contestants to race each other up and down the court. One person would race to the opposite end of the court, turn around, and race back to pass the trike to their partner. This provided great entertainment all season at halftime. Our emcee would follow along the contestants to provide entertaining commentary to get the fans in the stands engaged. The winning group would receive a Mississippi State fan pack, which was usually a drawstring backpack filled with a t-shirt, iPad case, and other past giveaway items.
The Student Lounge at the Humphrey Coliseum was back for year two and better than ever. We all know the problem, driving millennial student attendance in a digital dominated world. It is a constant challenge for us as marketers, and something that makes it challenging to drive attendance and set up our fans of the future. It is our job to continuously think outside of the box to find new ways to get students to games and keep the there.
In year one of the Student Lounge, we found a way to really catch the attention of students and drive them to the game. We truly made them feel like VIPs by creating a premium space, just for them. One may ask, what do you do now? Our goal: make it better. We made it bigger. We never settled.
For year two, we increased the square footage of the lounge in order to allow more students to experience this space during each game, as well as added more value to the experience inside the space. To bring this concept to life, we again partnered with a local tent company who provides premium tent structures for golf tournaments and weddings throughout the area. We worked with them to increase the size of the tent from 20×40 to 20×60, adding an additional 400-square feet to the fully heated/cooled tent. This tent is set up directly outside of the coliseum, connected to the coliseum entry doors, so that it felt to students like it is a part of the overall coliseum. Students literally walk out of a set of coliseum doors and enter the Student Lounge through a set of a double doors. We worked with our facilities crew to move some of our more “sleek” furniture from our club space at the football stadium, and partnered with a local rental company to rent TV’s for the space. The new, larger, layout enabled us to increase our furniture in the space, so that it was furnished now with six couches, seven high top tables and chairs, a bar with bar twelve stools, as well as nine TV’s with Dish Network, topped off with two XBox ones with multiple game choices, and an classic Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart. This year, we also added other classic games throughout the space, such as a giant Connect-4, giant Jengo, countertop Connect-4’s, dart boards, and more. The bar serves a specialty “Drink of the Game’ – a mocktail version of classic cocktail (cuddles on the beach, mojitos, etc.), plus a full selection of soft drinks for students. The lounge also offers unlimited free popcorn complimented with a full toppings bar.
Logistically speaking, the space opens two and a half hours prior to tip off of each home men’s and women’s game – that’s one hour prior to doors opening. The goal for this was to try to capture students who might otherwise leave campus to go home, many of whom we risk not returning for the game if they do leave campus. It then closes 15 minute prior to tip, and reopens at halftime. Students are arriving early, socializing in the space, and using their “VIP Entry” lane inside to the coliseum to gain priority, early access to the game. At halftime, the space is again flooded with students wanting to take advantage of free popcorn and drinks, and socialize with friends who they may not actually be sitting with.
GAME NIGHTS: This year we also added special “Game Nights” to enhance the experience even more. For each game this season, the lounge hosted many themed events and tournaments for students to participate in, with the chance to win premium seats for that game. Activities like, Xbox tournaments, Team Trivia Nights, Dart Tournaments, giant connect 4 tournaments and more. For each game our staff would hold to courtside student section seats. Whomever won that night would then be escorted down to their seats just before tip.
FOOD GIVEAWAY: Specialty food giveaways were another added bonus to the lounge this season. Each game, the lounge served the students with some kind of exclusive food giveaway — a unique food item that you could not get anywhere else in the arena. These giveaways included things like, cheese fries, nacho bar, tacos tuesdays, “brinner”, “Queen” cakes, pizza and more. These food items were just another incentive for our students to attend on gamedays.
All in all, we sought out to make our students feel like VIPs, with the hopes of driving an increase in student attendance and create a more social atmosphere before the game and at halftime. With our largest overall student attendance in school history for women’s basketball and a strong increase in men’s basketball student attendance – we feel safe to say, it worked.
70’S NIGHT AT WBK
A classic promotion each year is honoring decades, whether it be 1980s or 1990s. However, we decided to go even earlier this year with a 1970s theme at women’s basketball. Our women’s basketball program was established in 1974, so we felt that the 70s era was a great way to provide our fan base with a fun environment, while also honoring the history of the program. We played 70s music all night long, had 70s themed GIFs, graphics and videos for social media, and had 70s video elements such as a tip-off video, intro video, and 2nd half hype video. It was a great tie-in to our program and really targeted our women’s basketball demographic.
