With free t-shirts and pizza, Harvard’s Athletics Department is successfully luring increasing numbers of students across the river to attend varsity sports games through its CrimZone Rewards program and has doubled attendance at select games.
Launched in the spring of 2011, the program was implemented to increase enthusiasm and attendance for Harvard’s sports teams among the student body.
Recognizing that students often have many different activities vying for their time, Susan Byrne, Harvard’s Associate Director of athletics, said the department has gone all out in promoting a select few games to raise attendance.
“Students are busy, they have a lot going on,” Byrne said. “We have found that we get the best results if we can take a few games and just use all our promotion methods.”
CrimZone Rewards is a multi-pronged system in which students receive free giveaways at many athletic events, accumulate points for attending athletic events by checking in on the CrimZone mobile application, and win extra points for attending designated feature events.
Byrne said many athletic contests designated as featured events on the CrimZone app showed some of the largest growth in attendance.
Andrew C. Vatistas, Athletics marketing manager, said the CrimZone program helped set attendance records for Men’s varsity hockey. More than 590 students attended their Ivy League championship game on Feb. 19 against Cornell, he said.
Attendance at Women’s Rugby and Baseball and Softball games have increased by about 250 and 1,000 percent respectively since the rewards program launched, according to Vatistas.
Still, the record breaking crowds and popularity among students is a relatively new phenomenon. Not many people used the prgoram at its launch, but Vatistas said participation has grown rapidly over the last year.
“We forecast a 60 percent increase [in check-ins] year over year, just from last year,” he said.
He added that rewarding students with prizes through the app is not the only reason for higher levels of attendance. Communication with students about the logistics of the sporting events has improved as well.
“Overall awareness has increased tremendously from when we started four years ago,” Vatistas said. “Along with the notifications through our app, a lot of it is social media and our weekly email blast.”
The app has also allowed the Athletics Department to better collect data and track attendance patterns.
“As recently as 2010 there was very little that we did to track how many students were at our games.” Vatistas said. “We’re really trying to do a better job of getting information out there and bridging the gap and trying to engage as best we can to make it easier for students.”
Harvard’s CrimZone Rewards program is not unique within the Ivy League. The University of Pennsylvania uses a similar program that allows students and fans to check in at games and earn points, which can later be redeemed for prizes.
In an email, Joshua Craggs, University of Pennsylvania Athletics’ director of marketing and new media, wrote that his department has “amped up our fan loyalty program (mostly used by students). This year we have had excellent success with student attendance at many of our events due to both of these efforts.”
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