“My wife and I went to the Notre Dame vs. USC game in 2009. The thing that impressed me the most about the whole experience was the fact that there was NO Gig’tron type artificial hype in the entire stadium. Notre dame’s football stadium is a shrine for the football purist” ~ Keith, Texas A&M graduate.
That was the most poignant post in a long thread about the abomination that Texas A&M put in that has reduced their 12th man to the 11.25th man. To be clear, fans hate it because it replaces genuine fan participation and experience with an artificial one.
For an excellent take on Notre Dame’s unique place in college football and decisions, see CJC’s The case for one subjective preference over another (long)
Or listen to a Tennessee fan,
“There is something I am encountering every time I walk into Neyland Stadium these days, and it may just make me give up football and head for the nearest golf course It’s called . . . the Jumbotron. First, it converts the thrill and pageantry of a college football game into drive-in movie theater. After every play, 100,000 fans at Neyland face south and watch the instant replay on the Jumbotron. The second problem I have with the Jumbotron is that during time outs you have to turn your attention to the Jumbotron to watch a race between hot dogs”
Or a Texas fan,
“I don’t hate the advertising as much as I hate the noise, it detracts from the gameday experience.”
What’s clearly evident to the rest of the college football world, Notre Dame seems either purposefully or calculatingly deaf and blind to. They do seem determined to make sure you’re not deaf or blind to advertisements and promotional videos in the future.
Most know that I think Jack Swarbrick has done a heck of job bringing changes to the program, from the training table to medical staff, the program is finally a program. That written, the recent Swarbrick comments somehow implying Rockne would want a jumbotron are absurd. Nothing in Rockne’s past implies that he would want something to interrupt the authentic experience of the game. And to be clear, what Rockne was great at was recognizing uniqueness and using it to his advantage, he was not about aspirational mediocrity.
Rockne was a salesman for sure, but he sold Notre Dame’s disadvantages in a way that inspired people to do better. Rockne used innovation to turn disadvantages into advantages (like barnstorming). It’s not of little note that Rockne had to try new things in his era as he was building the audience back then, he was not acting as the steward of the shrine of college football created 90 years earlier by Rockne himself as Swarbrick is. Swarbrick’s mission is to “First Do No Harm.”
Here’s where this whole argument that “Notre Dame needs to get with the times” falls apart. Notre Dame could get rid of the scoreboards and announcer and would still pack the stadium for a winning team. So let’s kill this canard that Notre Dame has to stay “current”… it has to stay true to the experience, which at Notre Dame is more intimate than at any school in the country. Rockne would sell that, not trade that.
Recruiting? We just hauled in what is arguably a top 5 recruiting class in the country. A jumbotron would just be a sell out for dollars under the guise of “modernization”. And to degrade the one unique experience in college football to be like everyone else would constitute both stupidity from a branding perspective and a long-term dollar mistake. Ultimately more dollars will be made from keeping the brand unique than could ever be made by pummeling fans, already inundated by video and audio in every part of their lives, with more overkill at Notre Dame stadium.
In a world full of manufactured experiences, what people crave now is an authentic and intimate experience. The mistake would be to try to be like everyone else and kill the one unique experience left in college football . I’ve met many great people by turning and talking to my neighbors in the seat next to me about plays rather than having us all mindlessly cheering and yelling for Jumbotron replays. It’s not the mission of Notre Dame to fill in any open mental spots with video stimulus. Chatting with your neighbors is far more valuable in allowing people to connect (and far more likely to make them want to come back.) The real question that Notre Dame has to answer is, “how is the Notre Dame experience unique and how can we keep it to that it endures as a symbol that stands out rather than become a trend chasing follower ?” And make no mistake the new designs for Notre Dame stadium will serve up jumbotrons in the experience. And that would be mistake.
Jumbotrons are an assault on the senses that detract from the experience. The argument that “Rockne would do it” is an insult to the intelligence of the community.
Here’s how to clear out the noise around the issue. As I wrote in 2007:
Much of the debate over Jumbotrons and other ideas that could kill the Golden Goose of the Notre Dame brand could be answered very simply by defining exactly what the mission of the Notre Dame experience was, is and should be. From this all options should flow.
This whole notion of “everything being on the table” shows a complete lack of understanding of the special place that Notre Dame is. Most companies would kill for the unique branding that ND owns in the world of college football. In fact, attaining Notre Dame’s level of uniqueness is the hardest branding issue that exists and Notre Dame owns it almost by default. Yet, if you listen to some, Notre Dame needs to “get with the times”, “keep up with the competition” and “keep all options open.”
Here’s where emphasizing tradition and experience pays off in both the revenue and branding: Once you commit to this thought process, it raises your level of thinking and creates more and unique options. If one only looks at the landscape that is revenue generation based on current methods, then you, by default, will be picking an option that dilutes the brand. If you focus on enhancing the game day experience, there are a myriad of corporate opportunities that will flow from taking this approach that will ultimately have greater value as a marketing channel for corporations and build the brand that will create still greater value. Building the brand yields greater and unique options for marketing. Having unique options allows you to enhance the brand. Enhancing the brand…
ND needs to think outside of the toilet bowl. Many companies are forced into bad choices by the market or private equity pressure. Notre Dame doesn’t have that liability.
Focus on improving the game-day experience. Expound and resurrect traditions that are unique.
ND is now the lone steward of the authentic game day experience, it would be a travesty to give that away for dollars or trends or just because it “seems like we should. If you want to internalize this, think of this Kevin White’s old school, ASU. This article is the ghost of Notre Dame’s future.
“The band strikes up the school fight song.
The crowd roars with anticipation.
But not for long.
The PA system combines with the giant electronic video board to quash the cheering with a blaring, 30-second commercial for Biddulph Oldsmobile.
The natural tension of the moment evaporates.
For the ASU athletic department, the only tally that appears to matter is the more than $2 million it rakes in each year from “corporate partners” whose jingles, slogans and come-ons bombard Sun Devil football fans.
It’s 90 seconds ’til kickoff.
Jeff Munn is recognizing the 13 millionth fan to enter Sun Devil Stadium since it opened in 1958. The occasion turns into a marketing moment with striking similarities to a Jerry Colangelo-produced sporting event.
“That fan is seated in section 8, row 32, seat 1. That fan will receive round-trip tickets for two on America West Airlines, a $50 gift certificate to be honored at Don and Charlie’s Restaurant and $50 in gasoline from 76/Circle K and a bouquet of cookies from Cookies in Bloom. Congratulations!”
Sixty seconds to kickoff. A heavy-metal track called “The Zoo,” by an obscure 1980s German band the Scorpions, pulses through the PA system, obliterating any attempt by the crowd, cheerleaders or band to stir up some action….