The Syracuse Orange defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday 30-17. It was pretty much exactly the kind of game you want to see in person: Big plays on offense and defense, a close game that ends with the good guys running away in the final minutes, and your favorite team honoring a past legend to make you feel all nostalgic. Apparently, that's not what a lot of football fans in Syracuse want to see.
Attendance announced at 26,670.— Syracuse Football (@syrfootball) September 12, 2015
I'm not going to go into how our attendance stinks. We as a TNIAAM community have done that ad nauseam. We've also gone into how much our marketing department... leaves to be desired. I'm done bashing these groups. Saturday just proved that even in our rather loud, passionate community, nothing will be changed by this alone.
So I'm going to offer some solutions. These are non-trademarked, I want no credit for them. Go ahead and steal these ideas for your own potential solutions to bringing the hype/fans to the Carrier Dome.
- Give away tickets in the upper levels to schools in the area. The Dome has a pretty good idea of how many tickets will be sold for each game about a month out. Yes, the team winning will move extra tickets, but as we saw this week, not enough to really fill in the Dome. We know that winning will attract the SU students, but let's go bigger here. We already have really good deals for veterans and families, it's time to create fans at a young level to keep their interest. Blocking off four or five sections in the upper levels with kids and their families will add noise, energy and butts in seats in areas that would just be empty otherwise. Make a few bucks off a hot dog, impulse t-shirt or soda purchase, but the real value is a young fan seeing the Dome for potentially the first time with their friends and creating lasting memories. Studies (ones I've used in classes but are currently behind paywalls) show that when a kid sees their first sports game before the age of 10, they're almost 200% more likely to make future ticket/merchandise purchases for that team through adulthood. It's not exactly rocket science, but hey, it's not just an theory either.
- LISTEN TO YOUR DIEHARD FANS. I can't believe I'm writing this, but Syracuse hasn't done this with the football fans a whole lot. Those 26K fans in the Dome on Saturday? Those are your die hards. They're obviously tied to the program, will stand with you through the losses and have a pretty damn good sense of the community that actively spends its time and money. Simply saying "Oh, they'll come anyways," is the opposite approach. Try to win them over. When they want orange jerseys or orange shirts with the 44 logo on it, those aren't one-off promotions, those are items that will sell out. Likewise, if they have ideas on how to create a better game day atmosphere...listen. It take humility and effort to execute this, but programs and organizations that do this tend to yield tremendous results.
- Spread out the "Game Events." Every year, Syracuse does some kind of #OrangeOut. Every year, we don't really know about it until a week beforehand. Every year, there's some kind of honoring ceremony. Usually, we don't know about until shortly beforehand. You know what they do every season? Make a schedule football poster. Let us know ahead of time what the events are going be! It's not exactly going to lead directly to butts in seats, but sending out posters to alumni/fans and seeing a game honoring Coach Mac ahead of time can lead to planning. A football game shouldn't just be "a game." It should be an event. Promotions, more often than not, lead to an uptick in attendance. But fans need to be aware of the promotion and feel like it's a worthwhile one. Event mindsets can do that.
I'm not doing this for clicks. I'm doing this because slightly-inebriated-me was audibly upset sitting a bar in Brooklyn when I saw that attendance tweet above. I love Syracuse football. The top ten moments I have in the Carrier Dome are mostly football-related memories. We have a passionate fan base who wants this team to be great. We know what can happen when we have a full Dome and the team knows they have support from the community. I just want to see it happen again.
So what do you guys think? Have more ideas? Add them in the comments and feel free to pass this post off to anyone you know with a say at Syracuse.