CHRISTMAS AT THE HUMP
In an effort to drive attendance near the Christmas Break, we worked to plan four “Christmas at the Hump” games for fans from the Starkville community. These nights included a number of fun Christmas-themed promotions for the entire family, such as a National Anthem performance by Mrs. Clause, Santa’s reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ at halftime, a pre-game photo booth with Santa in Bully’s Kidz Kourt for kids, Christmas music during timeouts and breaks, as well as special Christmas giveaway items. All event staff and greeters throughout the arena were supplied with custom Mississippi State branded Santa hats for these games to add to the holiday spirit in the arena. We even made a Christmas at the Hump phone background for fans to download.
Over the last few basketball seasons, it has become tradition to invite all the kids in the arena down to the court to sit at Santa’s feet for a Christmas story. Santa reads “The Night Before Christmas” to the kids and the fans in attendance. This opportunity brings families back to our Christmas games year after year to get to participate and greet Santa.
To add one more fun element for fans, during breaks throughout the games, we utilized “Jib Jab” videos of the players and coaching staff, and updated many of our in-game sponsored elements with Christmas elements (mistletoe on Kiss Cam, Home Alone Cam, etc.). Fans of all ages love these videos.
CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAYS: PRESENT TAGS & CHRISTMAS TREE CAKES
To further promote our “Christmas at the Hump” games this season, we provide two unique giveaway items for fans.
The first 1,000 fans who attended our men’s basketball game on December 20th against Little Rock Arkansas received special Hail State “present tags”, which included the traditional “to” and “from” plus our Mississippi State logo to allow them to show their Bulldog Pride as they give presents to their family and friends throughout the holiday season.
And for our second promotion, what treat is better during the Christmas season than Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes? Instead of ordering an expensive promotional item, we went to our local grocery store and bought all of the Christmas Tree Cakes available (over 500). Fans loved getting this free snack as they attended our Christmas at the Hump game versus Oregon.
A series of creative graphics generated positive feedback and excitement leading up to these games on social media.
GIVING BACK AT CHRISTMAS: TEDDY BEAR TOSS
As part of our Christmas at the Hump games, we hosted our second annual Teddy Bear Toss, benefitting Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, at our women’s basketball game against Maine. This provide fans a fun opportunity to give back during the holiday season, while enjoying free basketball for the entire family, as fans received free admission to the arena if they brought a teddy bear. During halftime, fans were instructed to toss their teddy bears on the court, which were then collected by our women’s basketball team. The team stayed on the court for an extra five minutes following the first half to help in collecting the teddy bears as they were thrown onto the court.
SUPERHERO NIGHT AT WBK
For women’s basketball, we decided to start a Superhero Night last season to honor our local superheroes, specifically fire, police, and EMS members. This was our second year to have Superhero Night, and it was another huge success. We invited all kids to dress up as their favorite superheroes, whether fictional or first responder, and come out to the game in costume.
At Bully’s Kidz Kourt, we invited kids in attendance to write a letter to their local first responders, which we later presented to a police officer and firefighter on the court. For halftime, we invited some of the kids who dressed up to participate in a Kids Dunk Contest on Little Tikes basketball goals, as well as a costume contest. Fans not only loved seeing the kids dressed up in their costumes, but it was also entertaining to see the kids best dunk moves. After the dunk contest, we invited a firefighter and a police officer to participate in a shooting contest where they had to make a layup, free throw, and a three-pointer. In a dramatic come-from-behind win, the police officer won the contest. After the contest, we surprised them both with the letters that the children had written to first responders.
Incorporating the downtown basketball mural phrasing, we created a Snapchat filter that said “Together We are Stronger.” Bully and our live mascot Jak both joined in with the festivities. Bully wore a Mississippi State superhero cape, and Jak wore a Captain America costume. The only thing cuter than a bulldog is a bulldog in an costume.
To add further excitement to this year’s event, a few superheroes made appearances as well. We worked with our mascots who were not assigned to be Bully for this game, and rented superhero costumes for them to wear for the game. These included, Spider-Man, Captain America, Batman and Robin, Superman, and Batgirl. The superheroes ran through the concourse, stopped by Kidz Kourt, and even helped shoot the t-shirt cannon during a timeout.
HOOPS FOR TROOPS AT MBK
In an effort to honor our Military, we created a “Hoops for Troops” game this season at Men’s Basketball. For this game, we provided discounted tickets to locally military members, and worked with the Army and Air Force ROTC on campus to get a massive 40×50 flag to cover the entire court during the National Anthem. 35 members from the ROTC programs on campus escorted the flag onto the court after the final horn, and unveiled the flag just before the National Anthem was sung my a local choir.
