It’s not just wins that sells tickets, that we know. That’s why our team has placed such a strong emphasis on the atmosphere in Davis Wade Stadium. Many items go in to our gameday experience, and our atmosphere inside Davis Wade Stadium. And we pride ourselves on creating an electric place for our team to play.
“This was my first SEC football game (my son is a student at MSU). I have been to numerous high profile Big 10 football games (The Horseshoe, Camp Randall). Nothing compares to my experience this past Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.”
– Richard Anslow (New York, NY)
COWBELL YELL AT DAVIS WADE
In 2011, MSU Athletics began hosting a campus-wide pep rally held inside Davis Wade Stadium, known as Cowbell Yell on the week of the first home football game of the season. The primary purpose of this event is to pump up fans, students primarily, for the kickoff of the football season by giving them a “sneak peek” at gameday hype videos, the team entrance videos, teach cheers and rehearse in-stadium game day traditions, as well as hear from guest speakers, such as former legends and current players and coaches. Free t-shirts and performances by the Famous Maroon Band and MSU Spirit Squads, and a live on-field DJ are part of the agenda as well, as more than 10,000 students and fans pack into Davis Wade Stadium. We also ask fans to use the hashtag #CowbellYell so we can find pictures via social media and feature fans and their pictures on the video boards within the stadium. To celebrate our most treasured tradition, the cowbell, we worked with our official cowbell sponsor, the Year of the Cowbell, to giveaway cowbells to some of the fans in attendance. The unique tradition of the cowbell spawned from Mississippi State’s agricultural roots. The exact origin of the cowbell as a symbol of Mississippi State history is unclear; however, the best records have the cowbell being gradually introduced in the late 1930s. The most popular legend is that during a home football game between Mississippi State and in-state rival Ole Miss, a jersey cow wandered onto the playing field. Mississippi State won the contest against the Rebels that day, and Mississippi State students immediately adopted the cow as a good luck charm. In some stories, students are said to have continued bringing a dairy cow to the football games for a while until that was discontinued in favor of bringing just the cowbell. Despite decades of attempts by opponents and authorities to banish the cowbell from athletic events, Mississippi State fans still celebrate bulldog victories by the ringing of cowbells.
PRE-GAME GAMEDAY TIMELINE
Football game days are one of the largest events on campus throughout the entire year. With plenty of things for all bulldog fans to do, we wanted to give a clear and concise timeline for what all fan could experience and expect on all gamedays – home and away. Providing a graphic posted on all social media platforms, this timeline helped lay out all that fans could participate in, including DawgWalk, Fan Zone Opening, and kickoff times. Providing this information helped educate fans on what is offered on gamedays and helped give a clear message to the bulldog faithful on where to be and when to be there.
DON’T STOP BELIEVING
Some teams have “that song”–that song which gets their fan base hyped up. Well, we have “that song” plus a breath-taking fan-action that goes along with it. The right song at the right moment can boost the fan experience immensely–especially if the song embodies and symbolizes the culture of the team and University. Bulldogs are known for their loyalty, toughness, and never-give-up attitudes…very fitting that Mississippi State’s mascot is the Bulldog. It is also fitting that the song our team and fans embraces is “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. We play this song between the third and fourth quarters during football games, and our fans turn on their phone flashlights, and wave their phones slowly in the air back and forth. Fans also ring their 62,000 cowbells in unison to the beat of the music. This phenomenon started at football, but has since crossed over into our other sports. Not only do we raise the fan experience and engagement at a crucial time in the game, but we also garnered national attention from several renowned media outlets and talent/writers. To heighten it all for some fans we allow them to buy, through Maroon Memories, the opportunity to be on the field and experience it all. Being able to look all around the stadium as each side mimics one another with all their lights, voices, and cowbells facing in the fans direction can truly make a memory one will never forget.
SNL COWBELL SKITS
Cowbells are the cornerstone of Mississippi State tradition, and the famous Saturday Night Live skit “More Cowbell” featuring Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell has become a tradition of its own in Davis Wade Stadium. Fans look forward to this element every game, saying the words along with those in the video, especially toward the end. “Guess what? I got a fever. And the only prescription… is more cowbell!”
Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake remade the video, so we show that one at games as well. Fans like the remake, but we continue to show the original every game because there’s truly no replacement.
When Joe Moorhead was hired as our new head football coach, we used the “More Cowbell” phrase to welcome him to Mississippi State by using the spelling “MOOR Cowbell.” This ties in the video that has since become a part of our tradition.
This year, one of our fans favorite promotions returned to Davis Wade Stadium – the T-Shirt Gatling Gun! For Cowbell Yell and every home football game, the double barrel T-Shirt cannol propels 60 shirts in five seconds to fans standing on their feet in anticipation of a FREE shirt. Branded and sponsored by Mississippi State University, fans stand to their feet the second they see the Gatling Gun racing out on the field in hopes they will catch a shirt.
During the 2017 football season, we were able to match our record from last season with 4 flyovers out of 7 home games. The three home games that we were not able to secure flyovers for, landed past civil twilight in which flyovers are not permitted by the military. Our four flyovers again this season, ranked as the most in the SEC for two years in a row. We were able to secure three flyovers from private outlets and our fourth was arranged with two alums, who are part of a C130-J Super Hercules crew from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. It was both of their first times returning to campus for a football game since graduation, which made it all the more special.
COLOR GAMES & STRIPE OUT
We selected a specific theme for each home game, which we promoted on social media. We have True Maroon games, White Outs, Black Outs, upper levels maroon and lower levels white (and vise versa), and even a Stripe Out. Our Stripe Our game involved the most planning. Through a targeted social media campaign, we directed fans to view their section’s designated color on the HailState.com/stripeout webpage. Each ticket was printed with what color to wear and the URL to remind fans to wear their designated color. The student section for this year was designated as one single color to make it easier for participation from the student section since it is general admission, first come, first served seating.
ALL NEW PYRO EFFECTS
New this year, we worked with Pyro Shows out of Nashville for our pyro and cryo effects at football. Working hand in hand with Pyro Shows, they were able to built us custom cards to house 6 cryo jets lining the tunnel as our team ran out for the final time. Along with the 6 cryo jets, we had 2 fire carts for every game and added 2 fireworks boxes for night games for our pregame entrance. Also new this year, we tweaked our fireworks displays for touchdowns and wins to include comets and mines that were both higher, larger and brighter.
In order to give our StarkVegas theme more life, this season at football we added even more lights to our invenue experience at Football. This time, in the tunnel that the team walks through before taking the field. We worked with a local company to instill 8 LED lights in the ceiling sections of the tunnel. We spent hours programing the lights to change colors and to strobe to the music and the timing of the intro video and for when they took the field for the first time.
IN-STADIUM SOCIAL ACTIVATIONS (#MAROONSELFIES, TWEET TO SCREEN)
This year, we continued our partnership with Spredfast to further enhance our in-venue experiences with upgraded social to video board displays. The switch to Spredfast has continued to allow us to roll out sponsor-integrated elements at football, basketball and baseball, such as #MaroonSelfies photo display and Tweet to Screen displays. We also utilized their polling feature to offer in-game polls for music and players of the game. Throughout this football season, over 1,500 unique selfies and messages were displayed on our video boards.
FOOTBALL FAN DAY
Each year, our fans anxiously await Football Fan Day and their first opportunity of the year to meet the Bulldog football team, and Coach Dan Mullen. The event is traditionally held two Saturdays prior to the start of the season, and includes festivities such as autographs and pictures with players and coaches, pictures with Bully and our Bulldog “Jak”, social media photo op station, free refreshments, and a “Kids’ Zone” complete with MSU-branded inflatables, ball toss, corn hole, and face-painting with our cheerleaders.
In order to cross-promote our other fall sports, we invited our women’s soccer and volleyball teams to attend the event as well and provided them a signing location at the end of the two football autograph lines. This provided a great captive audience for these teams to provide schedules and meet a large number of fans.
We also partnered with Barnes & Noble to set up a mobile store inside the Palmeiro Center for fans to purchase Bulldog football gear, clear bags (to comply with the university’s new clear bag policy), and other items in preparation for the season.
We also offered “fan favorite” menu items from our fan engagement platform, Maroon Memories again this year. Fans could redeem their Maroon Memories points/credits or purchase exclusive experiences such as “fast pass” (skip to the front of the line), exclusive give away items, and pictures with Head Coach Dan Mullen (for more info on Maroon Memories, see the first page of the fan experience section).
