Innovation Madness: How to Ideate an Amazing Fan Engagement Platform

As the weather gets ever-so-slightly nicer and the calendar turns to March each year, I get ridiculously excited for March Madness and all of the amazing basketball games coming our way, filled with epic finishes, thrilling upsets, the agony of defeat, and the triumph of victory; there truly is nothing quite like tournament season!

This year, 4FRONT is lucky enough to be working with some amazing organizations, including San Diego State University, Baylor University, the Big Ten Conference, and even the NCAA, on helping to drive ticket sales for their basketball teams and tournaments, which has been awesome to be a part of.

All this talk of brackets has me thinking about our team here at 4FRONT. I am constantly asked what exactly it is that we do on the innovation team, and “strategic consulting and problem solving” isn’t nearly as fun as “WE MAKE COOL SH!T HAPPEN!” But how do we strategically solve problems for partners with groundbreaking and breakthrough ideas?

While I’d love to say it’s magic, there really is a much easier answer, and it lies in ideation and specifically working down from many decent ideas into a few spectacular ones.

Many times, when we’re presented with a challenge to solve, we’ll go into our Innovation Lab and start throwing ideas on the wall, whether they’re realistic or not, original or not, good or not. This is basically the part of the process that is like conference tournament season, where every idea has a chance to get better and make an impact as the whittling down continues.

Once the best ideas have been put on the big board, we can start to see a bracket take shape, where we have many ways of reaching the end goal, but also many different paths to take there. One key difference between our bracket and the NCAA Tournament though, is how we determine who moves on.

Instead of two teams playing each other to see who can score the most points, at 4FRONT we look at seven distinct components to make sure a fan engagement platform is world-class, including:

1. Is it ownable?

2. Is it unique?

3. Is it socially relevant?

4. Is it brand-centric?

5. Is it targeted?

6. Is it extendable?

7. Is it measurable?

Even though we might have dozens of ideas at the beginning of the process, there will typically only be three or four that truly fit the above criteria and are potential breakthrough platforms, but those are the ones that set us apart. While the other concepts might not have made it through the big dance, elements of them can still be utilized, and they are instrumental in helping us figure out which opportunities are the best.

While our version of March Madness doesn’t have many buzzer-beaters or slam dunks, we have ended up with pretty cool victories over the years. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be the #1 seed in front of our Cinderella story.

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