There is no single sporting event in the world that can create heroes than the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The “One Shining Moment” that CBS and now Turner brings fans is unlike anything else in sport, a chance for a few days for the little guy to take on the big guy and throw him to the ground. Forgetting the fact that in the long run the larger, better funded universities always seem to win out in the end, that chance to see lightning caught in a bottle is what helps make March madness as a brand the great cash cow for the NCAA and all its partners.
So after the luster dies away for the giant killers, what happens. Some like Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington find ways to keep things going with a national schedule and the advantage of being a big ship in a small sea. Some, like St. Joseph's University in Philly, ride the ups and downs of bigtime success and hope to muster enough magic to return to prominence like that that was seen only a few years ago. Still others find ways t. still maximize their run and use it to engage new audiences in unique ways. Take George Mason Universit. and the road they have taken.
Mason, playing in the shadow of a major market (Washington, DC) with major professional and college competition, captured the nation with their Final Four run. Still, without the big time budget draw of major college football (no college football as a matter of fact) and the pluses and minuses of playing in a Mid-Major Conference, had to find a balance of staying relevant and addressing the cost efficient and effective needs of their followers. Despite getting solid television exposure, the Patriots struggled to find a consistent commercial radio home and were often bounced from station to station at both a financial and a branding cost. Without a consistent home, brands, fans and alumni had trouble locating the Patriots on the air, bringing into question if the outlay was worth the time, literally. yes they could stream their broadcasts online, but would the perception of not being “on air. make the Patriots seem less than relevant in a crowded marke.
To answer that question, GMU came up with an interesting compromise, one which gave them a consistent voice, more opportunity to have that voice heard, and a unique trail for the college marketplace. The University launched GoMason Mobile, . free smartphone application, created by industry leade. XCO SportsLink, t. broadcas. all Patriots men's basketball games and all women's home basketball games, along with pre-game and post-game shows. Additionally, the app offers exclusive content from Mason Athletics including interactive social media tools, information on all your favorite Mason teams, team information, rosters, live stats, and schedules. It is available for download from the iTunes Store, Android Marketplace, and BlackBerry App World. It is a new compliment to the streaming of the broadcasts online as well as the essential television component which still gets GMU its largest audience.
What the app does is give Mason the ability to speak to a growing audience interested in the games in a format which is becoming more and more consumer friendly, especially for first adopters. It can be promoted across all platforms that touch the fan, and gives the Patriots a little more buzz in the marketplace. If the school did not have ample TV presence would it make less sens. Yes. Going app or stream only for broadcasts is still a major risk in exposure, especially in a casual marketplace. However by communicating properly and well in advance to its constituents, the Patriots have created an interesting balance of test in the marketplace. They are providing a consistent place where fans know they can get games, albeit not on the traditional airwaves. The traditional had abandoned them in the marketplace and at great expense, and it is probably close to reality that if they couldn’t be found on a station, the casual fan wasn’t listening anyway. Now they have the chance to speak and draw similar numbers consistently and with greatly added content to tell their stories. Is it a perfect situatio. No. Is it an intriguing trial balloon that may be copied by other. Yes.
In times when all Universities are looking for the right way to find their voice, Mason has made a statement. maybe like their NCAA run this will also open new doors and set a standard of excellence and innovation that can sustain muc longer than one Cinderella run to the Final Four. Time will tell.