If you’re a marketing employee for a college or professional team, you don’t necessarily celebrate the continuing advancements in the television industry. Every unveiling of a larger, higher-definition TV screen serves to light a fire under promoters like Greg Herring.
Herring, the assistant athletic director for marketing and fan engagement at East Carolina, knows that the challenges of selling a live game-day experience are considerably greater than they were in the early days of live television coverage. In 2017, Herring’s task is to make sure that a Pirate fan’s experience inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is far superior to the one that fan could have in his own living room.
It’s a duty Herring takes seriously, he said, especially because the majority of the fans in the stadium on game day come from out of town to watch the Pirates play. Marketing might have little bearing on what plays out on the field, but Herring and his staff try to think of every part of the experience that takes place outside the lines.
“Our fan base is passionate, I think that’s what makes it really special here,” he said. “Whether it’s a paint-it game or just a regular old game, they’re going to come in droves. Sixty-five percent of our fans drive 75 miles or more one way to come to games. So knowing that statistic about our fan base, we really want to make sure that when they get here it’s worth their time.
“We want to try to improve upon your experience. Whether you come for the first time, or the 30th year you’ve been coming, we want that experience to be memorable every time you come.”
To that end, creative minds at ECU have spent the better part of the offseason thinking about everything from the content on the various screens inside the stadium to the music played during warm-ups and time-outs to promotions for specific games.
Color games (Paint It Black, Paint It Purple and Paint It Gold) are fan favorites and have become key traditions, as are longstanding themes like Family Weekend and Military Appreciation and the appearance of Steve Wetzel, AKA Captain Jack Sparrow. But the fans that fill the Fick on September 2 for the opener against James Madison will see plenty of new features as well, like the following:
- Entrance video. Tasked with the creation of a new video to usher the ECU players onto the field, Director of Video Production Brian Meador and Herring have collaborated with others in the athletic department since the spring to create a montage designed to fire up the stadium crowd in under two minutes.
The new video was originally scheduled to be unveiled last Saturday at “Meet The Pirates,” but it was kept under wraps for two more weeks when the event was postponed by inclement weather. The feature that distinguishes the 2017 version from earlier entrance videos is a montage paying homage to Pirate greats of years past, a nod to the program’s history that Meador believes will be well-received by ECU alumni.
- No Quarter. The raising of the “No Quarter” flag is already one of the most distinctive parts of a game-day experience within Dowdy-Ficklen, but with some assistance from Coke, the marketing department was able to make a purchase for the student section that will increase the intensity of ECU’s fourth-quarter presence. Herring chose to keep the specifics quiet until September 2, but he said the enhanced tradition should be a favorite for students. “It’s a fun way to get them involved and to keep them there through the fourth quarter,” he said.
- New music. The staff responsible for marketing and events evaluates the music within an arena regularly, Herring said. Because he has a passion for music, selecting songs for game day is one of his favorite tasks. It’s not always easy, since the songs must be catchy, current and clean, but Herring spends hours building just the right playlist that will spice up the atmosphere on a Saturday.
My litmus test every year is how many guys I have dancing during warm-ups,” Herring said. “If see guys on our team, or the opponents, dancing and jumping around, I know I’ve picked a good song.”