At halftime, we worked with the Center for America’s Veterans on campus to present the flags of each branch of the military while their military anthem was played by our band. Each branch took the floor when their song was played, and we asked those in the crowd that may be serving, or who had served, to please stand as their branch was recognized.
We concluded the presentation by playing “America the Beautiful”, while we showed crowd shots of military members and veterans seated in the stands.
OREGON GAME CAMPAIGN
Mississippi State University. While it is the most diverse campus in the SEC and we embrace the many cultures surrounding this wonderful university, it is the south and as you would stereotypically expect – people love duck hunting. This inspired an entire campaign for when our No. 2 ranked women’s basketball team would host the No. 9 Oregon DUCKS, on a weeknight in the Humphrey Coliseum. Our Goal: Reach our fans in a relatable way that also brings attention to the upcoming matchup. Our Plan: Dress our mascto Bully in a duck hunting outfit, get him out in the pond on campus, calling the ducks with a duck call. This campaign, as you can imagine, was wildly popular and helped drive our largest non-conference crowd of the season for women’s basketball.
THINK PINK, PLAY 4 KAY
Partnering with our local hospital OCH Regional Medical Center (OCH), we hosted our annual Think Pink game against Texas A&M. We put out 5,000 pink poms in the entire lower bowl of the arena and passed out 1,000 pink shirts in the main concourse. Working with Zeta, whose philanthropy is breast cancer awareness, we passed out thousands of pink ribbons to fans as they entered the Hump. OCH set up a table in the concourse to pass out materials about the importance of early detection.
OCH invited 20 breast cancer survivors to attend the game, and these women formed a pregame tunnel for the team to run out of the locker room onto the court. We invited them back out onto the court at halftime, where escorted by a Zeta member, each woman was recognized. We also invited all members in the audience who had fought or were fighting breast cancer to stand up and be recognized.
In a continued effort to drive attendance for games during Christmas break when students are away and families may be traveling, we decided to bring back our Dollar Night promotion for both men’s and women’s basketball. These “Dollar Night” games included the opportunity to purchase $1 tickets online before the doors were open, as well as unlimited $1 hot dogs throughout the game. This provided families with the opportunity to enjoy a basketball game here at Mississippi State for a fraction of what a normal game would cost them to attend.
The women’s basketball game was held on Thursday, December 28th versus Mississippi Valley State.
The men’s basketball game was held on Saturday, December 30th versus North Florida.
Electronic sports, or esports, is one of the leading industries in the competitive and entertainment businesses in this decade. In short, esports is simply competitive video gaming. Professional organizations and leagues have been formed for games across all platforms, and now the collegiate esports scene is growing at a rapid rate.
At Mississippi State we recognized and embraced this ever growing trend and brought esports the Humphrey Coliseum for a dedicated Men’s Basketball game. First, our staff met with the director of the esports student group and team on campus to learn more about the sport and its involvement with our students, as well as the general interest of video gaming among college students today. From there, we made the decision to have a dedicated ‘ESports Day” at our coliseum for a men’s basketball game. Our focus was to really target males from the age of 13 to 25. Offer their number one hobby of choice, to play and compete, right before a men’s basketball game. On this day, we dedicated our entire student lounge space to video gaming. We brought in multiple gaming consoles, computers, and many more TV’s all from our staffs living rooms and homes. We had old school games on nintendo like Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers. Computer Console games and tournaments like League of Legends. We set up Xbox consoles across the entire room with sports games including, NBA 2K, Madden, and FIFA. After doing a lot of research and leaning on the advice from our friends in the esports league, we found that one game was the most popular across the country on console. That game was Fortnite. So, we set up four TV’s at one end of the lounge, worked with our facilities team to get high speed internet installed for this one day, and put on a duo Fortnite tournament starting 2 hours before the game. The winner was awarded two premium courtside seats and a customized Xbox controller of their choice.
During the game we created edited many of our video board elements to go along with the esports theme. During one of the breaks we recognized our esports team on campus and their competition accomplishments. At halftime we re-created Mario Kart with our tricycle race by adding balloons and obstacles to the on court track. Our dash-for-cash element was altered by collecting coins with added sound effects as if they were in the video game. This promotion was very well received from our student body and helped drive one of our largest attendances of the season.
