Thursday, December 22, 2011

West Coast Conference, YouTube team up to innovate

The typical college basketball media day looks like this: A press conference with coaches from each school and a few players.

I’ve sat through quite a few of these and believe me, they aren’t fun.
On October 27, 2011, the West Coast Conference (WCC) took the traditional media day and turned it upside down.
By teaming with YouTube, they engaged their fans in the men’s basketball tip-off event. A new focus…the fans…and they definitely made an impact.
For driving their message directly to the fans through social media, and raising the bar in creativity in the digital space, the WCC has earned the distinction of being the first social media innovation post on this blog.
During this cool event, the WCC engaged their fans in different sessions:
·         A live 10-minute video interview, with each basketball coach answering questions posted by fans on Twitter and Facebook (conducted by Barry Tompkins)

·         A live blog chat with coaches answering questions from fans

·         A live five-minute interview with each basketball coach previewing the season (conducted by Jeff Lampe, host of the WCC Live Internet talk show)

·         A roundtable conversation with three coaches on various topics (these chats will be shown on a future episode on The Road to Las Vegas during the season)
In addition, the media had one-on-one interviews with the coaches.
Highlights from the day can be seen here  
And for those of you wondering, here is the current roster of schools in the WCC: BYU, Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Portland, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Clara.
Recently, I spent a few minutes with Jeff Tourial, director of communications & new media at the WCC, who managed the basketball tip-off event.
PJ: How did you come up with the idea to change media day?
Jeff: We had not done a media day in several years. We meet annually with the coaches in April and they said they were interested in doing a media day to promote the season. We thought about what we could do to be innovative and get the most bang for the buck. What could we do to be different and have impact?
We decided to take the focus away from the media and put it on the fans. Let the fans ask questions through Facebook and Twitter.
PJ: How did YouTube get involved?
Jeff: YouTube’s headquarters is a two minute walk from our offices. We were talking to them about productions and them getting into college sports—getting into the live events. However, they need to get the rights and most of those are locked up in long-term deals. Our men’s basketball contract with ESPN is for eight years. The other sports we own and had talked about showing a soccer, baseball, or softball game each week…and, about hosting an event at YouTube.
PJ: How did you promote the tip-off event?
Jeff: This is interesting, as we didn’t have an agreement with YouTube until the week before. It might have fallen through. A lot was up in the air and we couldn’t say anything publicly until the Monday before [the event was on Thursday]. We had a few tweets…coming soon. But, we had to be careful not to overplay our hand as the deal wasn’t worked out yet. If we did this again, we’d do better promoting because we’d have more time.
PJ: Were you worried that you wouldn’t get fans to post enough questions in just a few days of knowing about the event?
Jeff: We weren’t worried. With Barry Tompkins hosting we didn’t even think…is this going to work? Barry is a pro and he could’ve done 10 minutes without questions. And, with so many our schools having such a passionate fan base, we knew we’d get a response. How often do you get to ask your coach a question? Turns out, we had so many questions we didn’t get to, because we didn’t have time.
PJ: What’s next with YouTube?
Jeff: Two days after the event, we streamed the cross-country championships on YouTube. 6,600 people watched LIVE! Technology in the field at cross-country event—to pull this off is impressive. It was neat and we got great feedback.
We will have live coverage at and around the men’s and women’s basketball championships in March. We will also cover tennis, golf, and rowing. The men’s basketball championship in Las Vegas will be Wednesday through Monday, and Sunday they don’t play. What can we do on Sunday to make an impact? Maybe something around practices—a modified media day with the team captain and coach, get involved with the fans and have them ask questions the day before the championship.
PJ: Did the tip-off event reach your expectations?
Jeff: Absolutely! We are ecstatic about how things turned out and the fan interaction. A few coaches raved and Tweeted on how innovative and different we are from other conferences. It’s a good feeling. In the future, this will be more normal. Anyone who has a smartphone can be involved.
It’s fun to be in front of the wave.
For more on WCC, check out their website