For many Rams fans, particularly die-hard Rebounders Club rooters, 2020-21 will likely be the first season in years that they won’t have attended a men’s or women’s basketball game. With pandemic restrictions keeping spectators away from historic Rose Hill Gymnasium for the foreseeable future, how will Fordham keep interest high as the programs get set to tip off their campaigns?
Like many sports and entertainment organizations, that focus has turned online, as the department last week unveiled its Virtual Game Day Experience, in partnership with global engagement company Qwasi, with second-year Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing, Promotions and Ticketing Nick LaMarca leading the effort to keep Fordham basketball and its supporters connected during select games in the upcoming season.
“We have the opportunity to use social media to take the experience of attending a game in the gym and move it to this hub,” said LaMarca. “The mission is to engage and interact with the fan base when they can’t be on Rose Hill.”
It’s a daunting challenge, but LaMarca hopes that the new technology and the move that many have made online in their daily lives will translate to game day, just in a new setting.
The fulcrum is the Fan Portal, which requires distinct free registration for the women’s and men’s hubs. A menu of “missions” await, beginning an hour before each game, customized to that contest. There will be some tweaking along the way, as LaMarca noted when he gave the Rebounders Club a guided tour this week.
Fans can select any or all of the missions, which range from a live Pre-Game party hosted by WFUV reporters, Q&As, trivia, spotlights on the cheer, dance and band programs and more, with random fans who complete the tasks spinning a virtual wheel to win prizes like game tickets, Fordham-branded apparel and goodies, and, potentially, sponsor-driven gifts.
The first scheduled games included on the Virtual Game Day Experience are Wednesday, December 2, women vs. Manhattan and Thursday, December 3 men at Manhattan. The list of other contests with experiences can be found on this department announcement.
“It’s new technology, but we see long term potential for away games in the future,” commented LaMarca on the Qwasi platform, selected for its versatility and Fordham’s previous partnership with its other digital engagement products. “We could just put videos up and post about the games, but the hub really takes this to the next level.”
The hub will serve as a “second screen” for fans, as the game broadcast is not included. Fans watching on ESPN+ or the various national networks that various games may appear on will be able to continue the real-time connection as they watch or listen on WFUV radio.
In addition to allowing fans who have long attended games to have a pre-game online meeting point, the fan portal can also bring in those who don’t live in the region or for other reasons may not have attended games in recent years. The opportunity for creativity in this space is endless, and LaMarca sees it as a key element in the overall promotion and marketing mix.
“Social media is becoming the driving force for communicating with our fans, the #1 way to promote and advertise Fordham Athletics,” added LaMarca, a 2014 UMass graduate. “Working with the coaches and players, we can keep the content fresh.”
A great example of that is ‘RAMily Bonding,’ interviews hosted by WFUV talent that feature current student-athletes and alumni of that sport. The most recent was a compelling video with Jack Burik from the 1970-1971 NCAA team, Jay Fazande, from the 1991-1992 tournament squad, and current senior guard Josh Navarro. A similar production featuring the women’s team is coming soon.
“We want to keep growing our numbers on social to show increased interest in the programs,” said LaMarca, who noted that gains in interaction have been among the largest among Atlantic 10 schools.
It’s a little bit of Rose Hill on your computer or mobile device.