As the Michigan football team’s offense searched for the end zone during Saturday’s win over Air Force, students sought out cell phone service to check in with the Athletic Department’s new student loyalty program, Honoring Attendance, Involvement and Loyalty.
H.A.I.L. — designed to provide incentives to students that attend non-revenue sporting events and arrive early to football, men’s basketball and hockey games — experienced technical difficulties at the home opener this Saturday. Students reported having trouble checking in on the mobile app due to Michigan Stadium’s spotty cell and data coverage.
The stadium’s notoriously poor cell service was a problem the Athletic Department anticipated it might encounter, according to Angela Thick, the department’s assistant director of marketing. Thick said the app and server were working during the game, and students were able to check in from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. if they could find service.
“Historically, cell service and data is slow in the stadium with all those people in such a small area,” Thick said.
The lack of service, however, will not disqualify any students from earning attendance points. Thick said the department receives attendance data when a student’s ticket is scanned, and they plan to reach out to those who attended to ensure they receive their points.
Thick said the department is working to improve the Big House’s cell coverage for future football games.
Aside from the service issue on Saturday, Thick said she thinks the H.A.I.L. program has been well received by students.
Students earn two points when they check in at most free athletic events and one point for checking in at revenue events, including football, men’s basketball and ice hockey. Students can earn two points at the revenue events if they arrive at least 20 minutes before the start of the game.
The app is designed to encourage more students to attend Michigan athletic events. Points are earned by checking in via smartphone app or at event site kiosks, and students can win rewards at different point levels. Prizes range from athletic apparel to “over-the-top grand prizes, like eating lunch with Athletic Director Dave Brandon,” according to the app’s description in iTunes.
Thick explained that in order for students to be eligible for H.A.I.L.’s prizes, they must correctly enter their UM ID number in the app’s account profile section.
She added that the app has functioned well at volleyball and field hockey games and men and women’s soccer matches. Men’s soccer has been the most popular of the non-revenue sports thus far, with 178, 166 and 130 students checking in at each of the team’s first three home matches. According to Thick, these attendance figures are on par with last year’s men’s soccer numbers.
According to Thick, the Athletic Department will have a better idea as to whether the H.A.I.L. initiative is improving attendance numbers at non-revenue sporting events later this month.
“Everybody knows about football,” Thick said. “But we want to make sure that (students) are aware of all these other events that they can come to and the fact that they’re free.”
Though the program is designed to increase non-revenue sporting event attendance, a secondary objective of H.A.I.L. is to urge students to come early for the revenue games. Thick said a full student section throughout the duration of games creates a better atmosphere.
“We want you there when the game starts,” she said. “It looks bad when there are empty seats.”
Thick said the department will continue to promote the H.A.I.L initiative to reach even more students early in the athletic calendar. The department has specifically promoted H.A.I.L. to major student organizations on campus, including Club and Intramural Sports teams, Greek Life and the men’s basketball and soccer fan clubs.
While still in its early stages, the program has helped attract students to non-revenue sports. As of Monday morning, LSA senior Andrew Malmquist was tied at the top of the H.A.I.L. leader board with 21 points.
Though he said in seasons past he has been a frequent attendee of football, men’s basketball and ice hockey games, the program has helped encourage Malmquist to attend volleyball, field hockey and soccer matches this season as well.
“I personally had never been to a soccer game … I love the soccer games,” Malmquist said. “They’re a ton of fun to go to.”
Malmquist said enjoying the experience and atmosphere of the events has been the primary gratification of the program for him so far, but taking home one of the major prizes would be an added bonus.
LSA senior Charlotte Rath, who has accumulated 15 points, said she participated because she wants to attend more events during her final year at school.
“It was just a goal of mine since it’s my last year here to see more sporting events,” Rath said, who has already attended volleyball, field hockey, soccer and football games this season.
Rath said she also enjoys competing with her friends to see who can earn the most points.