NCAA Women’s Final Four Merchandise Experience

The Sport Innovation Institute pulled together a research team of graduate students from the Herron School of Art and Design and the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management to help the NCAA and its merchandising partner understand the fans experience with merchandise at NCAA Championship events. Quantitative survey data and qualitative ethnographic data in the form of participant observation and interviews were collected from the 2016 NCAA DII Swimming and Diving Championship and the Women’s Final Four Basketball Championship events.

Once the data was collected from both swimming and basketball events, our design team went through an analysis and synthesis process for each data set to identify pain points and categorize major insights. Using a people-centered approach, we discovered an understanding related to customers' reasons and motivations for purchasing merchandise. By capturing the overall event experience, we were able to identify opportunities to enhance their merchandise experience by leveraging the different touchpoints along their journey. Lastly, based on the participants’ suggestions and our defined insights, we were able to develop strategic approaches to enhance the attendees’ merchandise experiences by connecting their overall event experiences.

From our research, the design team was able to identify strategic goals that focus on customers perspectives. Persona and Experience Flow Maps provided a framework for understanding the fan beyond a consumer perspective. These tools allow for a holistic understanding of the fan's experience, not only through merchandise, but from their overall Championship experience including pain points that exist within the current service model. The insights generated from this research can be used to develop strategic solutions that improve the overall merchandise experience by connecting the overall event experience by leveraging the local city and shopping opportunities for Championship attendees.

To provide a base for moving forward for future service solutions, we provided an Ideation Tool to help generate appropriate solutions reflecting the insights from the fan participants. The tool provides an instructional system to formulate solutions based on the fan’s contextual needs and currently observed pain points. Starting with a defined fan profile and his or her needs, it provides a structure to relate those needs to strategic goals. The 3-step process outlined in the report will allow for the comprehensive evaluation of future developments and allow for in depth evaluation of future services and strategies across all sports.