Last Saturday, in an example of what has come into vogue with college sports recently, Notre Dame attempted a “green-out” of Notre Dame Stadium during their game against Oklahoma.
The above advertisement – a standard stadium photograph with a green hue overlaid on the fans – along with “getting the word out” to Notre Dame fans was considered to be sufficient in enticing fans attending the game to wear green. In addition, 40,000 pompoms were donated for the game in a stadium that holds nearly 90,000 fans.
Did it work?
Well, not so much.
The upper right corner – the southeast corner of the stadium – and the triangular patch by the right side end zone are areas designated for visiting team tickets. What’s alarming is the heavy smattering of red on the left side of the stadium. Notre Dame has seen this before - visiting teams that travel well and rarely get to play at Notre Dame will pay top dollar for tickets, and Notre Dame ticket holders will oblige, especially when the chips appear to be down.
So what went wrong for the green-out?
- ND depended on word-of-mouth to let fans know to wear green, which I’m assuming was not planned before the season started (more on this in a second)
- Distribution of green pompoms to less than half of the fans attending the game
- Loss of genuine home field advantage – ND wasn’t favored and Oklahoma fans were willing to pay big bucks for tickets ND fans were reselling – why would they wear green?
There was no error-proofing the plan for getting 75,000 Notre Dame fans to green out the stadium (estimating 15,000 tickets for the visiting school’s sections). ND expected fans to bring their own conforming clothing but depended on marketing to get that notification out to the fans, plus only had freebies for half of the fans who would find them useful.
Contrast that with Clemson when they hosted Georgia earlier this season. For that game, Clemson wanted to create a sea of orange in the stands. It was especially important because the game was between two top-10 non-conference foes on national television and the marquee game of the weekend. What were the results?
Clearly their plan was pretty effective. What did Clemson have or do that Notre Dame did not?
- This was planned well in advance of the season. Yes, it had to be planned in advance because this was the first game of the season, but we know it was planned well in advance because…
…it’s printed right on the top of the ticket. For their orange-out, it only mattered what the fans inside the stadium were wearing, not outside. Every season ticket notified the holder what color to wear. With as many season tickets sold by Clemson as there are, essentially every game attendee received work instructions on what to wear.
What do Notre Dame’s tickets tell fans to do?
Well, nothing. If the green-out had advanced planning, maybe Notre Dame could have included “Wear Green” on the ticket before printing.
- Every seat received an orange pompom. None of this 40,000 pompoms for 75,000 ND fans stuff, probably distributed to everyone by an usher or stadium personnel as they walked through the gate until supplies ran out. Every seat had a pompom in the cupholder in front of it. Therefore every attendee of the game had access to something orange (if they did not wear orange already). I’m not sure if the Georgia fan section received pompoms but they are so inexpensive that they might make nice souvenirs and function as an act of goodwill by the opposing school.
- Both teams were ranked in the top ten. Georgia and Clemson both had championship aspirations coming into the game – you would be hard pressed to find a Clemson ticket holder selling his/her ticket to a Georgia fan for a reasonable sum. A few Georgia fans probably paid through the nose for their tickets outside the visiting team allotment.
Notre Dame came into their game as an underdog and as an underperforming squad that was probably going to lose. Notre Dame fans knew it and weren’t interested in spending the afternoon watching their team get beat when there was an Oklahoma fan on the outside looking in that was willing to shell out a whole bunch of cash for that privilege.
Poka yoke, or error-proofing, is implementing measures to eradicate the chance of performing an action incorrectly. The ideal error-proofed solution is an automatic standalone countermeasure that makes it impossible to complete an activity in the wrong manner. There’s only one way to put a house key into the lock (generally). There’s only one way to plug a USB plug into a USB port.
In conjunction with preventing the wrong action from occurring, it is ideal to make it as easy as possible to make the right action occur.
So, here are some things a team can do to error-proof a color-out and how realistic those activities can be to implement.
- Print the requested color to be worn right on the game ticket. Advanced planning makes this very realistic and inexpensive.
- Have color-themed giveaways for everyone at the stadium. Pompoms are cheap, especially when sponsors slap their logos on the handles.
- GIVE AWAY SHIRTS YOU WANT FANS TO WEAR AND PUT THEM IN THE SEATS. While this is an expensive venture, it makes it very easy to get fans to wear the color you want. Also, nothing says you can’t use advanced planning to raise the ticket price for that game by the price of the shirt you’re giving away so you can cover the costs. In addition, fans tend to rewear shirts at other events but not reshake pompoms.
- Bar fans not wearing said color from entering the stadium. Really, really unrealistic and requires inspection and enforcement.
- Plan color-outs for games against teams playing year after year. For example, it would be more realistic for Notre Dame to hold a color-out against Southern Cal because USC plays at Notre Dame Stadium every other year. USC fans wouldn’t really see attending the game as a once-in-a-lifetime event like Oklahoma fans did last Saturday. Therefore it is less likely that ND fans would fall for the temptation to sell off their tickets to wealthy and/or crazed USC fans.
- Plan color-outs for games against teams that don’t travel well. Oklahoma travels well. USC generally does for Notre Dame games, but maybe not this year.
- Have a team in the top ten every season. Well, Notre Dame is trying to do that.