Transforming the NFL Combine into an immersive college tradition
The 2022 summer interns at the NYC-based agency Big Spaceship were tasked with building a social-based campaign around Gatorade's new Fast Twitch drink and the NFL Combine, targeting college students. The campaign’s goal is to increase students' awareness and interest in Fast Twitch, by making the NFL combine a cultural event on college campuses.
I led all UX deliverables by designing digital products and experiential ideas for an immersive component within the campaign.
UX Design Intern—led all UX deliverables
• User research & testing
• UX design
• UI & visual design
• Experiential marketing strategy
June - August 2022
Do students even watch the NFL Combine?
Most college students who watch football—or sports in general only watch NFL Combine highlights via social media. It's almost unheard of to see students actually tuning into the NFL Combine, and not everyone has access to cable TV and its various alternatives.
Implement digital products and fun experiential events into our campaign, to better persuade students to buy into Fast Twitch and the NFL Combine.
What have other brands done?
I keyed in on direct and indirect competitors as well as other brands within PepsiCo, to see how they incorporated UX and experiential marketing to promote their products and get a better view of potential ideas.
Students' mixed interest in athletic events
To understand and determine college students's interest in Gatorade and athletic-related campus events, I conducted user interviews and sent out a Google Forms survey targeting current college students.
Interesting quotes from my user interviews:
"I wish there are more special events on campus that don't make me feel embarrassed to participate. I'm into fitness and watch sports with my boyfriend often, so I'd be down for more competitive events if they're fun and don't make me look like a fool in front of other students. Free food and drinks are nice too."
— Jessica, 20, University of Oregon
"If there were to be a big athletic-based event on campus, I'd definitely want a guide that I can access on my phone. Even for a short period of time, it would be helpful to have something on my phone that gives me all info about the events I can sign up for, while being able to sign up or cancel from class."
— Tristan, 21, University of Oregon
Students' responses to my Google Forms survey:
Data was sampled from 20 current college students, not including the two interviewees
Time to bring some energy
After synthesizing my research and using pain points from the personas, we came up with three different experiential event ideas for the campaign, with the idea that our clients will choose one to move forward with.
Inspiration for what a Mock Combine station might look like outside. Photo: Pintrest
- Students can sign up to compete in various real combine drills, see their stats, share media of themselves performing etc.
- The Mock Combine would include leaderboards set up for each event station, showing how students fared against other participants.
- The exhibit is split into three rooms—VR headset experience, racing against a hologram, and a wall to write glow-in-the-dark notes and/or goals.
- The purpose of this exhibit is to immerse students into the mind of an NFL combine athlete and "hype" them up when they exit.
- The most “hyped and spirited” university would win a tailgate party at their campus that includes live performances, food and the Combine's live stream.
- The tailgate would also include a photo booth and supply an ample amount of Fast Twitch drinks and Fast Twitch merch, adding emphasis on camaraderie and community.
I also designed a user map and app prototypes, as well as leaderboard prototypes, for the Mock NFL Combine (Event Idea 01).
With each of these events, students could receive free Fast Twitch drinks as prizes, various merchandise for attending/competing in competitions, and the social activations within the campaign would always tie in with hype and anticipation leading up to each event.
User map for the Mock NFL Combine event app
Lo-fi Sketches - Mock Combine event app & leaderboards
High fidelity prototype - Mock Combine event app (1st iteration)
High fidelity prototypes - Mock Combine event leaderboards (first draft)
Incorporating best aspects of each event
Although our initial plan was for them to choose one of the three to move forward with, they wanted us to incorporate the best parts of all three ideas in our final deck instead because they loved all of the ideas.
However, they ended up not going forward with the app for the Mock Combine event, nor the VR exhibit idea, due to time and budgeting constraints. They instead wanted me to continue forward and add ideations, to the other digital products for the mock combine event.
The Fast Twitch Fuel Bus
For our final campaign deck, we tweaked up the Mock NFL Combine event idea and gave it a name: The Fast Twitch Fuel Bus.
The Fuel Bus is a mobile experiential event—based around the social activations of the campaign—that visits various college campuses and is the main physical setup for where students can participate, learn about and compete in various NFL Combine events while trying plenty of Fast Twitch drinks.
The Fast Twitch Fuel Bus would be parked in a wide indoor or outdoor area on campus, and inside the bus itself would include one or two combine events. Surrounding the bus would have other combine events set up.
Revised leaderboards for the Fuel Bus
Media kiosk for the Fuel Bus
Because the app didn't go through, I prototyped a giant kiosk instead where:
A whole lot of personal growth
Overall, I thought the project went really well:
Even though we didn't get to implement the event app for the final campaign deck, I saw a lot of growth as a designer and how I can further improve projects for clients like this in the future.