The month of March is one of my favorite times of the year – March Madness is in full swing and college basketball is the talk of the town. There always seems to be one team that captivates the hearts of Americans (as long as their team is no longer in the tournament) and this year, that team was the University of Dayton, by a landslide. Gooooo Dayton Flyers! D-A-Y-T-O-N! Dayton Flyers! Go UD!
Despite being one of the last four teams in to the tournament according to Joe Lunardi, Dayton made it to their first Elite 8 in 30 years. As a result, TV spots and internet posts like 11 Reasons The Dayton Flyers Should be America’s Favorite Cinderella Team have popped everywhere you look. Even newspapers got into the action – a recent headline from the Dayton Daily News, “THE University of Dayton” (a nod to the team beating Ohio State in the first game of the tournament), got national attention, as did Dayton students who, in keeping with tradition, continued to get creative with their porch signs made from bed sheets.
Before I continue, I should mention that I am a proud graduate of the University of Dayton and am sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate on campus, but celebrating from afar is still great fun. It’s been great seeing my Facebook and Twitter accounts blown up with UD love and various articles about the university. One of the best posts I saw was a video of Dr. Dan Curran, Dayton’s President, crowd-surfing down one of the popular streets in Dayton’s student neighborhood. What a great sight! The highest ranking official at the university, joining in on the fun and brining himself down (or in this case, up) to the students’ level! Dr. Curran got totally wrapped up in the moment, which is something I’m sure no one ever thought they’d see from a president of a university.
Now, you are probably wondering where this post is going. When I recall Dr. Curran’s crowd-surfing, I cannot help but think how more teams and brands should get in on the action. What Dr. Curran did was make himself a bit more student-like and, in turn, I’m sure students’ perceptions of Dr. Curran are now through the roof.
While not every GM, coach, front office, player, etc. needs to go crowd-surfing in a sea of fans to achieve the same goal, I do think coming down to the “fan level” can go a long way. Posting photos or videos on social media platforms of a player cheering for another local team or a team’s owner sitting in the Upper Deck with fans eating popcorn are small ways to create this connection. The list can go on and on, but the key is – make your fans feel like your organization is on their level – the benefits can go a long way in improving fan perceptions.