IT Science: How Duke Improved Engagement With Athletics Fans

IT SCIENCE: Duke eCal adds sports schedules directly into the personal calendar of those who sign up. It's free of charge and dynamic.

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What we also do is to explain how new-gen IT works in the real world on systems old and new. We call these IT Science stories, because they're about IT in the real world, and science is the real world. With all the innovation in products and services and new companies springing up to deliver them, there are a lot of stories to tell.

Here is one rather timely IT Science use case: How Duke's athletic department improved engagement with its alumni and fans and sold its television platform at the same time. It's timely because earlier this week, the Blue Devils won their fifth NCAA men's basketball championship with a hard-fought 68-63 victory over Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Duke is using a new mobile calendar app called eCal to connect its retail, ticket and television products to alumni and fans. Duke eCal adds sports schedules directly into the personal calendar of those who sign up. It's free of charge and dynamic, so fans receive updates automatically as they happen.

Users can post notes to Facebook, Twitter or Google+ networks on games they're watching, invite friends to the game (or to watch it on streaming video), buy apparel or DVDs of past televised events—all using the app, which is available for iOS and Android mobile devices. It's pretty much an all-in-one engagement app.

The department of athletics had been progressive in using IT tools such as its Website and mobile apps to interact with its many fans in order to keep them informed about game schedules, ticket availability and sales, subscriptions to its video platform, and sales of apparel and other types of retail items.

Eventually, the IT staff in the athletic department found that centralizing all these functions in order to make Duke's engagement with fans easier to manage was going to be necessary. So they set out to refresh its splintered platform. Here is how they did it.

Objectives: Duke athletics and digital platform provider Neulion selected eCal to engage Duke fans around the Duke sports schedules, with the primary goal to drive use and subscriptions to the Blue Devil Network video platform.

The solution: The Duke eCal is geared to engage fans easily and directly with the BDN video platform. As such, the reminders, messaging and links are all tailored to suit these specific business objectives.

Content: Duke fans can choose their favorite sports schedules, across men's and women's sports, as well as for home and away games. They then can select and buy pay-per-view telecasts of those events on demand.

Marketing and promotion: The Duke eCal has been integrated on the Duke Athletics Website, on the home page and with the sports schedules. No launch promotion has taken place yet.

Results thus far this year:

--5,494 subscribers.

--99 percent opt-in rate: Customers consent to receive other marketing communications.

--329,000 calendar impressions: Events content is delivered at the right time in the right place 100 percent of the time.

--Clickthroughs: More than 80 percent of clicks are to Join BDN, the Duke online TV platform.

--Sales: eCal is proving to actively drive new online TV subscription revenue: Value is generated in a deeper fan engagement, superior customer service and alumni connection.

"The Duke eCal looks great and is a simple tool for fans to stay totally connected with Duke sports, wherever they are," said Ryan Craig, director of digital media at Duke Athletics. "Any schedule changes are delivered straight into their calendar. From a business perspective, we are seeing terrific clickthrough to our online assets, particularly the BDN video platform to drive additional revenue."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...