Visionary Part II: Selling to fans

In my last post on vision, I touched on the importance of a clear and obvious vision for an athletic department in order to keep the fans engaged. When you have the longest tenured head coach in the conference (and one of the longest in the nation) stagnation can set in. For many fans, there is a feeling of ‘been there, done that’ within Beaver Nation as they look for a sign of growth and change.

For the most part, fans are at the mercy of 18-22 year old college students to bring them joy or  misery one day a week in the fall.  We have no control over how players play, what plays are called or the outcome of most games.  What fans can do is donate, buy tickets and support the school and teams they follow.  A vision from the athletic department that constantly markets the direction of the program with tangible goals is imperative following any disappointing season.

The initial Raising Reser project was the perfect storm of excitement at the end of perpetual losing streak, and the excitement about a truly special season. It also had a single goal, to build a new stadium. Or at least half of it.  Fans fall in and out of love with coaches as rapidly as funny cat videos destroy productivity.  What fans don’t fall out of love with is the institution they pledge their support to.  I love Mike Riley, but I have talked to more than my share of Beaver fans that are not big supporters of Mike, and don’t donate money because they don’t want to support a program that shares his vision.  What people will more universally support is something that will benefit the university beyond the life-cycle of a single coach.

Fast and easy way for fans to participate in these building projects is a huge factor in the ability of fans to support the team outside of their philosophical differences with the administration.

Here are a list of things that the athletic department should do to share this vision and get people involved.  The Beavers finished the season on a hopeful note, and ideas lit these would go a long way towards building excitement for next year:

1. Drawings of projects:
Sure this is a dead horse I keep beating, but it will help fans get excited and it will help recruiting.  If recruiting improves and Oregon State wins more games, the money train will keep flowing.

2. Build a Kickstarter type website:
A website just for capital campaigns that people can donate to and see the progress of the funding projects would be amazing and would allow for fans of all financial levels to take part.

3. Heck use kickstarter:
Kickstarter allows the administration to use their fantastic media resources to make a great presentation for fans and can reach people from all walks of life to be a part of it.

4.  Donation options at point of sale:
When people are buying season tickets, give them the option to donate extra to Raising Reser II or whatever.  If you are trying to build anything for a particular sport, buying tickets for said sport should always have a “Donate for the X Campaign”.

5. Create a great video:
More than a drawing, a really good video about your plans would go a long way. It is also something you could play during the spring game and have basically collection buckets or donation centers around the stadium for people that get caught up in the moment.  To really get bang for your buck, make an interactive version and send it to people that sit in the area you are fixing.  Give them a virtual view of what their new home would look like when it is done. Being able to mentally picture the future is very, VERY powerful.

6. Tie other debt into costs for completing the project:
When you buy a house or a car and you want to get some extras or have some repairs made, if they roll it into your total  loan, it almost feels like it is free.  Housing has done this for years, loading options or changes you want made into the total cost of the home.  Or buying a package upgrade for a vehicle and seeing that it only changes your monthly bill by $25 rather than focusing on the $2500 it costs.  To the average person, donating to a $120 million project is not a lot different than donating to a $140 million project but people are more willing to get behind the latter than to have your AD say “We need to pay back this $20 million before we can do anything.”  That feels like the athletic department’s issue, not mine.  A stadium remodel? that is definitely mine.

The point is, package your upgrades in a way that includes the most donors as possible, the easiest methods for donating and see a lot of media and splashy graphics to help people see what you want and get excited about it.   Especially when a season that many thought would be a 10-11 win campaign, turns out to be a 7 win one. You cannot rewrite history, but with a very close road Civil War game and a win against Boise State in a bowl game, you can definitely build on the promise of a good 2014 season with some popular upgrade announcements.

The vision presented from the Athletic Directory is the clearest indicator of the direction of the athletic programs for a school.  A vision filled with expansion and excitement for the future is the easiest thing for fans to grab a hold of and get behind.  If you get all the attendees of a single football game to donate $400 extra in a year, you have just raised $20 million for a project.  Vision doesn’t just need huge donors, vision just needs to be exciting enough to reach every fan and get them dreaming about the future.

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