The last time College GameDay visited Eugene was last season in October when the No. 9 Ducks took down No. 18 Arizona State by a score of 41-27. It was Chris Fowler and company’s first time airing from the actual University of Oregon campus as opposed to its previous setup next to Autzen Stadium. Airing the show on campus allows for the school to show off the the handsome Lillis Business Complex, the poster child for the environmentally- friendly University of Oregon. Lillis has a massive sticker of the “Oregon O” on the main windows facing memorial quad, perfectly aligning with the GameDay set.
The full name of the setup is actually called ESPN College GameDay Built by The Home Depot. Wait, does “Built by The Home Depot” actually mean that home improvement retailer comes out to every GameDay set? No, but they did just succeed in getting a few folks to think about how Home Depot might have the necessary supplies to start the home improvement project they’ve been thinking about. There might be a few of Home Depot employees that tag along with ESPN to each of the college campuses, but it’s mostly ESPN employees that do a lot of the dirty work. I’m not sure about how other schools do it, but I know that the rest of the dirty work of setting up and breaking down is done by a select few of student volunteers.
I was one of the student volunteers that was able to snag the gig last year. I, along with about 8 other students, managed to roll out of bed at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning to help with the final touches of the GameDay set. We had done a lot of our work the previous afternoon, but since filming began at 6 a.m. on Saturday, the early arrival was necessary. I loved every second of it, to say the least. We did everything from making signs for fans that had been camping out for the past 4 hours to using zip ties to secure Home Depot signs on to every metal fence barricade. Even if Home Depot employees didn’t actually do any of the heavy lifting, the company surely supplied a lot of material with its name plastered on it. Even the oversized bright orange t shirt that swallowed by body sported the Home Depot logo.
What I’m getting at is how ESPN is able to lay a foundation for the continued growth of various brands, such as Home Depot. College GameDay, specifically, focuses on engagement because viewership is what ESPN can pride itself on. People tune in to hear and to be heard. The close-up viewing of a nationally broadcasted show is public relations at its finest. Even volunteers that have to behave themselves at a time where you’re encouraged to do the exact opposite also create an emotional connection with the brands. The broadcasters are creating an emotional bond with fans that are standing 10 feet away. The influence these broadcasters have on today’s sporting culture is unmatched, and its because of their stellar PR efforts through the GameDay experience.
Emotional connections are created between fans and sports reporters everyday, but are taken to a new level when ESPN’s College GameDay visits a fans favorite school. The insights from broadcasters that (basically) study college football for a living are communicated via their airtime on ESPN GameDay and fans are interested in what they have to say. When Kirk Herbstreit, for example, shares insight about the football team at “XYZ” University, it thus increases the visibility of the program. This increased visibility is not only great for players, but the entire academic institution. The GameDay setup on campus featuring Oregon’s “O” on Lillis is virtually equivalent to the Samsung logo on the jerseys of Chelsea F.C.– you notice it every once in awhile, but you’re more likely paying attention to the event itself. The same goes for Home Depot. When the viewer turns off the TV, the repetition of seeing the “O” and hearing the words “Home Depot” will stick with the viewer. It’s simple marketing and a public relations tactic that gets people talking about and noticing the respective organizations. The hype and excitement that the nationally broadcasted program brings with it serves as fuel to the fire for passionate fans. These organizations are then instantly involved in the swirling passion and emotional connections created from the efforts of all stakeholders involved.
College GameDay is one of ESPN’s best PR tactics, and its a beautiful thing.
As part of ESPN’s promotion for College GameDay, the energetic country-rock track of Big & Rich performs “Comin’ To Your City” to help kick off the college football season. It’s one of my favorite things about College GameDay. I’ll leave you with the video of it here.