MINNEAPOLIS, May 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A month ago, the lights went on at an empty Dumas Football Stadium in the Texas Panhandle. The high school, 50 miles outside of Amarillo, lit up the night as a fitting tribute to the Senior Class of 2020 who saw their high school athletic careers end abruptly due to COVID-19. The gesture continued every weekday night, and was adopted across the country from Washington, to Iowa, Minnesota, Maryland, and more.
Since then, flexible contingency plans, 'wait and see' approaches and season cancellations have become the new normal for high school athletic directors, who are often already comfortable with uncertainty. Now however, ADs are staring down unknowns in their planning of fall sports, which like college, is responsible for the lion's share of their operating budgets. Safety concerns, fan behavior, governmental regulations, all are unknowns and each with its own impact and potential to threaten the learning opportunities and experiences high school sports provide.
Recognizing the need to help schools deal with that uncertainty, VNN Sports and Chipotle have joined top technology providers together in the youth sports industry to create a stimulus package that helps school athletic departments 'go on offense.' Including new necessities like digital tickets, automatic score reporting systems, fundraising, live-streaming, and coordination tools, the package gives schools all they need to face what comes next and helps subsidize the cost for each.
Old luxuries are new necessities
From the box office to the weight room, COVID-19's future impacts on youth sports are not yet known, but over the past decade companies have been building products that digitize much of the traditional logistics, organizational and marketing work that administrators do on a daily basis for their programs. While previously seen as luxuries, several of these products have now become mission critical for athletic directors who must plan for all contingencies heading into the Fall Sports season, whether it will be empty or partially-filled stadiums, closed training facilities, safety-minded parents, season-swaps, revenue impacts or all of the above.
The package created by VNN and sponsored by Chipotle, was rolled out on a webinar to the nation's athletic directors today, making these 'new necessities' available and affordable for schools by uniting a consortium of top technology providers and funding costs that include $1,000 toward platform set-up fees, $500 toward every $1,000 spent on other digital products and a contribution of $100 for every $1,000 fundraised via the RallyAroundUs app. Beyond VNN's flagship SportsHub communications platform and Team App (which through a partnership with MaxOne houses At-Home Workout Assignments and Tracking), the list includes HomeTown Ticketing (digital ticket sales and box office), 8to18 (scheduling and logistics), RegisterMyAthlete (paperless registration), RallyAroundUs (online fundraising, acquired by VNN in January 2020), BoxOut Sports (graphic design), Scorebird (live score updates), Rapid Replay (video) and multiple live streaming partners. In addition, VNN plans to release several updates to its software including eSports capabilities, video, and conference / state association functionality.
"Chipotle is focused on providing real food for real athletes, and we're thrilled to be involved in a program that can help high schools find innovative solutions for the upcoming Fall season," said Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer at Chipotle.
A stimulus for high school sports
"We've watched our partners communicate essential information, assign at-home workouts, hold virtual spirit weeks, showcase seniors, celebrate athletes who are now essential workers, raise money, sell season tickets, and plan ahead for the eventual return of high school sports," said Rick Ehrman, CEO of VNN. "We've also seen interest explode, bringing on 125 new schools to our platform since late January, and having unbelievable participation in our technology workshops, making it apparent that digital solutions are top-of-mind for athletic directors across the country. With this in mind, we were looking to have a more direct positive impact in the space, and working with Chipotle who is already a champion of youth sports, to inject affordability and cutting-edge technology into a stimulus package ensures schools can meet the challenges of COVID-19 head on."
The stimulus package is the latest in VNN's collaborations with like-minded businesses and brands to connect communities through sport, including "Project Five" with former Minnesota Viking Chad Greenway and Twin Cities Orthopedics which made the VNN platform accessible for schools in Minnesota at no cost, Northside Hospital's Sports Medicine sponsorship, and the company's revenue sharing program which contributes $350k yearly on average to VNN network schools.
To take advantage of the package, schools need to sign-up for participating services through VNN before May 31st either by contacting their local media consultant or scheduling a demo at vnnsports.net/schedule-demo.
About VNN Sports
VNN is America's largest and fastest growing high school sports communication platform. As the exclusive partner of over 10% of all US high school athletic communities, VNN connects the high school sports experience onto a single platform for 19-million passionate parents, athletes, fans, software providers, and athletic professionals across the country.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE: CMG) is cultivating a better world by serving responsibly sourced, classically-cooked, real food with wholesome ingredients without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Chipotle had over 2,600 restaurants as of March 31, 2020, in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany and is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all its restaurants. With more than 85,000 employees passionate about providing a great guest experience, Chipotle is a longtime leader and innovator in the food industry. Chipotle is committed to making its food more accessible to everyone while continuing to be a brand with a demonstrated purpose as it leads the way in digital, technology and sustainable business practices. Steve Ells, founder and former executive chairman, first opened Chipotle with a single restaurant in Denver, Colorado in 1993. For more information or to place an order online, visit WWW.CHIPOTLE.COM.