The ever popular baby race on the court made its way to Starkville for the first time ever this season. Logistically, we performed the promotion a little differently than most. Rather than selecting those that had registered before the game, in the survey we simply asked if the participant would be in attendance for the selected game. If they selected yes, they went into the pool of names that would be selected at the game. That’s right, we selected the participants just minutes before they went onto the court. The purpose of this was to encourage families with newborns to attend with hopes that their names would be called. The amount of registrations was significant and we closed registration just 24 hours before tip-off the next day. We announced 10 names to participate in the inaugural Diaper Derby at Humphrey Coliseum during the Under 12 timeout, and asked all family members and participants to meet a marketing representative at the portal that leads to courtside. In the tunnel, we lined the little ones up with participant numbers and gave directions to the parents. At halftime, we escorted the babies to the court, lined them up and off they went. This promotion was wildly popular for our fans as the little racers put on quite the show – with the winning family winning a three month supply of diapers.
The one constant question we ask ourselves as marketers, especially if a team is not performing well, is how do we continue to stay engaged with our students game after game . During one of our focus groups, we started asking questions: What do students like? What do students do? What do students have and how could we the incorporate that into one of our games?
One of the the topics that kept coming up was Greek date parties and jersey nights. Students go to date parties and they look for any reason to wear their throwback Michael Jordan jersey, or their Dak Prescott jersey. While we knew we couldn’t sponsor a date party, we knew that we could give our students an opportunity to rep any jersey they wanted. While there was concern about a student wearing something other than maroon and white, our bottom line was about getting students into the building, and we felt that this was a unique way that we could do it.
The promotion was simple, rep your favorite jersey and come support the Dawgs. We were overwhelmed by the amount of students that showed up wearing some kind of random jersey. Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Bugs Bunny Tune Squad, Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady and hundreds more all made an appearance in our student section. Our entire staff all were asked to wear some kind of jersey, and throughout the night, we gave out dozens of Mississippi State Basketball jerseys as well as a few Dak Prescott jerseys as prizes for winning on-court contests. The promotion was simple, but it resonated well with the student body. They saw it, ran to the closet and pulled out the coolest threads they had, then came to the game. A fun promotion, with an honestly low expectation from our staff, turned out to be wildly successful.
StarkVegas.. Many ask how the name came to life. More importantly, what is StarkVegas like? StarkVegas is a city, a campus, a culture unlike anything else in the country. So, every year, we dedicate one game at basketball to how amazing this “place” truly is. For each game we venture away from the traditional Maroon and White and add a little black and neon into the mix.
MEN’S BASKETBALL: This season for the men’s basketball team, we took it back a little with a old school hip hop theme. Old-school music, old-school elements and a RUN MSU shirt to play off of RUN DMC, which was incredibly popular with our students. In addition to the RUN MSU shirts, the team wore black uniforms for this game, and we placed black poms all across the student section to add to the black out theme.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: To bring the women’s basketball StarkVegas game to life, we filled every seat in the lower bowl of the Hump with a black pom pom, and placed neon pool noodles behind each goal for students and fans to use as a contrast to the black poms. The women also wore black uniforms to further promote the theme.
In order to add an additional element to our student section during pregame, we pre-placed newspapers on each of their seats and encouraged them to hold them up during away team introductions. This fun concept created a great look throughout the student section just before the lights went out for the Mississippi State Starting Lineup. As the season progressed, this idea caught on and a local newspaper, Starkville Daily News came on board and signed an agreement with Learfield to provide us newspapers for the entire lower bowl for each of our remaining home games. Being that they were printed locally for each game, we worked with the newspaper to create a custom cover, specific to that game, as well as chants and roster information inside the newspaper. What began as a simple added element for our student section has evolved into a new tradition for the entire lower bowl.
To get our students more involved, we created chant sheets for students to follow along with. These point out facts about opposing players and provide opportunities for students to get creative with how they cheer and chant. For example, one player’s favorite food are chicken nuggets, so our students chanted “chicken” every time that player touched the ball. We get this information from their online bios on the team website and their social media accounts. When Starkville Daily, our local newspaper, became our official provider of newspapers for all 5,000 seats in the lower bowl of the Hump, we combined chant sheets with the newspapers. Starkville Daily printed our chant sheet on the inside of the newspapers, which saved us the step of taping chant sheets to every seat in the student section. This also allowed for the entire lower bowl of fans to read the chant sheets.
