PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann told fans at a South Jersey event in early June that she wanted to turn football games into a Disney World experience every Saturday.
In a question and answer session with ScarletReport.com, Hermann went in-depth on what she meant by a Disney experience. Hermann also discussed other efforts to improve the fan experience and interaction with the athletic department.
ScarletReport.com -- When you made the Disney World comments, what does that actually mean?
Julie Hermann --"Anybody who works in customer service, and in collegiate sports we do …, Disney is one of the understood gold standards in how you treat your customers.
"One of the pieces of feedback I've gotten throughout the year, any time we miss on customer service, that feedback comes to me pretty quickly. I appreciate that feedback because our goal is that every person who is willing to come sit in the stands and everyone who is willing to donate their hard-earned money to support the Scarlet Knights, we want them to have a great experience and a great connection to the university. It's a lot of people.
"The good news is that people are buying our football tickets. Right now I wanted to write them all a hand-written note saying thank you. Well right now that's 9,000 accounts. Serving a fan base of that size challenges everyone to make certain that you're greeting and servicing them. I've talked a lot about the year about creating a Disney experience. It has nothing to do with a commemorative photo of Goofy."
SR.com -- What kind of plans are there to get more creative with the game day experience?
JH -- "One of the biggest challenges at Rutgers is that we didn't have a creative services department inside athletics, and when I arrived, we didn't have a ton of content builders. [Senior associate athletic director and chief communications officer] Jason Baum has run sports information on slim crew given that we've got 24 sports to cover. As we step into the Big Ten, we definitely have a challenge to rise and start adding the personnel it's going to require to message out to our fan base what's going on.
"Hiring [senior director of digital media] Tom Luicci is a big key to us, so that we've got an in-house content builder who can be sharing information on our site. Because we don't control what the media writes. We don't control what TV stations report out. But there's so many people that care about Rutgers athletics. We need a place to create copy where they can read what's going on across all 24 sports.
"Then also, to be able to put it into video. We're visual today. Everything's on a YouTube or an image that gets tweeted out. We're figuring out our funding models right now for content builders, whether they be written or visual. That's one of our biggest challenges and we look forward to meeting it."
SR.com -- What about creative services when it comes to the game day experience?
JH -- "I think [chief marketing officer] Geoff Brown was incredibly creative, especially by the time we got to the RAC. In fact, based on some of the feedback, we might have been too creative for some of our fan base, where we just want to watch the game.
"One of our obligations is to appeal to our entire fan base. Of course our fan base goes from three years old to 103 years old. I think, as we continue, we're going to try to take whatever creativity we come up with – and there's no lack of creativity about what we want to do. It's about whether or not when you finally put it in game, do your fans respond to it or not. That goes back to just being aware of what your demographic is.
"What's the demographic of a men's basketball game. What's the demographic at the women's basketball game? What's the demographic over in our football stadium? How do you make certain you've got a little something for everybody without trying to agitate a whole population by how loud the music is or stuff like that. It's not lack of creativity, it's just making certain that the script really is hitting the midline of what our fans want to enjoy."
SR.com -- Who helps Geoff Brown when it comes to getting that done?
JH -- "Geoff has a marketing staff that helps him implement every concept that we have. And I'm a very opinionating AD about it as well. Sometimes it's great when your boss has a lot of opinions about your area of expertise. Sometimes it's a horror show. I think I'm a little bit of both for Geoff."
SR.com -- It may seem silly but one of the main complaints we hear is about men's bathrooms. Can you talk about the changes there?
JH -- "It's not silly. One of the first things that I heard about when I got here is the lack of bathrooms at High Point. We've worked all year to figure out how we can get in there, create more men's bathrooms. … Expand the concourses too. Realizing that, especially Penn State and Michigan, you're going to have midnight egress on those concourses. It was important to us to get the concourses on the North end expanded."