Sunday, January 18, 2015

5 Elements Turning a Game into a Signature Event

[Editor’s note: I originally planned to create several posts about this event; but, alas I’ve been sick in bed since returning from Dallas.]

The first College Football Championship became a major event in colleges and athletics. As I wrote earlier, the challenge organizers faced involved making the inaugural event more than just a game.

I recognize that this multi-million dollar mega event is far beyond the scope of most associations; however, associations – no matter how large or small – can learn from the event.

Here are five elements that worked for the College Football Playoffs (CFP):

1. Create a Fan/Attendee Experience
    CFP converted two park stadium parking lots into a 6-hour tail gate party. It included:
  • games of all types (including a zip line)
  • food and beverage tents
  • sponsor booths
  • Heisman House which featured live interviews with former Heisman trophy winners 
  • a mock football field
Unfortunately, a cloudy, windy, cold afternoon limited this fan experience. This was really beyond CFP’s control.
2. Focus on Brand Details
  • The CFP logo was everywhere on everything.
  • The CFP logo signage was everywhere around the stadium as well as the airport.

3. Celebrate a Cause
     CFP created a CFP Foundation that included an Extra Yard for Teachers cause.
  • The philanthropic initiative called “Extra Yard for Teachers” sought to raise at least $5 million annually being directed to what is an ofttimes overlooked but still profoundly important profession.
  • During the event, CFP promoted the cause via jumbotron announcements and other events.
  • OSU-Oregon alumni were challenged (via social media) to raise funds for Extra Yard.
  • In addition CFP made major donations to North Texas teachers via Donors Choose ... And every fan at the championship game Monday received a $25 card for Donors Choose.   
Note: One cause is enough. While CFP focused on education and teachers, they confused fans/attendees with two different messages.

4. Recognize Sponsors

CFP recruited major corporate sponsors AND did an outstanding job in recognizing them before, during and after the event. This included signage, in-game announcements and post game. Each of the major sponsors had “space and facetime” during the pre-game fan event.

5. Engage the News Media
ESPN's Game Day
  • The organizers “sold” television rights to Disney and its ESPN networks. They were all over the place starting on Sunday ... when ESPN went to 24/7 coverage. 
  • ESPN had tv booths both inside and outside the stadium. Game Day was set up outside in the tail gate area so ticket holders could share

I may be biased because “my team” won the championship but the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game was a big success. And these five elements helped ensure that success.

Regardless of budget or size, associations and nonprofits can use these elements in designing their own events.

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