This past fall, the Lehigh athletics department decided it wanted to boost student interaction at sporting events and developed an attendance incentive program it hoped would encourage many more students to attend games.
This brought about Mountain Hawk Rewards, an app that enables students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to earn points, and eventually prizes, the more they attend Lehigh games. The app is free and available to both iPhone and Android users.
Rich Haas, Lehigh’s assistant athletic director of sales and marketing, described how the app was developed.
“SuperFanU, a company that supports fan engagement at colleges and universities, approached us with the idea,” Haas said. “They developed the app, and we worked with them to create our design and the features we wanted. We looked at what other colleges already had and modeled our app after the ones we liked.”
Users download the app and create a profile to view a list of all the upcoming sporting events. Going to an event earns a user 10 points, and they can earn more points by interacting with the app through various social media platforms. Since its release, it has been downloaded 1,400 times.
“We weren’t sure what to expect since we had not done something like this before, but I think it is working well,” Haas said. “We had a huge number of downloads right away, and we have seen consistent growth from there. We have found that we see more downloads around the time of bigger events, such as the Lehigh-Lafayette football game and Patriot League tournaments.”
The main goal of the app was to better engage Lehigh students and the community, and make attending sporting events a better experience. One of the biggest features is the rewards program, where users can redeem prizes once they earn a certain number of points. Once those people have earned enough points, they redeem them by logging into the app and presenting the prize notification to a specific business to access their prize.
Several local businesses partnered with Lehigh Athletics to launch the app: Domino’s Pizza, Lehigh Dining, the Fud Truk, Braveheart Highland Pub, Pepsi, Taps Tavern and Hot Hut Yoga. Other prizes can be redeemed at home sporting events.
Though increased engagement was the initial reason behind the development of the app, increased attendance at sporting events could possibly be a side effect. Lehigh field hockey junior Gabby Tofig said she sometimes uses the app when she goes to games.
“When I go to games I try to sign in just to show support for the app and the team that is competing,” Tofig said. “I’m not sure whether the launch of the app has increased attendance, but it does give people more incentive to go. I think Lehigh needs to market the app better so that more people are aware of it and that they can earn rewards.”
The app has been marketed in a few different ways, starting at the first-year orientation period that occurs in the beginning of the fall semester, so first-year students could download it immediately. The app has also been featured on Facebook and Twitter, and the Lehigh Athletics website has a button where it can be downloaded right from the page.
When the office sends out emails about upcoming events, they provide a link to download the app as well. Still, Lehigh women’s soccer junior Laura Courtney believes the app could be marketed more effectively.
“I don’t think most students are aware of the app unless they regularly attend athletic events already,” Courtney said. “Even speaking for my team, I don’t think many of the underclassmen know that it exists.”
As for any future improvements, Haas said SuperFanU will be giving a presentation on the updates they have been working on for the app. He also believes they will use more video content, update the rewards and possibly expand the app to beyond just athletic events.