Spring is upon us, and in a typical non-pandemic year, the thing I would be looking forward to the most is the NC State spring football game. Sorry to my youngest son, whose birthday is in the spring, but the Spring Game is the best event of the year, and NC State should go all-in on making it a huge event.
When I say "huge event," I'm not even talking about the game per se but all of the extra things that go on around it. A combo of Meet the Pack Day + Spring Game with bands, BBQ competitions, inflatables, beer trucks, food trucks, kid-friendly activities, and oh yeah, a football practice. Go all out. No tailgate restrictions, events and activities for all ages, make it a big spectacle.
Note: To be fair, they were planning on some of this last year before it was canceled because of the 'Rona.
It's no secret that NC State needs to market itself better, and the spring game is an excellent opportunity to do so. It is an opportunity to build future generations of fans. And an opportunity to imprint NC State as THE place to be in the minds of young people.
It's about the kids.
My kids were going to be NC State fans; it was just inevitable. They see me wearing Wolfpack gear or watching Wolfpack games, and it becomes a natural thing to pull for NC State. But there are thousands of casual NC State fans that don't have the same level of passion. They like the Pack but aren't engaged enough to grow the fanbase even in their own families.
I've gone to the Spring Game for countless years in-a-row and have brought my kids every chance I can, but I also bring casual fans and their kids, and good times are always had. Some years there are events and things for the kids to enjoy, and some years we make our own fun, but these are lasting memories that make fans for life.
As any parent of young kids could attest to, we're always looking for things to do to entertain them and keep them occupied. The amount of parents who would bring their families to an NC State event even as non-NC State fans would be staggering.
Impact of a Growing City
Raleigh and Wake County are growing at a record pace and as of the 2019 census Wake County is the most populous county in North Carolina.
This population explosion is an opportunity to create new fans. We all know the drill; new people move to the area and inevitably look for a team to root for. Your neighbor might be a State fan, a Wake fan, a Duke fan, or worse, a Carolina fan, and you need to figure out which team you're going to adopt as your own.
NC State needs to harness the audience and create new fans. It is an opportunity to grow your fanbase outside of the alumni and generate new revenue. You'll sell more tickets, sell more merch, get more Youtube views, more eyeballs watching the games on TV, and again generate more revenue to make your sports teams more competitive. These are all the things that make the brand more valuable.
But coaches don't like spring games.
I know, most coaches don't like spring games, and when I heard rumors that NC State wanted to de-emphasize, I was crushed. Coaches often complain that spring games are a lost practice or give scouting opportunities to their rivals. But I'd argue that the value gained from a significant event that the community rallies behind provides infinitely more upside to the program and more excitement to the brand and the fans.
NC State needs to stand out from the crowd. They need fresh and exciting marketing on and off the field and a big spring game event is part of a much needed marketing overhaul.
Bring the game-day experience in the spring.
NC State has made strides over the years to improve the game-day experience and make it more family-friendly, they need to continue this into the spring. Embrace the growing community and make the Spring Game a can't miss event for hard core fans, casual fans, non-fans and everyone in between.
Faces would be painted, wolf tattoos pasted on hands, and you'd have legions of families with fond memories of Mr. and Mrs. Wuf would be created.
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