As we continued our annual White Out game for another season, we created unique and special graphics and videos for this game, all with strong white style. As a way to further align with our StarkVegas theme this year, we wanted to create a unique promotional item for the White Out game to tie back to the StarkVegas campaign. This idea evolved into white rally towels that were themed to look like a playing card and where the King on the card was instead a depiction of mascot Bully – a design that was also found on our mural project in Downtown Starkville. This giveaway helped us to drive a strong student crowd, filling our entire lower student section.
At Mississippi State we are fortunate to have a strong Greek system in place on campus. Over 3,000 students are involved in Greek life, and we have found that the demographic provides strong support for all of our athletic events. We are able to track this through our Hail State Rewards app and the data shows that active greek life members are one of the largest groups of students who attend our games. In order to maximize this relationship, we often take advantage of opportunities to take our head coaches to the Greek houses to speak directly to these students. To do this, we contact each president and find a time during chapter that coach can come by and speak for 2-4 minutes. Once he is done we pick up and move to the next house, and visit as many as we can during this brief period of time. This season, we made three visits to the houses, and saw a strong surge in student attendance the following game.
LIBRARY CRAM CRASH
Just days before our game against North Georgia, we were challenged with another basketball game surrounded by fall semester finals. This time, the game was located in the middle of finals week, and many students had already left for the Christmas break. We wanted to reach the students still on campus, but do so in the most strategic way possible. At this time of the year, our student library was the most popular building on campus. Students were hitting the books as finals were the main focus. Our goal: reach the student in their element, make them aware of a game coming up, but not completely distract them from their task at hand. To accomplish this, we purchased enough coffee and donuts to feed hundreds of students, and worked with the library on campus to select a time for coach, our mascot Bully, and our staff to come by and hand out coffee and donuts to the students throughout the library. We set up tables in the lobby, had coach make an announcement over the library-wide speaker system, and off we went. Students came by in large waves, thanking Coach Howland for the gesture, and talking about the upcoming game versus North Georgia.
BASH THE FLYERS
In looking to drive a crowd for an exam week game, we wanted to do something a bit outside the box. Coach Howland placed an emphasis on this game with our staff, and wanted to have a strong student crowd for this game, as Dayton always has a strong NCAA Tournament pedigree. The idea was to give our students an opportunity to let out some stress or frustration prior to finals. We contacted a local junkyard and had an old car delivered to the coliseum for free, went through the proper safety channels with campus and our facilities staff, and create a classic “car bashing” opportunity for students.. Students were given the opportunity to take out their stress with a sledge hammer as they entered the game. In a game that has typically driven one of our smallest crowds of non-conference play, this “Smash the Flyers” promotion yielded our second highest non-conference student crowd of the season, behind only the season opener.
BOWL TROPHY PHOTO OP
Our football team closed the season in dramatic fashion, defeating Louisville 31-27 in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Coached by an interim staff led by Greg Knox, the Bulldogs put on an impressive display which led to a third-consecutive bowl win. This was a meaningful win for the program and to the fans. To capitalize on this moment and help in driving a crowd to our upcoming basketball games, we displayed the TaxSlayer Bowl trophy with a Mississippi State backdrop for fans to take pictures with as they entered the Humphrey Coliseum.
INDIVIDUAL SENIOR DAYS
Knowing our women’s basketball program would be very successful this season, our four seniors were likely to go down as the winningest class in program history. Instead of simply doing a traditional senior night, we decided to honor each of our seniors with their own “day,” while still ending the season with a final senior night for the full group.
For each senior day, we created and gave away a poster for the senior, and for a couple of our seniors (Morgan William and Victoria Vivians), we took it a step further and added additional promotions for those game.
SHORTER THAN MO, GET IN FREE
“ITTY BITTY” NIGHT
In April of 2017, the women’s college basketball world was turned on its head as 5’ 3” Morgan William drained a buzzer beater in OT to take down UCONN, their 111-game win-streak, and advance Mississippi State Women’s Basketball to their first-ever National Championship game. From that point forward, she became a legend at Mississippi State – the 5’ 3” girl who took down a giant.
Morgan William = Itty Bitty.
In looking to drive attendance at women’s basketball games throughout this season, we worked to create a unique promotion for each senior, and gave them each their own day at the Hump.
For Morgan William, the promotion was simple. Shorter than Mo? You get in FREE.
As you entered the main lobby in the Hump, a life-size stand up of Morgan William stood next to a table, where fans lined up like Disney World to see if they qualified – although, this time, the goal was to be shorter than the line.And boy, was it a hit. From the time the doors to the Humphrey Coliseum opened, nearly 400 fans came through to check their height against “Itty Bitty” to see if they qualified to get in free. This walk-up, helped aid in drawing a crowd of 5,010 for a mid-December game vs Arkansas-Little Rock – a game in the time of the season, which in previous years, we have struggled to surpass 3,500 fans.
