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COVID-19: Time for a Timeout?

Should you call a timeout for COVID-19. Make it a short one.

Make it a 20-Second

Things are crazy. The clock is ticking, no one knows quite what to do, and it feels like the situation could devolve into a full panic … and we wish we were talking about sports.

Through the last couple of weeks as tournaments, leagues and entire seasons shut down, the sports world had a surreal feeling. There were flurries of activity, constantly changing plans, and a desperate desire not to get it wrong. Quitting is an abomination in sports, but addressing COVID-19 isn’t a sport. 

That part is done and the world agrees everyone did their part to get it right. But the situation isn’t over. In this new and hopefully temporary reality, what do you do now? The answer is to take a deep breath, and then do whatever you can to engage and interact with your fans and community. More than almost any other demographic, sports fans are left with a gaping void. Here are some ways that you can fill that need and continue to connect until competitions resume again.

 

1. Give your Fans What They Want - Highlight Reels and Game Classics

Your fans are missing sports. Instead of turning to marble racing, why not stream some of the classics? Put together a highlight reel or poll your fans and stream their favorite games. Use this as an opportunity to educate and build a younger fanbase as well, like this mom when she taught her kids a valuable lesson; “This is why we never cheer for Duke." 

  

2. Leverage Video of your ADs, Coaches, and Athletes to Encourage Social Distancing and other Public Service Messages.

The sports community wants to help, and the fans want to be reassured. Using video or your blog, encourage your coaches and student-athletes to record or write messages to the students and fans. This is an opportunity for your sports leaders to promote social distancing, communicate important messages from the school, and share advice and health tips for mental health during this tumultuous time.

 

Consistent messages from leaders during COVID-19 are critical, like this message from Ohio State football coach, Ryan Day.

 

3. Create the Content You Haven’t Had Time For: Like Infographics Highlighting the Stats and Successes of Your Student-Athletes

Like those neglected home improvements, many of us are using this time to tackle those projects we’ve put off because of competing priorities. This is a great time to catch up on the content you wanted to build during those busy seasons. In an effort to engage with your fans and student-athletes, consider easily shareable and visually engaging social content. Infographics containing stats and highlights for each of your athletes is perfect for channels like Instagram and Twitter.

 

4. Develop Profiles of your Incoming Student-Athletes

Coming off the excitement of signing day, use this time to begin promoting the 2020-2021 sports season. Use your website and social media channels to profile your incoming freshman athletes. Highlight their high school stats and their expected impact in the coming season. Conduct interviews with them to capture what they’re most excited about and why they chose your program.

 

5. Activate Your Alumni for Stories Your Fans Will Love

Don’t limit your content to the 2019-2020 season or only those eligible athletes. Tap into your student-athlete alumni community. Reach out to your alum athletes and have them record ‘where are they now’ videos or podcasts, or ask them to recount their favorite memories and sports moments.

 

6. Activate Your Alumni for Stories Your Fans Will Love

Along with cheering on their favorite teams, fans are missing the camaraderie that’s felt during the sports season. But the cancellation of the season doesn’t have to mean the cancellation of community engagement. Coordinate hangouts with your fans, coaches, and student-athletes. Provide your fan community the opportunity to ask questions and engage in real-time.

 

7. Develop a Virtual Scavenger Hunt to Encourage Engagement and Interaction

Scavenger hunts always involve, well, scavenging. But it doesn’t have to be conducted through a physical realm; you can go digital. Think of your school’s athletic webpages and social media accounts as the locations that participants have to search through. Incorporate cryptic clues, graphics with double-meanings, and embedded games or videos to lead fans on a wild internet chase. Instruct students to take screenshots or find clues within web pages, rather than taking photos or collecting physical items.

 

8. Pump Up Excitement and Rivalries by Showcasing Off-site Individual Workouts and Training 

You can't keep dedicated athletes from playing and working out even when they’re hurt, as any coach or trainer will attest. Preventing them from working out because of a quarantine is next to impossible. Competitive athletes are not going to fall behind, they’re going to use this time to their advantage. Reach out to coaches and captains to see how they’re using their time now to prep for their prime-time matchups. Or, share your workouts for your fans to try

 

Extra Note: Don’t Forget The Ones that Love You – Your Sponsors

Now is not the time for a sales pitch, but make sure that your sponsors and backers know how much you appreciate them. No one in the industry expected this and they certainly had very different expectations of what their involvement would look like. Find creative ways to recognize them and involve them with your programs now. 

 

Go Engage your Fans!

This will pass, maybe and almost certainly, not to exactly what it was before. But as every coach will ever tell you, the right thing to do is never “nothing.” We need to keep moving. Or as interim Hickory Coach, Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch said, “don’t get caught watching the paint dry.” 

 If you have found a creative way to engage your fans during these times, share and tag us on our social channels, or send them via email to mcox@clubessential.com.