The more and more connected our society becomes, the more fans crave connection to the world outside the stadium during games. Because of this, we not only place an emphasis on constantly displaying scores from around the country on a ribbon board in venue, but we also steadily show “Live Look-Ins” to other games throughout our games. This allows the fans to remain connected to other sporting events, while enjoying our game.
SEC NATION PROMOTIONS & CROWD
Once a year we a privileged with the opportunity to have SEC nation come to StarkVegas. This is great exposure for our university, our athletic department and for our fans. The SEC Nation talent and crew have always mentioned how much they enjoy coming to Starkville, because of many fans come out for the morning show. While we are glad that they notice a lot of work goes into promoting and incentivising our fans to wake up so early and come out. Once we know when the show is coming, we usually have about a one week turnaround to get everything done. It all starts with social announcement and promotion. We will use the assets provided by the SEC as well as our own content we curate from years past. We usually order dozens of fat heads to give to fans in the crowd. Everything from Bully, Tim Tebow, to and emoji face. We order T-Shirts with our campaign slogan from the year to give to the first 250 fans in attendance. Usually the ones that stand in the very front. Another incentive we offer is free Sausage and Chicken biscuits from Hardees. We work with learfield on making a deal with them in order to get this approved and executed in a timely manner. Another critical part to the fan experience at SEC Nation is utilizing our Maroon Memories program, as well as our student incentive program, Hail State Rewards. Available for purchase or redemption, we offer access, backstage photos, pit access, photos with the crew, along with many others.
EGG BOWL RUN
This football season on November 20th, 2017 the 5th annual Egg Bowl run was held. Partnering with ROTC, members from Mississippi State and Ole Miss participate in running the game ball to the host city each year. This year, Ole Miss ROTC ran the ball around 60 miles to Calhoun City, where the Mississippi State ROTC met them to hand off the game ball. They then ran 60 miles to Starkville, where they were greeted by former head coach Dan Mullen to give him the game ball. In return, Coach Mullen gave ROTC a signed jersey and ball, as well as took pictures with the entire ROTC. This is a great tradition that involves both schools in the rivalry, and is a unique was for fans to see how the game ball is delivered to the stadium for one of the biggest games of the season.
RING OF HONOR DEDICATION (JOE FORTUNATO)
Joe Fortunato, 1951 first-team All-American and one of the greatest players in Chicago Bears history, was inducted into the Mississippi State football “Ring of Honor” during a ceremony prior to the Bulldogs’ game against BYU on Saturday in Davis Wade Stadium. The “Ring of Honor” is the most prestigious honor in Mississippi State Football as the names are added in a “ring” around Davis Stadium near the LED ribbons.
Fortunato was the seventh MSU legend enshrined in the “Ring of Honor”, joining Johnie Cooks, Jack Cristil, Kent Hull, D.D. Lewis, Tom “Shorty” McWilliams and Jackie Parker. Fortunato’s wife, Catherine Fortunato, accepted the engraved cowbell on his behalf as his health was in too poor of a condition to attend. We recognized her on the 50 yard line shortly before kickoff. The black cover over Joe Fortunato’s name was dropped as she was recognized, revealing the permanent addition to Davis Wade Stadium.
SALUTE TO SERVICE GAME
Each year we select one football game to be our Salute to Service Military Appreciation game. This year we selected the Alabama game on Saturday, November 11th. New this year, we reached out the Wounded Warrior Project to see if we could find some local veterans who were big Mississippi State fans so that we could honor them for their service. Luckily for us, we were able to track down 4 Wounded Warriors in the area who were huge State fans including one gentleman who had been watching games for over 30 years and had never had the chance to attend a game. This created a really special recognition for these individuals and added a great moment to our salute to our troops. In addition to the Wounded Warriors, we had the opportunity to recognize two families who had lost their sons and husband in a training mission a few months earlier in Meridian, MS. One of these fallen airmen was a Mississippi State graduate which made the recognition even more powerful. Unfortunately, with the game landing past civil twilight our planned flyover with Meridian Naval Air Station was not able to be completed.