WEAR A CROWN, GET IN FREE
Senior Victoria Vivians’ night was titled “Queen Day.” Vivians’ has had the nickname “queen,” and earlier this year, she was crowned as Mississippi State’s homecoming queen. Not only was she the queen of the Homecoming Court, but she is also the queen of the basketball court as one of the most accomplished players to ever be a part of the Mississippi State women’s basketball program. Since she was voted as the homecoming queen, Vivians was dubbed by many as “the queen of all courts.” We capitalized on this opportunity to add a bit of uniqueness to Vivians’ senior day. Fans of all ages who wore a crown to the game received free admission. Not only did this provide an opportunity for fans to receive free admission, but it also helped excite fans about Vivians’ senior recognition. Fans of all ages, both men and women, girls and boys, wore crowns and tiaras. We publicized this primarily through the women’s basketball social media accounts with a video of Vivians putting on her homecoming crown while wearing her basketball uniform – not only did this theme help drive attendance for those wanting free admission, but it helped us in driving general awareness about the game. The promotion yieled a total attendance of 6,727 fans, with more than 500 fans wearing a crown and gaining free admission. Most importantly, fans of all ages had a blast participating in something to honor one of their favorite players.
CAPITAL CITY SHOWDOWN
In order to create more excitement around our neutral site basketball game in Jackson, MS versus in-state foe Southern Miss, we worked jointly with Southern Miss to create a neutral brand for the game: Capital City Showdown. This brand was designed to be used all four years of the contract, to drive attendance and promote it as a true neutral site game. Our marketing staff created a logo with three versions – one for each school, and one neutral logo. This logo was used on all promotional graphics, as well as t-shirts which were given away at the game.
EMBRACE THE GRIND GAME
This season for our men’s basketball teams has had its share of ups and downs – from many exciting moments, to challenges. “It is a grind, and you better embrace it,” Coach Howland has often said. Throughout the season this phrase is what he would preach to the team and became a rallying cry through a strong January run, where we won four straight games, and put together our best home record in program history. “Embrace the grind.” Near the end of the season, we reached a pivotal game, with strong NCAA implications. For this game, coach asked to use this motto as motivation not only for our team, but also for our fans. To bring this campaign to life, we created shirts with “Embrace the Grind” on the front to give to every student that walked in the building. We also used this opportunity to take Coach Howland around to visit all the greek houses and tell the story of “Embrace the Grind.” In order to continue to add incentive to the game we offered FREE nacho bar in the student lounge as well as dip-in-dots coke float as our concessions item of the game. This was able to light a fire in the minds and hearts of our greek students, and helped us in driving our second largest student crowd of the season.
February 7th, 2018 marked the 32nd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. NGWSD is a day to celebrate the extraordinary achievements in girls’ and women’s athletics and the positive influence athletic participation bring to their lives. Throughout 2018, MSU Athletics will celebrate the importance of fair play and working together to accomplish its vision of providing a great experience for all members of the Bulldog Family. During the month of February, we hosted three events to promote this initiative. To kick off our department wide involvement in this initiative, we hosted all female athletic teams on campus at our February 6th Men’s Basketball game versus Alabama. All teams were invited to our Bully’s Kids Court in pregame to mingle with kids and sign autographs. During a media timeout, we recognized these ladies as they threw our special NGWSD t-shirts into the crowd. Our second event was on the 21st of February at a local elementary school where we had members of each sport head to the elementary school and talk about the importance of athletics in their lives and to give the students some demonstrations of each of their respective sports. Lastly, we our senior day game at women’s basketball on the 22nd when we invited all teams back to Kids Court to participate in demonstrations, mingling and autographs.
FORD SHIRT GIVEAWAY
As we continue to work to partner with Learfield to provide unique and exciting giveaways for our fans, we worked with Learfield and their partner, Mississippi Ford Dealers, to do a t-shirt giveaway for the entire lower bowl of the arena. This included 5,000 maroon shirts with the letters “MS’ on them and the Mississippi Ford Dealers logo. In order to drive fan participation in wearing the shirts, we created a “Put It On Cam” and utilized our in-arena emcee to show fans who were not wearing their t-shirt, and encourage them to put the shirt on.
