CollegeWe’re all familiar with the “standard” game day promotions – “White Outs”, giveaways, t-shirt tosses, on-court contests, etc. – employed by most college athletic departments to generate excitement at their teams’ basketball games. However, some teams are going above and beyond to elevate excitement levels in their arenas while simultaneously generating far-reaching buzz outside of their campus gates. Here’s what they’re doing, and our take on why it works.

Temple University

Ranked 6th all time in NCAA wins*, Temple’s basketball program has a rich history.  They’ve also enjoyed recent success on the court: over the past five years, they’ve captured 3 Atlantic 10 Conference Championships.

You may think this would make fans complacent; however, over the past few years, Temple’s student fan club, the Cherry Crusade, has been responsible for taking the gameday experience to a whole new level. One of their best new traditions is the “I Believe” chat, featured in this video clip from this year’s February 11th game vs. Xavier University. The “I Believe” chant explodes from the stands during the last few seconds of any home game that looks like it will end in a victory.  It’s fun, invigorating, and unique to Temple, and stands out more than a typical “Get Loud” video board plea.

John Brown University

Another school that takes tradition to a new level is John Brown University. Every season, when the basketball team sinks its first field goal at its home opener, the fans respond by blanketing the court with toilet paper as part of JBU’s annual “TP Toss”. Roughly 500 rolls of TP take flight in a tradition that dates back over 30 years.  To the university, surrendering a penalty pair of free throws as punishment for the interruption is well worth the energy and excitement the players feel from the crowd, and the anticipation the tradition fosters among fans.

Boise State University

For their part, Boise State made a huge splash on the internet with their student section flash mob performance that occurred during their men’s team’s game against UNLV on February 25th, 2012. Students wearing matching orange shirts and blue headwear performed two choreographed dances that took everyone in attendance by surprise. This performance served as a great way for the Athletic Department to generate national buzz, and energized and engaged the Boise State student and alumni communities.

The above examples emphasize the point that fans don’t just come to college basketball games because they love basketball; rather, the overall experience also plays a major role. Dynamic, fun traditions and activities like those detailed above energize fans, way more than catching a free XL t-shirt tossed into the crowd might. As an added bonus, they unify attendees, create a sense of belonging, and – in some cases – attract national attention.

The moral of this story? Athletic Departments should start thinking outside the box. Who knows? Maybe what you come up with could end up evolving into a decades-long tradition.

*As of the conclusion of the 2010-11 season; source: Wikipedia.