POM POM RECEPTACLES
At each SEC home football game, we set out pom receptacles in the concourse at every student section portal entrance in Davis Wade Stadium. This allowed for each student to walk by at least one receptacle while finding a seat. Students grabbed poms to accompany their cowbells and enhance the home-field advantage. The poms matched the theme of the game. For example, we would have maroon poms for our True Maroon games. During our game against Ole Miss, we focus on the color gold inspired by the Golden Egg trophy, so we fill our receptacles with gold poms for our students.
C SPIRE FAN ZONE
Four hours prior to kickoff at every home football game, we open our C Spire Fan Zone. Located across from Davis Wade Stadium and in the heart of fan tailgates, we pass out official game day stickers, provide face tattoos, and an inflatable area for young Bulldog fans to enjoy. Bully and our live mascot Jak make appearances for fan photo ops. We provide football collateral such as posters and schedule cards and have an autograph session each game featuring current Mississippi State teams, former student-athletes, and other notable graduates in the Mississippi State community. Giving fans entertainment before the game even begins adds another element to the overall experience of attending a football game at Davis Wade.
DOWSING & BELL PLAZA
The year was 1969 and it forever changed the course of Mississippi State Athletics history. Frank Dowsing Jr., a prep star from Tupelo, MS, and Robert Bell, a native of Meridian, MS, enrolled at Mississippi State University and were members of the Bulldog freshman football team. Prior to the 90th Battle for the Golden Egg on Thanksgiving night this year, we honored Frank Dowsing Jr. and Robert Bell for being our first African-American student-athletes.Thanksgiving night marked nearly 47 years to the day that Dowsing provided fans with one of the most memorable plays in Egg Bowl history with his interception in the waning minutes to seal a Bulldog victory. With this recognition, came the announcement to name the plaza on the north end of Davis Wade Stadium, The Dowsing-Bell Plaza.
“Frank Dowsing and Robert Bell are heros and their legacies will forever be remember at Mississippi State. The Dowsing-Bell Plaza will server as tribute to their courage as they paved the way for others in all sports on our campus – Director of Athletics, John Cohen
CENTRAL MS SUMMER EXTRAVAGANZA
Every summer, our marketing staff partners with the Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter to host a summer gathering for all Bulldog fans in Central Mississippi. This event features a full autograph session from student-athletes from a variety of sports, appearances and a Q&A with select Bulldog coaches and a visit from MSU President, Mark Keenum, and first year A.D. John Cohen. It is regularly host to more than 1,000 fans from Central Mississippi as they come to hear from our speakers, pick up their football collateral and get excited for the upcoming season.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTION
Five former standout student-athletes were inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame at our football game against UMass on Nov. 4 at Davis Wade Stadium. The class featured four football players — Bill Buckley, Walt Harris, Mario Haggan and John Correro — and a member of MSU’s first College World Series team, Philip Still.
Our marketing staff partners with the M-Club to host a Friday evening awards dinner before the Saturday game where the Hall of Fame members are honored and receive their Hall of Fame jacket. On Saturday, we recognize them at midfield during halftime and present an engraved golden cowbell to them, as our PA announcer read a short biography of each athlete’s storied career.
HURRICANE HARVEY RELIEF DRIVE
This year in response to the devastating hurricane Harvey that hit the Houston area we as a university wanted to help. After contacting each of our sport teams and asking for shoes, shirts, jackets, pants, and any other equipment that could be of use to those in need we were able to fill our football equipment truck full of goodies and send it to the Red Cross stationed in the Houston helping those in need. Our team also wore a special helmet decal on our football helmets for the following few weeks to honor the state of Texas.
NEW GIGAPIXEL AND PANO
In 2015, we began a strong partnership with Blakeway Panoramics to create breathtaking panoramic pictures at some of our premier events. Through this partnership, we were able to utilize their technology to generate “Gigapixels”. These are billion pixel photos where fans can zoom in, find and tag themselves in the photo. This year, we shot one of these Gigapixel images at our final football game of the year, when we hosted Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night. In addition to the Gigapixel, we also entered into a revenue share agreement to take a panoramic photo at the event and allow fans to purchase them as a keepsake of their experience. Fans were then able to look through the photo and tag themselves, after it was posted the following day.