WINTER WEATHER SHUTTLES
Snow in Mississippi – the one sure way of preventing a non-local crowd from attending a game. When an inch (yes, only an inch) of snow blanketed Starkville and surrounding areas, roads were closed and news stations reminded people that it was not safe to travel. With us playing a key SEC match-up at the Humphrey Coliseum that night versus Vanderbilt, it was up to us to help in driving a crowd to the game despite the weather and road conditions. Since students were already on campus, or very near to campus, we put all of our efforts on pushing them to attend. We worked with our transportation partner and ordered three shuttle busses, which ran continuously from all residence halls on campus, directly to the coliseum. We directed students to specific pick-up locations near their residence halls and transported them to the Hump. This allowed us to provide a safe and reliable transportation option for students, and yielded our largest student attendance of the season, with over 2,500 students attending.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP CELEBRATION
On February 18, 2018 the Mississippi State Women’s Basketball team faced Texas A&M with a full house of fans. The final score of this game would determine the title. With this win, the Mississippi State Women’s Basketball team became the 2018 Southeastern Conference Champions. Prior to the game, our marketing staff met with the video and communications staffs, as well as the Humphrey Coliseum staff to develop a plan to provide both the team and the fans a positive experience. This included a limited edition SEC Championship poster, which was available immediately after the game on the concourse.
During the game, the pyro boxes which are used for fire during pre-game would be changed out to hold maroon and white streamers. At the conclusion of the game, Mississippi State shakes hands with the Texas A&M and receives SEC Championship T-Shirts provided by Adidas. Next, the team gathers at center court, where they are greeted by Leslie Claybrook as she presented Coach Schaefer and his team with the SEC Championship trophy. Part of the presentation included the shooting of maroon and white streamers and two championship videos. Following the video, Coach Schaefer and the team cut down the net to conclude the evening.
In order to capitalize on the success of the program, the marketing team thought of a way to package the night for fans that were not able to attend. For only $35 a fan could purchase a half pint mason jar filled with the maroon and white streamers from the court, a Championship Poster, and a chant sheet from the game. Listed at $65, the second package would include a larger mason jar with a SEC Championship sticker and a SEC Championship poster signed by Coach Schaefer. These packages would be available only through the Maroon Memories program.
Even before we we able to push the SEC Packages out on social media,we had SOLD OUT. In order to meet the demands of the fans, we launched another round of items. All of which were purchases bringing in just under $1800.
The Escape Room | Find the Missing South Carolina Game Film
On February 5th, 2018 the Mississippi State Women’s Basketball team was faced with a task of once again playing the defending National Champion South Carolina Gamecocks in StarkVegas. A task they wanted, and a challenge we wanted in selling out the arena in advance for the first time in program history.
As a marketing team, we challenged ourselves with just that – sell out the arena in advance of gameday. A task that had never been done for Mississippi State Women’s Basketball. As we inched ever closer to the game itself, we had a steady flow of purchases of standard general admission tickets, but wanted to place a focus on ensuring students came out in support of the game. For context, prior to this season, we have surpassed the 1,000 student mark only eight times in program history, and had never surpassed the 1,500 mark. Our average student attendance per game in 2016-17 was 709 students per game, a program record. Prior to the 2016-17 season, the highest average we had ever achieved was 480 students per game. Our goal for this game was to fill the student section with nearly 2,000 students.
We had the data, we had the goal, now we needed to find a way to make it happen. Our solution? Build an escape room on campus themed around the South Carolina game. Tie everything about the escape room back to our women’s basketball team and the upcoming game the next week. We wanted to attempt a promotion that has never been done before. Something that really grabbed the attention of a student, all the while promoting the game.
The Problem: The South Carolina Game Films Have Been Stolen
The Mission: Find the Game Films in 30 Minutes & Return them to the Coaching Staff
From scratch, our marketing team got together and physically built out two real, 10×15’ rooms, with doors and a ceiling, within an open space in the football stadium. These spaces were to be used to allow students an opportunity to solve the mystery and recover the game film for Coach Schaefer. The rooms were decorated in all white to coincide with the WHITE OUT theme for the game on Monday night – white walls, white furniture, white floors, white picture frames, white flowers – ALL white.
This grassroots marketing effort created a fun and exciting promotion for students to want to come and participate in, whether or not they even knew the game was taking place on campus. Once inside, every clue and riddle tied back to the game, and was given through a video message from Coach Vic Schaefer. When they left the room, the clues they had been given throughout the event made sure they were very aware of the mission for Monday night: Beat the Gamecocks.
If your group solved the mystery and found the films, you received a free “Make Noise” WHITE OUT t-shirt, and the best time from the two-day period received tickets for their group to attend the game.
