SBJ/Sept. 2-8, 2013/Colleges

Irish expand app expectations

Notre Dame has launched a new iPad application that brings the football team’s media guide to life in an interactive format.

The athletic department’s digital team hired New Jersey-based Joe Zeff Design to develop the tablet-oriented app that is free to download and supported through advertising from Coca-Cola and Sears.

“We’re trying to figure out ways the iPad can take existing content and make it a cool experience,” said Dan Skendzel, who oversees Fighting Irish Digital Media, a division within the athletic department. “This is content that only we have and we’re trying to achieve a higher level of interactivity through this new app.”

Tim O’Connor, who works on the digital team and ran point on the project, said
repurposing existing content is one of the ways Notre Dame can reach its already wide audience with a unique experience. As O’Connor said, every school has an app these days, but how do schools distinguish it from what’s already being published in program or yearbook form?

Some schools, such as Alabama, Auburn and Oklahoma, already have game-day apps that incorporate information from the game program. The challenge, though, is keeping it fresh enough to keep the user coming back. Those impressions drive advertising value.

Notre Dame faced that same challenge with putting the media guide information on an app, which has been branded the Notre Dame 2013 Yearbook and launched last week. The specific cost for Notre Dame’s app wasn’t available, but projects like this can start around $50,000 on the low end and run well into six figures.

Zeff, whose eight-man design team in Montclair works on a variety of digital publishing projects, said the app will stay current with weekly updates about Notre Dame and its opponents, as well as a Twitter feed that picks up tweets with #GoIrish hashtags, and live video feeds from press conferences.

The app also introduces new interactive elements, such as a 360-degree video tour of the Irish’s athletic facilities.
“Taking publications like a game program or a media guide and turning them into apps is a whole new area and we’re seeing a lot of ideas emerge,” Zeff said. “The hope is that with these apps, they will enhance the viewing experience on the second screen and the university can eventually use it to sell hot dogs and sweatshirts.”

Notre Dame’s digital team also is working on a WatchND app, separate from the Yearbook, that will aggregate all of Notre Dame’s athletic events and tell the user where they can be found, either on TV or online.

Over the course of the athletic calendar, Irish sporting events will be found on several channels. Irish football will appear on NBC, shoulder programming will run on NBC Sports Network, and most basketball will be broadcast on ESPN as part of the ACC agreement. Other events will go to Fox, ESPN3 or Notre Dame’s own online channel.

“We want to create a place where fans go to find out what’s on and where,” O’Connor said of the app that will debut in October. “We want to get them where they want to go.”

Notre Dame and Zeff were first introduced in December when the Irish were looking for a designer to develop a game-day app for the BCS championship game against Alabama. Adobe’s digital publishing suite is the app’s platform and, in fact, it was Adobe that initially introduced Zeff to Notre Dame.

Zeff’s team turned around a game-day app for the Irish’s BCS championship game against Alabama in 11 days.
In the two weeks leading up to that game, the school tracked 74,000 total app launches, 11,000 installed users and more than 1 million total content impressions.

It was received so well that Notre Dame’s Skendzel and O’Connor went back to Zeff for a more comprehensive app for this season. The Yearbook app debuted in the iTunes store last week.

Nearly every page has some interactive element to it. When the viewer touches a player’s photo on the roster page, a full player profile appears. When the opponent is touched on the schedule page, a scouting report appears.

“There are so many things that the iPad lets us do,” Skendzel said. “I feel like we’re just scratching the surface here.”

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