These days, tradition and culture alone does not resonate enough to attract new and younger audiences to HBCU football classics and major sporting events. Even traditional supporters (i.e. alumni and HBCU fans) seek more compelling reasons to attend year after year. This is partly because of the many other large major events and festivals vying for the same crowd.
Plain and simple, fans want and seek a more well rounded experience beyond the main attraction. Last year, the Essence Music Festival made this move by enhancing the festival experience to tap into a growing interest in tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship by adding a Tech Village and hackathon to its weekend lineup. Essence also broke attendance records with an estimated 550,000 festival goers.
Similarly, HBCU Classics can be reinvented by being more experiential and grow attendance by engaging a younger audience and non-HBCU grads. This helps to cultivate a growing fan base and would mean stretching beyond the typical weekend lineup of parades, college fairs, comedy shows, and concerts. The annual Bayou Classic is one HBCU event that has done a great job at packaging a full experience to include empowerment events, business networking, a golf tournament, various social gatherings, and of course the traditional Classic events. This approach makes the Bayou Classic more appealing to diverse audiences from business and entrepreneurship to young professionals and loyal supporters.
By partnering with the right brands and sponsors, HBCU Classics can tap into cultural interests and create experiences that help to grow the fan base and ultimately increase attendance.