Razorbacks step up fan engagement for 2014 season

Razorbacks step up fan engagement for 2014 season

BIRMINGHAM (ArkansasRazorbacks.com) – Each of the 14 institutions in the Southeastern Conference have taken steps to enhance the fan experience going into the 2014 football season in the next stage of a league-wide initiative to address fan engagement, the SEC office announced Wednesday.

"SEC fans are the most passionate and loyal fans in the country," said SEC commissioner Mike Slive. "Our institutions have made it a priority to engage their fans in a way that will enhance their in-game enjoyment and satisfaction. I salute our schools for being bold in addressing the fan experience and recognizing that increased attention to fans is critical to the continued success of our league."

In June of 2012, the Athletic Directors of the SEC approved the formation of a working group to conduct a thorough review of attendance trends and develop recommendations to enhance the fan experience in the SEC.

The SEC continues to address the fan experience even as attendance thrives in the SEC. Last football season, the SEC averaged 75,674 fans, which was an increase from 74,636 in 2012. Also, the average percentage capacity in 2013 for SEC games was 99.02 percent, compared to 97.40 percent in 2012. Out of 100 games played at SEC venues in 2013, including the SEC Championship Game, 57 were filled to 100 percent capacity or more.

"Even as attendance at SEC events is as robust as ever, we would be remiss not to reward our fans with a great experience at each and every event," said Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, chair of the SEC Fan Experience Working Group. "The fan experience goes beyond winning and losing games. It starts from the time they approach the stadium to the moment they leave campus."

The SEC has initiated rule changes that allow fans to see in-stadium replays of officials' reviews and increase in-game opportunities for musical entertainment, and in 2014 ESPN is partnering with the SEC to provide video highlights to schools to utilize on stadium video boards for in-game highlights and updates for fans.

Arkansas Specific Additions and Upgrades:

The addition of live, up to the second game data on the LED ribbon board on the East Façade of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback StadiumThe Razorback Marching Band will be featured when the HOGS are on offense and in most dead ball situations. DJ will play during the time when the HOGS Defense is on the field, and during special crowd prompts, allowing our game presentation to take full advantage of the new SEC rules for 2014The Razorback Marching Band has an all new lineup of halftime performances scheduled for the 2014 seasonBetter coordination of spirit elements, inclusive of the Razorback Marching Band, Spirit Squads and a DJ

Throughout the 2013-14 athletic year, the SEC conducted league-wide fan research studies in football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball. The studies included quantitative research conducted by "Now What Research" and qualitative analysis to provide an in-depth profile of SEC fans across all 14 institutions.

"We will continue to conduct fan research for the next several years in order to communicate better with our fans and to provide our institutions with the data they need to monitor fan expectations and satisfaction," said Slive. "Our schools have already begun to react to our studies by investing in areas that research shows are most important to our fans."

According to the research, among the areas of most concern to fans is availability of concessions and satisfactory restroom conditions. In response, at least 12 SEC institutions have indicated they are taking steps to improve concessions for fans, with various schools increasing the number of points of sale in stadiums, offering the opportunity to order with smart phones, increasing the number of in-stands concessions sellers and/or improving the variety of offerings.

Arkansas / Sodexo Specific Additions and Upgrades:

Addition of more credit card terminals at multiple locations throughout the stadium Introducing 2 new gourmet food concepts - Wholly Habanero and Bodacious Burgers Adding more shaved ice and ice cream locations throughout the stadium Adding BBQ concession stands to top West and top East featuring pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ nachos, and our signature Soooiiee Sundae Added value for Club seat holders now being able to purchase beer/wine at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium 50% increase in walking vendors/hawkers throughout the stadium Sodexo will have new easily distinguishable uniforms and signage to better assist fans in recognizing food and beverage areas At least eight SEC programs are taking added steps to improve restroom conditions in 2014, including adding restroom attendants, increasing the number of restroom facilities and adding audio to restroom facilities so fans can follow the game while away from their seats.

