Case Study: College Athletics, Social Media Fan Response
Verge Pipe Media is proud to have a new crew of Imagineers in the office for the Spring semester. Gray Gill is one of our recent additions, adding some editorial firepower to our ranks. If you missed Gray’s debut article on iTunes U go check it! For today, he’s taking a look at a recent incident on Auburn University’s campus – a case study for social media response and turning negative public sentiment into positive, brand-building moments…
In his third year as head coach of Auburn’s basketball team, Coach Tony Barbee and Auburn athletic director, Jay Jacobs, seem to be putting together an effective game plan for rebuilding a program that has struggled to attract its target audience – the student body – in previous years.
Prior to Auburn’s game against LSU last week – the SEC opener – the policy was that the first 1,500 students in line were ensured free admission to the game. After that limit was met, however, students were still welcome to attend… but they would have to pay five dollars for regular seats. I did not attend Auburn’s home game against LSU last week, but apparently many other students did – or at least hoped to.
The court-side student section actually filled up a few minutes prior to tip-off. No biggie – the regular seats’ still have a decent view of the action, right? Well, that may be true, but the majority of students did not feel like coughing up $5 dollars to see their team play at home. So, while “The Jungle” was full and quite rowdy, there were many empty spaces in the rest of the Arena.
While those students who left may not have contributed to the crowd noise at Auburn Arena, they did not remain silent that night. They immediately took to Twitter to voice their disapproval of the five dollar price of tickets for students who weren’t included in the privileged 1,500.
@auathletics needs to fix their arena policies. If the student section is full give students other empty ticketed-seats.
— Michael Bullington (@m_bullington) January 10, 2013
@auathletics if you guys want students to come to basketball games the student section needs to be bigger
— Matt Mulhern (@MattMulhernWDE) January 10, 2013
Coach Barbee, who has always given much credit to the students’ impact on Auburn home games, was visibly disappointed when he was informed, after the game, of the circumstances that had kept more students from attending. Barbee was quoted as saying “we’ve got to change the culture around here.” He also took to Twitter after the game, to let students know he had heard their cries and that he was on their side.
To all the AU students who were turned away from the game last night I apologize! I am working with the Athletic Dept. 2 correct this issue!
— Tony Barbee (@CoachTonyBarbee) January 10, 2013
The next day, Jay Jacobs let students know actions that would benefit the students were being taken:
AU students: mtg w/ staff now. Sellout expected for UK game, butI’ve taken all 500+ drink rail tix and made free for students.
— Jay Jacobs (@jayjacobsauad) January 10, 2013
Within a few hours, students began receiving an email from Jay Jacobs informing them that, thanks to their input and recommendations via Twitter, he and Barbee had talked and decided to grant all students free admission to Auburn basketball games.
While Auburn has had some solid victories on the court, thus far this season, this victory off the court may have bigger implications for the future of the basketball program. The athletic department handled this situation exceptionally well with their:
- Quick response – they communicated with the students and acknowledged their plight and the legitimacy of it.
- Quick action – they delivered on promises to quickly amend the policy in favor of the customer – in this case, the student.
In the long run, I anticipate this will greatly bolster the already improving image of Auburn’s basketball program, as well as the athletics department. While they may have sacrificed some additional profit from students who would have purchased tickets, their product will now get more exposure. And in the beginning of any business venture, engaging the consumer is vital.
Author: Gray Gill is our Spring Editor & Word-Smith here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.