Flyer Fever has captured the Dayton region and has spread throughout the country via social media since the University of Dayton reached the Elite Eight by defeating Stanford on Thursday night in Memphis.
Local businesses have seen an uptick unlike anything they’ve experienced, said several business owners. John Slaughenhaupt, co-owner of Milano’s Atlantic City Subs, said his Brown Street location was “jampacked” during the Flyers’ Sweet 16 victory.
“It’s not just packed but electric packed,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. It’s just the excitement level. I think it’s permeated the whole city.”
Slaughenhaupt, who co-owns four Milano’s locations, said his team is prepared for tonight’s UD-Florida game. The prize is a trip to the Final Four.
“It’s nice knowing when it’s going to happen because you can prepare for it,” he said. “We’ll definitely be staffed.”
Ashley’s Pastries in Oakwood got a request to send a few dozen more “We are UD” basketball cookies to the team late on Thursday and has sold thousands of cookies, said owner Theresa Hammons.
The cookies for the team went out Friday afternoon and were being transported to the Flyers through a series of friends, family and fans on the way to or in Memphis, she said.
A customer who ordered the cookies said the team considers them good luck. The players will eat them with their pregame meal, she said.
“They are the same number, same type, packaged the same way,” Hammons said.
The bakery went through 45 dozen UD cookies Friday and had made three additional mixes since then, she said.
Thousands of T-shirts
Scott Reardon, who owns Atlantis Sportswear in Piqua, said demand for UD merchandise is so intense because it’s been so long since Dayton advanced this deep into the tournament.
Reardon’s company prints NCAA-licensed shirts for several licensees including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Dick’s and Cardboard Heroes.
Last week, the company printed 10,000 Sweet 16 shirts and by Friday afternoon had printed close to 9,000 Elite Eight shirts. Atlantis was sending a second shipment of about 2,500 shirts to the UD bookstore in the afternoon, he said.
UD officials said the campus bookstore had processed more than 2,000 online orders for tournament T-shirts as of Friday afternoon. The store had sold 6,388 Sweet 16 T-shirts and had 3,375 Elite 8 T-shirts arriving. Sales at Flyer Spirit, a student-run store on Brown Street, are five times higher for the month of March compared to last year.
“We think it is the most Elite Eight shirts ever sold,” Reardon said. “We have literally almost run out of our red shirts.”
The company, he said, is expecting a shipment of 30,000 more red shirts.
“This activity like Dayton’s is unheard of,” he said.
According to information from Fanatics.com, an online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, sales of UD merchandise on its site has seen a 1,300 percent spike this week.
Social media stars
Several Flyer fans said media and social media have kept them connected to Dayton and the team despite being spread throughout the country.
David Bereda, an Air Force physician from Beavercreek who has been deployed in Kyrghzstan for five months, said he was up at 4 a.m. to get to the clinic in time to watch the game on the Armed Forces Network. He was so fired up about the game that he drew the UD logo on his uniform shirt. A photo of him wearing it was posted to the UD Facebook page.
“Awesome! The Flyers were nailing 3s then later making great moves to the hoop,” Bereda said. “I was very proud. I wore my T-shirt the rest of the day under my uniform.”
Bereda said he’s planning to watch today’s game at 4 a.m. local time Sunday.
Tiffany Heck, who grew up in Dayton and lives in Naples, Fla., said social media kept her connected to the excitement about the game.
“There’s no longer six degrees of separation,” she said. “1,128 miles away, I couldn’t feel closer to Dayton than being right there!”
Heck said the hashtag #FlyerNation landed her at a local pub to watch the UD-Stanford game with new friends, “aka 50+ other Flyer fans in Naples, Fla. (Gator Nation, eek) that I would have never met without @DaytonFlyers tweet.”
Justin Bayer, a Dayton alum and CEO of Welcome to College, said he has been blown away by the connections and spirit he’s felt throughout the past week. Bayer blogged on Thursday about how the tournament has resonated with him and his company.
“I agree the wins benefit the institution,” he wrote. “But something greater is happening that deserves more discussion: the mix of pride and excitement throughout the city, student body, and alumni that is producing some of the happiest moments of our lifetimes.
“The ability to share the real-time emotion and happiness and pride this tournament is evoking is truly priceless,” he said. “As an alum, my social streams have been something hard to pull away from … they are so positive with this energy!”
Facebook and Twitter
Kevin Schultz, assistant director of university marketing and digital innovation at UD, said the school has seen an increase of followers or likes on Facebook or Twitter of about 1,000.
Some Facebook posts have seen more engagement than usual, he said. Engagement on some posts — people liking or commenting — have been as high as 35 or 40 percent. Engagement on a typical post is 5 to 7 percent, he said.
“People are engaging with our content in ways we are not used to,” he said.
Twitter has been significant, he said. One tweet about a specific win was retweeted almost 400 times — 14 times the normal reach of a tweet, he said. Reach numbers are based on the number of followers of the people who did the retweeting and several “major people are trafficking with us,” he said.
He pointed to Speaker of the House John Boehner, who has 634,000 followers.
“He’s been mentioning us a lot on Twitter,” Schultz said. “That’s what causes that amplification to be higher.”
The school also has been mentioned by Ebay and the New York Daily News.
Twitter impression numbers are 37.6 million just for mentions of the University of Dayton. For DaytonFlyers, the impression number is 75.3 million, he said.
The school’s website has had eight times its normal traffic. Since March 20, the website has had 204,923 visits and 565,660 page views from 135,292 unique users. Contrast that to a normal week: 24,940 visits and 72,301 page views from 16,898 unique users.
Heck said her Twitter feed has been blowing up daily with historical information about UD, bios on players and hashtag UD from the White House and ESPN’s Dick Vitale.
“(There have been) Facebook posts on how this amazing team has promoted a sense of community and boosts the Dayton economy,” she said.
She’s also seen photos on Instagram of fans going to Memphis to watch the Flyers play.
“This is the power of community and social media,” she said. “This community is proud and I’m proud to be a Daytonian! #DaytonPride #GoFlyers”