College Football Should Step Up Its Fan Engagement Game to Capitalize on a Willing, Able, and Available Base


Fan engagement is up in the NFL; it’s high time College Football joined the party.

The NFL marked an unprecedented achievement in the 2023-2024 season by securing 93 of the top 100 most-watched TV broadcasts in the US, a feat not matched by any other sport. This surge in popularity underscores the NFL’s crucial role in sustaining linear television amidst declining cable subscriptions.

Does the NFL’s popularity, stellar viewership, and engaged fanbase carry over to college football?

This year’s Orange Bowl scored more than just touchdowns in No.6 ranked Georgia Bulldogs rout of No. 4 Florida State Seminoles 63-3. Ratings of 10.4M viewers make it the best non-Semifinal Orange Bowl since 2017, and it was the most-streamed college football game ever on ESPN+. And the Michigan-Washington national title game? 25M viewers tuned into ESPN to watch.

So, the viewership is there, and avenues for fan engagement are available. Still, is College Football doing enough to capitalize on all this opportunity, or is there room for improvement?

In this episode of MarketScale’s Experts Talk Series, host Daniel Litwin, the Voice of B2B, dives into the heart of fan engagement in college football with Stephi Blank, the Vice President of Marketing & Service at WIT Sports; Dr. Patrick Rishe, the Director of the Sports Business Program at Washington University in St. Louis; and Andrew Lafiosca, the Managing Director of US/CAN at Nielsen Sports. Their discussion illuminates the evolving dynamics of fan interaction in an era where digital engagement is becoming as crucial as the in-stadium experience.

Highlights from their conversation include:

  • The challenge of fan accessibility to live games due to high ticket prices, emphasizing the need for broader fan engagement strategies beyond physical attendance
  • The lag in fan engagement in college sports compared to professional leagues, highlighting the importance of investing in sports technology and fan data analytics
  • The limitations smaller schools face in expanding their fan base compared to larger universities, underscoring the diverse challenges in fan engagement across different institutions

With her extensive experience in sports marketing, Stephi Blank brings a wealth of knowledge in fan engagement strategies, particularly in leveraging digital platforms to enhance the fan experience and broaden accessibility.

An expert in sports business and economics, Dr. Rishe offers insightful analysis of sports’ financial and marketing aspects, focusing on how investment in technology and analytics can drive fan engagement and business growth in sports.

Andrew Lafiosca specializes in sports analytics and market research. His expertise lies in understanding audience behaviors and trends, providing critical insights into how sports organizations can effectively reach and engage with diverse fan bases.

Article by James Kent

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