UGA Stickers — Processes
For the UGA Stickers team, the fall semester has been a whirlwind. We were tasked with designing a sticker pack for Georgia football, using unfamiliar technology to create an engaging and memorable app experience for a diverse user base. With only 21 days from assignment to app release, the team immediately went into high gear and worked tirelessly to make our ideas come to life. After the initial release, we continued this forward momentum with promotions, high adoption rates and new versions of our app. For a majority of the semester, our team has been looking ahead — adding stickers, coordinating promotions, planning the 2017 season. But as our semester comes to an end, we think it would be valuable to take a look back at what we have done, and reflect on the processes that brought us here.
New Market, New Technology
One of the most exciting aspects of this project was the idea that the UGA Stickers app would be one of the first of its kind on the market. With the release of iOS 10, Apple announced “stickers” as a brand new feature for iMessage and advertised the technology as a selling point for the new iPhones and the operating system. It was important to us as a team to be fully functional and in the app store as soon as iOS 10 was released. This way, users’ first experience with stickers could be through the UGA Stickers app. Diving into a new market with a fresh concept presented our team with a variety of unique opportunities and challenges.
From its inception, this project hinged on a strong relationship between the New Media Institute, specifically our team, and Georgia Athletics. We worked in close collaboration with the external operations department and coordinated social media posts and promotions with the digital services and social media liason. For the Georgia Athletic Association, the most pressing concerns were staying on brand with Georgia football’s established identity and creating an outlet for fans to show their spirit in a creative new way. The football staff was impressed with our work and the response from the Bulldog Nation, and we are confident that the partnership between the NMI and UGA Athletics will endure well beyond this semester.
Perhaps the most critical, and fun, piece of the puzzle was our relationship with Georgia football fans. It is no secret that the Bulldog faithful are among the most avid and loyal sports fans in the country, jumping at any opportunity to support and connect with their team. After a couple tweets from UGA Athletics and promotion on our social media networks, Dawg fans began to download the stickers at an impressive rate. Since it was a new concept, though, we wanted to ensure our biggest user base knew how to use the stickers and had an enjoyable experience. To that end, we made a series of GIFs to show fans the various uses of the stickers. We also made it a priority to promptly respond to questions and engage with our users on social media. These efforts resulted in overwhelmingly positive feedback in the form of app store reviews and tweets from fans.
Finally, we have been working on cultivating a relationship with potential influencers. For an app like this, current and former UGA football players are icons in the community, as well as sports commentators and coaches. We wanted to build a foundation with these individuals, most of whom are immediately recognizable to fans. Having someone like Georgia head coach Kirby Smart use and praise our stickers has a more genuine and lasting impact on fans than a strictly promotional post.
On the flip side, breaking into a brand new market challenged our team from day one. Clearly, the early time constraints were daunting, especially for our designers. We tackled this task the only way we knew how — lots of late nights, coffee and support for our teammates.
From an administrative angle, one of our unforeseen issues was licensing of content. UGA Athletics gave us permission to use Georgia logos and mascots in our sticker pack, but our designers had to be mindful of UGA’s licensing guidelines when making new stickers. Additionally, we did not have permission to use logos or licensed content from other universities, so our team had to work around using official logos related to rival institutions.
In terms of promotions, we had extensive success advertising on social media but the team had some lofty ideas that never quite came to fruition. For example, we had ideas about stadium promotions and giveaways with the football team, but implementing a promotional campaign into the gameday experience at UGA football games involves planning and approval beyond our capabilities in one semester.
In the technical realm, our designers faced obstacles related to potential animation of stickers. Many stickers we would have liked to include would have been too time-consuming and difficult to design or animate. Similarly, we had some interest in designing an app for platforms other than iOS devices but lacked the time and resources to explore this during our time in class. Further, without comparable software for alternative platforms, we worried about losing the unique “stickers” aspect of our app.
The final challenge our team found during this process was a slowing adoption rate. While early downloads were high and promotions correlated with notable spikes in use, the rate of adoption plateaued near the end of the season. We felt as though the majority of iPhone users who were going to download iOS 10 had done so and our opportunities to capitalize on big football games were coming to a close. As a team, we believe stickers will be more widely used in the future, and that the app will see an increase in downloads with the start of the 2017 season. To that end, we began to focus on social media promotion and sticker ideas for next season to continue growing the UGA Stickers app.
Successes and Reflections
In the early stages of our work, we were not sure how this process would progress and if we would have any success with the app. So, when UGA Stickers was approved for the app store in just a couple days, and ready for download as soon at iOS dropped, we were ecstatic.
Despite our challenges with alternative promotions, a highlight of our process came when the app was featured before a Georgia home football game. Prior to our matchup against Tennessee in October, arguably our most pivotal game of the season, our app was promoted on the jumbotron in Sanford Stadium. Combined with a custom Snapchat filter available in popular tailgate locations, this weekend was a huge success for our promo campaign. We also saw our biggest spike in downloads during Tennessee weekend.
Finally, we feel confident in the brand identity we were able to cultivate this semester. We had some ideas about extending to sports other than football and concerns about being too niche in focus, but the response from users did not echo these thoughts. Many other universities are contracting with outside companies to build generic sticker packs for their teams. We are extremely pleased to be able to offer a genuine and evolving app for Bulldog fans, built by students who share their love for the Dawgs.
Over the course of a few months, our team accomplished more than we initially thought possible. This process offered many challenges to our team but, looking back, we feel that we have learned a great deal and grown as a team and as individuals. With more than 5,000 downloads on our first app, we are proud of our work and excited to see where UGA Stickers can go in the future. As always, go Dawgs!