At least eight SEC schools have taken recent steps to improve cell service for its customers, and some have added wi-fi for fans in premium seating areas.

Arkansas Specific Additions and Upgrades:

Worked with corporate partner AT&T to upgrade DAS Cellular Coverage to 4G/LTE throughout Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium Research shows that fans expect a high quality video experience in the stadium. At least six SEC schools are putting added emphasis to that area in 2014, including improvements to video elements and production as well as the addition of new HD video boards in some stadium renovations.

Arkansas Specific Additions and Upgrades:

Construction is complete on the new state of the art Razorback Sports Network Broadcast Center, which will enable our game producers to connect HD video content to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback StadiumAn all-new team entrance video will debut on ARKANSASRAZORBACKS.COM and all Razorback Social Media Outlets on Friday, Sept. 5, the day before the home opener against Nicholls StateAll video board and LED graphics are refreshed and rebranded for 2014, featuring the return of the "Exploding Helmets" > the fans spoke and we listened Several schools are taking steps to address specific groups of fans, including expansions to Kids Zone areas, the implementation of young alumni programs and special ticket opportunities for students.

Arkansas Specific Additions and Upgrades:

Creation of New Student Rooftop Club – Enhanced amenities (tents, furnishings, televisions, and live entertainment) located atop the upper level south end zone, creating the only exclusive club amenities section to students in college football At least four schools have made administrative changes to address the fan experience including the addition of full-time staff members to focus on the fan experience or the establishment of fan councils and committees.

Facility improvements are widespread throughout the SEC, including major renovations at several stadiums that will improve seating, concourse space and sound systems.

Arkansas Specific Additions and Upgrades:

Addition of a new digital field level speaker system to assist in providing fans with full-bodied sound of the Razorback Marching Band and giving the Game day Productions crew the ability to better control volume in the stadium seating areas (minimize feedback for audio volume being too high or too low)Extensive concrete repairs in both east and west lower seating bowls Operational upgrades to both west side elevatorsNew branding is now showcased in the North End Zone on the lower façade of the Broyles Athletic CenterNew player field entrance being designed Other improved fan services at various schools include a mobile ticket delivery system, the addition of open captioning on video boards, smart phone interaction with fans and a specialized app.

Arkansas Specific Additions and Upgrades:

Created all-new official Arkansas Razorbacks "Gameday" application for football, men's basketball, women's basketball and baseball. With FREE LIVE AUDIO via RSN: Razorback Sports Network, interactive social media, interactive stadium maps, fan guides and all the scores and stats surrounding the game, the Arkansas Razorbacks Gameday application if your digital Gameday guide so you can focus on "Calling the Hogs!" Hired external management group to oversee all event staff (security, ticket takers, ushers and parking attendants). Focus on consistent level/quality of customer service when hosting patrons to our campus.Beginning a Game-Day Ambassador Program to enhance game-day experience for fans by answering questions, providing direction to patrons, at shuttle stops, shuttles and in and around stadium as numbers permit.Addition of a new payment plan options for Football Season Tickets, allowing fans the option to have a more convenient access to Razorback Football Game Days at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback StadiumAddition of a Young Alumni program, which welcomes back recent graduates from the University of Arkansas with the opportunity to join the Razorback Foundation and purchase football season tickets at a reduced rate TUSK, the Spirit Squads, and the Razorback Marching Band will begin their parade into Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium after the teams have left the field > Each group will have a special spirit video which celebrates their place in the Tradition of an Arkansas Game dayThe all new #HogHelp Team will be in place four (4) hours prior to each home & away football game to provide instant responses to Fans via social media outlets on Twitter & Facebook. If you have a question about anything Razorback, we will go to the source and solve your problem ASAP!Spirit Squad members to visit fans in seats during the game, based on Twitter interaction request: #HogSpiritVisitAddition of Tagboard to the game day production, which will highlight live collections of social media comments and photos from fans on the HD video board.