Empty seats at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium during the men’s soccer game against William & Mary on Sept. 17. Stony Brook Athletics has developed and launched a new app to bring fans back into the stands. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

With the new school year now in full swing, students are looking for the best way to experience all that the Stony Brook campus has to offer. Luckily, there is a new digital tool at their disposal that can help improve their stay on campus this semester.  

After a decline in attendance numbers over the last several years, Stony Brook Athletics is determined to get back to filling seats for the 2022-23 school year. With a student body that may not be entirely invested in their school’s athletic program, the department has its work cut out for them. 

Trying to bring fans back into the stands, Stony Brook Athletics has developed and launched a new app to help better connect themselves with almost 27,000 students.

According to Stony Brook Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron, launching the athletics-based app is an effort to strengthen the connection between Stony Brook students and the athletic program. 

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“I am very excited to introduce our new app as part of our ongoing efforts to engage and inform our supporters,” Heilbron said in a press release. “The app will serve as a gateway to our department and will be the best way to stay up to date on the very latest in Stony Brook Athletics.” 

Some of the most popular sports based on attendance numbers have taken noticeable steps in the wrong direction for Stony Brook Athletics. The 2021 Fall season saw the lowest attendance numbers for football games since 2013. The men’s basketball team saw its average attendance drop to around 600 seats fewer per game compared to the previous year. 

A survey conducted by The Statesman during the spring 2022 semester revealed an apparent disconnect between Stony Brook students and the athletic program. Of the 157 students who participated, 94 of them were found not to be invested in Stony Brook sports. 

During an interview with The Statesman, Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Rob DeVita pinpointed the decrease in attendance as a major reason behind the development of the app. He hopes the app’s development will lead to a greater fan turnout at Stony Brook athletic events.

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“We offer a ton of great experiences for our fans at our games and it’s a way that we hope will boost our attendance numbers,” DeVita said.

The app revolves around all things Stony Brook sports. Information that is publicly available on the website is also discoverable on the app, such as rosters and schedules for all 18 varsity teams. The app also provides fans the ability to purchase game tickets and receive minute-by-minute updates on the teams.

DeVita believes that the app’s presence is making an instant impact. The football team’s home opener this year against Rhode Island drew a crowd of 7,101 people, up by 924 from last year’s home opener. DeVita believes that the new app will help continue to increase attendance this year.

“The first football game had a great turnout of over 7,000 fans and the student section was absolutely tremendous,” DeVita said. “It turned out to be a great night and I think it’s a sign of things to come.”

The app was launched during the second week of the semester on Monday, Aug. 29, following a soft launch phase available to athletics personnel only. According to numbers provided by DeVita, the first week saw the app gain 676 users 477 of which have registered for push notifications. Users have also averaged 11 minutes and 31 seconds of screen time per week on the app.

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Through the week of Sep. 5, the app’s second week since launch saw it gain 212 additional users – 633 users have now registered for push notifications.

Including downloads from the app’s soft launch phase, the Stony Brook Athletics app has 903 downloads. 

“I view these numbers as strong for a first-time app in its infancy,” DeVita said.

The app’s initial success through launch week can be largely credited to the marketing effort. Stony Brook Athletics has plugged the app on several social media posts and advertised at every home game through pregame and halftime announcements. QR codes have been posted on the jumbotrons to make it easier for fans to download the app. 

According to DeVita, the department has tabbed Stony Brook students, fans, alumni boosters and the Long Island community as their target audience for this app.

Based on feedback that Athletics has received, the app is off to a successful start. DeVita said that the app’s users think it is in a good place.

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“The feedback that I’ve gotten from students, student-athletes, fans, faculty and alumni has been great,” DeVita said. “People think it looks aesthetically pleasing. People think it is an easy way to stay up to date with their favorite teams and anything Stony Brook Athletics-related.”

DeVita added that the department is thrilled with the responses from its users, and that they do not plan to add any new features for the time being.

Director of Strategic Communications Cameron Boon and Director of Marketing and Fan Experience Maria Bonacore presented the idea of launching the app to DeVita this past April. After hearing Boon and Bonacore’s pitch, DeVita led the initiative to create the app. Stony Brook Athletics collaborated with developer From Now On to help them create the app. 

From Now On has developed other college-based athletics apps for schools like Florida State University and Niagara University, inspiring Stony Brook to reach out to them.

“We saw things that we liked from Florida State and Niagara University,” DeVita said. “From Now On was able to build us something that was unique to us that we thought best suited and reflected our brand, our style, our identity here at Stony Brook.”

Stony Brook hopes that the app will help increase awareness of events amongst their target audience. Ideally, the app will prevent students and fans from being unaware of the teams’ schedules.

“I never wanted to hear people say they don’t know when an event is or when a team is playing,” DeVita said. “I wanted to provide a service to our community that provided a seamless transaction. We created this app that provides a one-stop shop for everything in Stony Brook Athletics.” 

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During surveys conducted by The Statesman last semester, several students cited a lack of incentive as a reason for ignoring the sporting events. If Stony Brook Athletics and their efforts work, perhaps the app can be the catalyst needed to spark higher attendance numbers and incentivize more people to go. 

By building a better connection to Stony Brook’s student body, the program hopes it can be propelled into a higher echelon of college sports.

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