RESPECT THE BELL CAMPAIGN
This football season, we launched a new, rebranded “Respect The Bell” campaign to promote the importance of following the rules to honor our great tradition. As most know, Mississippi State’s staple at football games (and across the university) is the cowbell. This sacred tradition is a favorite among our fans, and has a lasting impression at football game throughout the years. With special permission from the NCAA and the SEC, we are one of the only schools in the country to legally allow an artificial noise maker inside of our stadium. With this comes responsibility, and we want to make sure fans know that we are responsible for our actions with our bells. To do this, we make new videos shown in stadium and on social media to reiterate that awareness that respecing the bell is something that we must do. Featuring former standout quarterback John Bond as well as using current Mississippi State students, we created a ‘funny yet effective’ skit that shows how to respect the bell during a game. Providing this different approach to showing rules at a game was an effective way to portray a message, but also have fun with our beloved tradition.
As we continually strive to use innovation to improve our gameday experiences, this year we partnered with ShoFlo to utilize their dynamic timing and scripting software to manage our games. This software allowed us to more readily move items to not have a negative impact on the flow of a game.
This year, in attempt to heighten the fan experience at football, we added new South Loge seating in our south endzone. This is a new luxury seating area that provides the closest seat to the action on the field. Located on the south end of the stadium, the seats are on either side of the team tunnel. Housing sixteen separate boxes, with four to six seats in each box, it allows fans to enjoy the seating experience with their closest friends or family members. The South Loge seating was built in response to the increasing demand for luxury seating inside Davis Wade. With this new seating experience fans are able to be close enough to the field to feel the warmth of the fire boxes as the team takes the field. As seats were made available throughout this season, we sold them on our Maroon Memories platform to fans on a game by game basis.
MAROON & WHITE CHEER
Tradition is king in the SEC. After a few year hiatus, our team decided to restore a classic tradition of Davis Wade Stadium – the pregame MAROON and WHITE cheer. Moved in previous years due to the tight timing leading up to kickoff, we reorganized pregame in order to add this fan favorite back to our in-game experience. The response to this addition from our fans was strong and we intend to continue this tradition for years to come.
Each and every home gameday, our staff and interns walk around the Junction to provide our fans with unique gameday stickers for that game. Rather than using the traditional two color designs for our stickers, we moved to a new concept using full process printing to create a dynamic design that is desired by many and become a keepsake on the cowbells of our fans.
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL RING CEREMONY
To honor the historic season for our women’s basketball team, we held a special ring ceremony in the first quarter of our game versus LSU to present their National Finalist rings. They entered the field to a full stadium standing ovation as a highlight video played to showcase their historic run through the NCAA Tournament and to the National Championship game. University President, Dr. Mark Keenum, and AD John Cohen presented each girl and Coach Vic Schaefer with their special rings.
70 STRAIGHT EGG BOWLS RECOGNITION
Whenever a special moment in a Bulldog fan’s life is made known to us, we work to do whatever we can to make it more special. This year, we were made aware of a fan’s 70th consecutive Egg Bowl game attendance, as he came to Davis Wade Stadium to support his team. We organized a surprise recognition for him, as he was shown on the video board and received a standing ovation from the Davis Wade Stadium crowd.
CHEESE FRIES FOR MOORHEAD
In his first night in StarkVegas, we worked with a local bar and grill in our historic Cotton District to allow Coach Moorhead to come and serve Cheese Fries (a favorite late night snack of our students) to hundreds of students lined up at the late night window. This was organized as a way to immediately create a connection between Coach Moorhead and our student body and show how important the support of the students is to Coach Moorhead.
CHRISTMAS CARD FROM MOORHEAD
After announcing a new coach, it’s important to quickly get support from the entire fan base. With our hire coming in early December, we created a custom “Holiday Card” and sent to all season ticket holders and Bulldog Club members from Coach Joe Moorhead and his family.
TAXSLAYER BOWL PEP RALLY AND RADIO SHOW
As we look to provide the best fan experience for our fans at all games, we worked with Learfield to organize a pre-game radio show on the night prior to our game in Downtown Jacksonville. This radio show was preceded by a pep rally with the Famous Maroon Band, cheerleaders, Bully, and thousands of Bulldog fans.