Interactive Alumni Game Watch Party: How UC Irvine Maximized Engagement With The Shared Experience

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This winter, Erika Jordan (UC Irvine) used CAAE’s Show of Hands platform to ask members the following question: Have you hosted a virtual game watch on a platform that allows you to stream the game and have alumni interaction? Read on to see what her team learned.

By Jeff Minhas, Executive Director, Alumni Relations, UCI Alumni Association

Collegiate athletics can provide some of the most interesting content for our alumni audiences, regardless of school size or program accomplishments. The challenge facing alumni relations offices of converting that interest to captured engagement became more pronounced during the pandemic. The lack of in-person game attendance left no centralized mechanism for alumni to enjoy their basketball, football and more games within a unified fan experience. At the University of California, Irvine Alumni Association, our UCI Homecoming Weekend tradition is built around a men’s basketball game. We set out to keep the athletics spirit alive in February 2021 by pulling out all the stops for an interactive alumni watch party.

The primary goal was to make it an active participation event to enhance the alumni experience – not a passive experience of watching the game alone. We charted a simple but well executed course with two key strategies: A) enjoy every second of the game, and B) spend every second of down time engaging the audience directly in creative ways. 

A core component of the strategy was to broadcast the game and deliver a plethora of interactivity within one screen. This strategy increased audience focus and participation, which would otherwise taper off for participants who watched the game on their TV. After evaluating what wound up being a lack of technological options and lack of precedent across the industry, the best tool available to accomplish this was Zoom Meeting with an expanded license for 500 attendees.


The primary goal was to make it an active participation event to enhance the alumni experience – not a passive experience of watching the game alone.

We streamed the game from ESPN3 within the Zoom meeting to all users using one ESPN+ credential. After much testing, we found it very important to stream the game from a dedicated computer on-campus, with the fastest available ethernet-wired internet connection available. Home cable internet will make a video stream unwatchable. A staff member at the campus computer was the event “director”, screen sharing the in-browser video feed (full screen, zoom toolbar hidden, audio on and “optimize for video” on). 

A 2-hour NCAA basketball game includes 8 scheduled 2.5-minute media timeouts, a 15-minute halftime and an average of 3 unpredictable short timeouts.  At every break, the screenshare was toggled off and one of three staff hosts pivoted to one of the following scripted activities:

  • Welcome and introductory remarks
  • Spirit contest (apparel, swag, background)
  • Team basketball trivia (Zoom poll)
  • Kids dance contest
  • HALFTIME Homecoming Trivia Extravaganza (using Mentimeter)
  • UCI mementos show/tell
  • Getting to know you (Zoom poll)
  • Adult dance contest
  • Group photo
  • PSAs featuring alumni and partner offerings filled the remining breaks

Winners of every contest were shipped swag prizes. The audience was audibly muted the entire time, but the chat was very spirited, with 1,058 entries. Throughout the game feed, we spotlighted (ZOTlighted) various attendees in spirit wear to display as VIPs alongside the screenshare. The event began with attendance of 197 and ended with 208, meaning full 2-hour retention was about 100%. Post-event survey responses provided excellent reviews across the board.

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