December 23, 2008

Interactive texting tested at Saluki games

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- “R u a Saluki fan?” If that message makes sense to you, and the answer is “yes,” you’ll be interested in a new interactive, mobile text message advertising campaign recently tested for the athletics department at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Created by master of business administration students in conjunction with the athletics department, the campaign debuted at the Nov. 1 Saluki football game. Fans enjoyed it at the final three football home games and at the first three men’s home basketball games this season.

Could text-messaging merge with athletic competitions to create something special for Saluki fans? Mark Gazdik, assistant athletic director for marketing, and Suzanne Nasco, associate marketing professor in the College of Business, thought so. And, indications are that they were right. The goal of this campaign is to increase interactivity during the sporting events and help people become more receptive to text messaging as a means of communicating with SIUC athletics.

“The College of Business and Saluki Athletics have a great working relationship. Last year, my MBA class created a full promotional plan for Saluki Athletics and this year, a group of MBA students implemented a mobile marketing campaign for the Salukis,” Nasco said.

There were two facets to the mobile campaign. The first was a Dawg Pound alert system that sent messages to nearly 1,000 SIUC Dawg Pound students two hours prior to the games, encouraging them to attend. The second part of the campaign actually engaged fans at the games in one way or another, Nasco said. Text messaging was used to select participants for the Alumni Association’s halftime punt, pass and kick competition. All fans attending the basketball games could vote for the “Fan Player of the Game” and hear the winner announced by Mike Reis on the radio. Students distributed fliers with information about texting in.

“By the end of the campaign, we had over 100 fans text in their vote for MVP,” Nasco said. “ In fact, after the promotions were over, fans have continued to text in their MVPs at the home basketball games. Clearly Saluki fans want this two-way dialogue with Saluki Athletics. It is a fun, interactive way to use technology to broaden the fans’ experiences.”

Nasco said typically, mobile campaigns at pro and college venues have employed the “push” strategy where messages go out to subscribers. But, SIUC tested an interactive method that networks participants and the athletics department.

“The test run was very successful,” Gazdik said. He said the response was so positive, the athletics department is now working on plans for a more permanent presence of the fan texting at the Saluki games. He’s hopeful it will reappear in early 2009.

The following students participated in the promotional campaign: Ciji Taylor, Fairfield; Johannah Yutzy, Plain City, Ohio; Ivan Sanchez, Mexico City, Mexico; and Yeo Sim Yoon, Seoul, South Korea.