A debut website for a nationally televised college basketball tournament held annually in Florida
In 2014, one of my previous clients Global Sports Management organized a new college basketball tournament to take place annually on Thanksgiving weekend.
They’re no stranger to putting together events, but this one was a big deal.
It features eight teams competing in four rounds. The first two rounds take place on team campuses across the country, while the final two showcase all the teams coming together under one roof on the campus of Northwest Florida State College’s Niceville campus.
It look a large amount of intricate planning to organize the event. It needed a website that could handle myriad responsibilities, including:
- Serving as an entry point for fans looking to check the schedule, look for available seats on the arena map, and purchase tickets.
- Benefiting the teams by enabling as many of their fans to travel to attend the Florida games as possible.
- Providing up-to-date scores, statistics, videos, photos, and news updates during the tournament so that the media can cover the event effectively and fans who don’t travel can follow along from home.
With so many different stakeholders, the project offered an interesting challenge.
And for the event to grow and stick around in years to come, the website had to meet these needs.
Given our working relationship on the Global Sports Management website over the previous few years, their president Maury Hanks reached out to me for help building the new Emerald Coast Classic platform.
The design needed to stand out.
The key Thanksgiving weekend portion of the tournament takes place on a beautiful campus on the Florida panhandle. The nearby beaches and resorts were important elements of the pitch to fans looking for a weekend away or a family vacation.
Therefore the design must connect in a way that shows off what that experience looks and feels like. It meant using a lot of photos like the one below.
Who could resist?
Beaches aside, the basketball was something to behold, too.
Even the photos of the arena looked luxurious and inviting.
We knew we wanted to feature these visual elements to draw people in.
If we could help fans picture themselves there on a warm late-November weekend, we might inspire them to buy tickets and come visit for some basketball.
But it would take more than just the visuals. We had to contribute what we could to making it easy to plan and organize people’s trips.
We had to give people the information they needed to attend.
Booking a trip takes a lot of work, whether it’s for business or pleasure.
We wanted to help by doing a lot of the work for people.
It meant using the website to share important information such as:
- Hotels where they could stay, including arranging partnerships and discounts to save attendees money on lodging
- Flight information, so that they knew where they needed to be and which airlines fly there
- Game-by-game schedules and updates, allowing people to plan their time in Florida so they could enjoy the beaches and their favorite team’s games
The more helpful information you can provide, the better.
And of course, tickets!
First, we needed a dedicated place where people could purchase tickets for each session, with the page making it clear exactly what tickets people were buying.
We also maintained a second page that included information about the arena, including photos, a seating chart, and even a virtual tour.
Getting fans to come is so important. Schools welcome opportunities for their fans to come to games and support the team away from campus.
In an event like this one that has a different assortment of participating schools every year, you don’t anticipate many repeat visitors.
Getting good results for the college programs matters means you can get other programs to sign on for future events.
The live tournament updates needed to be timely and on point.
Media members covering the event rely on the organizers for a great deal of information.
Scores, statistics, photographs, and recaps — items like these make life easy for the media.
And the easier it is for media to cover your event, the better things will go for you!
So we put together a platform that included all this information.
I work side-by-side with the rest of the Emerald Coast Classic team to get these updates posted on the website the minute they’re available and making sure they’re easy to find and use.
We launched the new website in plenty of time to promote the inaugural tournament in 2014.
The Emerald Coast Classic has gone on to be a success, gaining national media attention and recognition.
CBS Sports Network began broadcasting the Florida games nationally in 2014. The first year it broadcast the championship round, and starting with the second tournament in 2015, it included the semifinal games in the national broadcast schedule as well.
We also included a live stream of all non-televised games, thanks to a partnership with Emerald Coast TV.
In 2018, we launched a redesigned version of the website that shows off the visuals even more than the previous version and renders better on mobile devices.
The number of well known, successful college basketball programs such as Virginia, Maryland, Ole Miss, and Providence that have participated in the Emerald Coast Classic in recent years speaks to the growth and platform of the event.
Tennessee, Florida State, Purdue, and VCU have already agreed to join future Emerald Coast Classic events.