NCAA Expands Use of Online Video Magazine

With the attention on college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced plans today to expand a video magazine program sent to its Division I compliance coordinators at 300 universities.

Volume 2 of the 2005 NCAA Vmag series will be sent within 30 days to all 1,200 NCAA institution members, the association said. One version will deliver NCAA president Myles Brand's President's Report, sent to university presidents.

To start the installation process for the Vmag, NCAA members who opt in receive an e-mail with a link to download the Vmag player. Once they have the player, recipients get a co-branded pop-up alert on their desktops whenever their new Vmag has arrived. The NCAA 2005 Vmag series will be sent quarterly. In general, Vmags have a flexible delivery schedule determined by the advertiser or client.

The NCAA has used Vmags as an internal corporate communications tool. The association also plans to start further Vmag communications for different uses targeting other constituencies. The pilot began in early 2004.

The Vmag, produced by NEWgame Communications Inc., Charlotte, NC, combines broadcast-quality audio and video with text and Web links to deliver online content to targeted, opt-in audiences. Besides sending an e-mail to subscribers, advertisers also can mail CDs or provide a link to the Vmag on their Web site. Vmags often run six to seven minutes, though the NCAA Vmag runs 25 minutes. Vmag downloads in the background to a subscriber's desktop, alerts the subscriber with a branded graphic on the desktop and is delivered on the recipient's schedule.

NEWgame said Vmag extends — but does not compete with — a Web site. The company also said Vmags are not subject to spam filters and offer secure, protected content as well as monthly use reports.

Volume 1 of the 2005 NCAA Vmag arrived on subscriber desktops in January. The video included presentations from NCAA executives on topics such as the association's new Academic Progress Rate program, in which each member school gets a report card covering its academic progress; the NCAA's Recruitment Task Force; and Division II finances. Also included was a “Spotlight on Staff” segment. And it contained an introduction from Kevin Lennon, vice president for membership services at the NCAA.

“We needed a method to communicate with our members in a timely and cost-effective manner with measurable results,” Lennon said. “We also needed a communication channel that provided accountability and rapid dissemination of vital legislative updates.”

Lennon said the Vmag let the NCAA communicate to members in a timely manner the changes made by its board of directors after recruitment scandals at the University of Colorado and other schools last year. The Vmag let the NCAA inform members that they needed to make changes immediately.

Given the Vmag's compelling nature and the content's relevance, Lennon said, “the coordinators frequently shared the Vmag with athletic directors and coaches, which inspired us to expand our use.”

Since January, the NCAA has generated exceptional viewing results and has received “awesome feedback from our subscribers, with recipients viewing them over two times on average,” he said. “With volume 1 of 2005, we've gained 78 new subscribers from the 300 recipients we reached out to — a response rate of 26 percent.”

Response rates aren't the only thing the NCAA can learn about recipients' viewing habits. With Vmag's reporting tools, the association found that its Academic Progress Rate program was the most popular video segment, as more than 70 percent of recipients viewed it.

“This data provides us with powerful insight into the effectiveness of our communications and compliance program,” Lennon said.

The NCAA is considering offering Vmags to student-athletes, prospective student-athletes and coaches.

Lennon did not specify the Vmag's production and delivery costs but said “we send mass mailings usually to five individuals on a campus, but with the Vmag we are sending to one person on campus and asking them to share that information, so you have greater efficiency.”

Though the NCAA incurred additional expenses, Lennon said, “we know what [recipients] are watching and we know that they are sharing it with multiple audiences. We've tried to put a face on the NCAA for a long time, and actually sitting in front of a camera and delivering information — I can't put a price tag on that.”

Besides the NCAA, Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, IN, and Vacation Express, an Atlanta-based tour operator, use Vmag to enhance their online marketing. EOB Communications, an interactive ad agency in Toronto, and U.S. Destination Marketing Inc., a Corpus Christi, TX, marketing communications shop focusing on Internet travel marketing, are partnering with NEWgame and offering Vmags as part of their mix.

Kathleen Hessert, co-founder/CEO of NEWgame, said the company is working on proof of concepts with leading e-mail service providers such as SKYLIST Inc., Austin, TX, and iMakeNews Inc., Newton, MA, regarding combining the two approaches in a marketing strategy.

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