College teams add even more pomp to their fans

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – University basketball teams are trying to convince fans to continue attending games in the era of smartphones by making these phones an integral part of the experience.

This is seen every time cell phones in the stands illuminate arenas across the country during the introduction of the pre-game list.

More than 20 schools subscribe to a service allowing fans to turn on their phone in sync with the music broadcast during the pre-game festivities. The program, organized by a company called Cue Audio, adds sequins to the introductions of alignment in various arenas from Oregon to Georgia.

"The light show is pretty cool," said Admiral Schofield, Tennessee goaltender. "Especially when we have exhausted the matches, I think for the opposing team, you really see how many people are in the building, right next to the cell phones, which gives the game a different intensity."

The success of the Cue Audio project demonstrates the variety of ways that colleges are trying to ensure fans continue to watch games when HDTV tries to stay at home.

Attendance at the Football Bowl Division has decreased each season from 2014 to 2017 (figures for 2018 have not yet been released). The same concerns exist in basketball.

Last year, the average number of spectators at a Division I basketball game was 4,807, a slight increase from the total of 4,799 in 2017. Attendance increased 4.9% at the Conference South East and 3.6% in the East, but fell by 5.2% at the Pac-12 Conference and by 4.3% at the Atlantic Coast Conference, while remaining stable in the conferences. Big Ten and Big 12.

"One of the current challenges in getting fans to buy tickets and use them is to try to create moments that you can not necessarily stay at home from your couch or wherever you look at phone, "Virginia Tech's assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions Lauren Belisle said. "All we can do for fans to feel, when they are in the building, is having an impact on the game, and some of the experience is so important to us."

Arizona State added a disc jockey. North Carolina has installed four new video cards at a cost of just over $ 5 million. Nebraska has a contest in which a blindfolded student kneels down to look for a pile of money on the ground.

North Carolina Assistant Sports Marketing Director, Michael Beale, said the goal was to get spectators to discover something that they could not see as easily on TV.

"What we are doing now, we do not broadcast the video of our team's entry on social networks, for people to see it," Beale said. "If you want to see the video entry, you must be at the Smith Center."

And it is these pre-game entries that illustrate the steps taken to get fans to their places as soon as possible.

Cue Audio co-founder Ira Akers says the company's idea of ​​bridging arenas with mobile phones began with a minor hockey team in Nebraska. They finally started selling it to colleges.

Akers declined to offer pricing information, but Tennessee's associate director of sports, Jimmy Delaney, said the school had secured a season pass for his men's and women's basketball programs at a cost of nearly $ 15,000. Tennessee, like most schools, has found a sponsor to offset some or all of the costs.

Delaney said Tennessee officials were looking for ways to improve their pre-game experience by seeing how the spectators of a Taylor Swift concert had bracelets lit up in tune with the music. They searched online for other ideas and discovered what other schools were doing with the Cue Audio service.

"The bracelets are really cool, but we should distribute them and get them back, and all that," said Delaney. "What is the best way? Mobile phones."

North Carolina, Marquette, Purdue, Nebraska and Wisconsin were the first users of the program. Tennessee has arrived on board with many other schools this year as the number of colleges subscribing to the service has almost doubled.

This has raised concerns as to whether the novelty of these pre-match light shows will disappear. Among the only Big Ten, Cue Audio's subscribers include the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Purdue.

"That 's, in my opinion, a little lost its" wow factor "because so many people are using it now," said Michaela Patt, content director, strategy and director of the company. innovation at Purdue.

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Many schools have also taken advantage of other services offered by Cue Audio. This includes participating in half-time basketball quizzes or having fans take selfies that appear on the video board.

"It's about catching the fans' attention and keeping them engaged in the game when what's waiting for them does not happen," Beale said.

Other teams have discovered more organic ways to attract fans.

Tennessee players added flair at the end of their pre-game warm-up this season by ringing a player as their teammates jumped in unison, a stuntman dubbed "One Fly, We All Fly ".

After slow-motion versions of this stunt started circulating on social media, the stunt became viral with many high school and college teams and even the NBA's Miami Heat trying out their own versions.

Tennessee has won 25 consecutive home games and its average participation rate of 18,945 is up 16.9% over last season and 38.9% from 2016-17. Delaney tells fans to send an email and call before each game to ask them when they have to arrive to see the pre-game dunk.

"No doubt," said Tennessee striker Grant Williams after a recent win over Vanderbilt. "I saw it tonight, I said to myself," Wow, there are a lot of people here, "when we first came in … And I think that's Was about an hour and a half before the match. "

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Aaron Beard, John Marshall and Eric Olson, AP's sports editors, contributed to this report.

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