Once we announced the promotion on social media (via a video message from Coach Schaefer, found below) and email, our spots over a two-day period were booked in a matter of hours. We booked 62 time 30-minute slots, for a total of over 300 participants, plus a waiting list of nearly 20 more teams who were hoping for that opportunity to compete.
We set the beginning of this promotion to coincide with the start of the USC “ticket claim” for student tickets for the game – the entire student ticket allotment sold out in a total of 14 minutes, yielding a new record for student attendance on Monday night.
POP UP VIDEOS
Creating new and exciting in-venue videos is always a challenge. What can you do to create something new that the fans haven’t seen? Can you capitalize off of pop-culture? This year, we went back in time and brought back “Pop Up Videos” for our women’s basketball fans, which created an instant hit and an element that the fans look forward to each and every game. Inspired by VH1’s memorable Pop Up videos which connect facts, while making jokes of music videos, our videos highlight a specific player each game, with different facts about them, such as their hometowns, birthdays, hobbies, role models, and career aspirations. The videos showcase the players’ personalities to make the fans feel more connected to the program, by using blooper videos and photos, as well as incorporating little-known facts about the player.
The connections that are made throughout the video keep the crowd engaged, as each element connects somehow to the next. Once the video has been used in-venue, it is then posted on our women’s basketball social media platforms to drive additional exposure and allow fans who did not attend to the game to still learn about our players. Due in large part to the on-court success of our women’s basketball program, fans are eager to learn as much about our players as possible, and these videos have provided a fun and unique way for them to do just that.
JCG PARACHUTE DROP
A twist on a traditional t shirt toss element, we instead drop 25 shirts per game to the student section from the catwalk in the arena, promoting the JCG Apparel company here in Starkville.
The Hail State Rewards jackpot has quickly become a major hit among students at all home basketball games. Sponsored by Trustmark Bank, this promotion is one of the most simple, yet effective promos we have. Students who are members of Hail State Rewards simply check in to the basketball game that day via the Hail State Rewards app. Once they do, they are automatically entered in to win cash from Trustmark Bank! Every game, one lucky student can win $100. If their name is called during the game, they then have five minutes to report to the marketing tunnel to claim their cash. Not at the game? Then you don’t win the money. However, that $100 rolls over to the next game, adding to the Jackpot that a student can win. This year, a student won $700 (in cash!) just for coming to the game. Not bad to come to a free basketball game and leave with some cold hard cash!
BEN AT THE BIN
With two crucial games remaining in the 2017-18 Men’s Basketball season, our staff knew that two strong student crowds were a must down the stretch. With two solid promotions in place, and a quick Saturday to Tuesday turnaround, we knew that we needed to think outside of the box and get coach directly involved in a unique, but personal way with our dedicated students. One of the unique things about Starkville is the historic Cotton District, which is full of bars and restaurants. A place that is known to be packed with students as the weekend approaches, and a place that is known for great late night food choices. Our staff saw this as an opportunity and leveraged it to get our head men’s basketball coach, Ben Howland, out in front of our students in a personal manner that has never been done before for that program. Coach went to a bar and grill called “The Bin” and served cheese fries through a specific late night window to hundreds of students, who were lined up and waiting for him. Meeting students, taking photos, and connecting with them at a level a college student can relate. To further make a personal connection with students, Coach Howland walked into each bar down the strip, and took the time to speak with students who were out that night. His efforts resulted in our second largest student crowd of the season on a Tuesday night at 6 PM.
110 for 10
After the Bulldog’s 90 – 53 win over the Florida Gators, Coach Schaefer made a pledge to donate $10,000 to the Boys and Girls of Starkville; if the fans were able to shatter the season attendance record of 92,914. In that moment, the goal was out there, we were going to break the record and in order to do so we had to average 8,977 at the remaining four home games. The last four home games proved to be electric, starting with the rematch between South Carolina and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. This game was not only a sellout, but a record breaking crowd all on its own with 10,794 in attendance. The next two home games provided extremely positive numbers which allow us to be more confident heading into the final home game of the season. The final numbers were in, with a single season, record breaking attendance of 113,814; Coach Schaefer was able to write a check to the Boys and Girls Club for $10,000. At the end of the game, members from the Boys and Girls Club were met at center court by Coach Schaefer. However, before handing over his personal check, he had a few surprise words to share, since he made the initial pledge, additional gifts came in from a few members of the Bulldog family, ending with a total gift of $46,000 for the Boys of Girls of Starkville.