January 4, 2011
In college wrestling, the Southern Scuffle is known as a premier showcase event featuring some of the top programs in the country. In fact, this year’s field actually included three of the top five teams in the country in Penn State Wrestling, Minnesota Wrestling, and Cornell Wrestling. So, you can imagine that I was excited when the UTC Wrestling staff invited me to attend this year’s event at McKenzie Arena. I quickly accepted the invitation and began to think about the potential learning opportunities that would exist at the event. However, it is important to note that I now watch wrestling events from a completely different perspective. Rather than focusing solely on the athletic competition, I tend to see things from a marketing perspective, with an emphasis on innovative marketing strategies (both observed and potential) to enhance program’s efforts. At this particular event, I decided to put together an entry focusing on the specific “Marketing Moments” that I experienced throughout the tournament. These are definitely areas that I think can be beneficial for both coaches and sport marketing professionals.
Marketing Moments at the Southern Scuffle
1. The Practice of Promotional Preparation: One of the first things that I noticed was the proactive approach that the Chattanooga Wrestling program took when attempting to build interest in the event. Through their previous efforts via social network sites, they now have an active database where they can effectively deliver innovative messages. Along with a few other select programs (see Central Michigan Wrestling, Minnesota Wrestling, Wyoming Wrestling), the UTC staff did a nice job of putting together a short, creative promotional video to help build interest in the upcoming event. On top of this, they were extremely proactive in sharing this with other Southern Scuffle participating teams leading up to the competition. These are lessons that other programs can learn from moving forward.
2. Embracing a “Customer Comes First” Mindset: At most wrestling events, there seems to be little consideration given to the needs of the consumer. I believe that this trend is changing in college wrestling today. In fact, at the Southern Scuffle, I noticed several instances where the host tried to go out of their way to ensure that the fans were having a solid viewership experience. One primary example was the seating arrangement at the event. Rather than seat the participating teams in the lower bowl of the venue, they assigned them to the upper level to ensure that fans had the best view in the arena (see photo to right). With this type of consumer first mindset, there is little doubt that programs and the sport of wrestling will grow in the future.
3. The Effectiveness of Southern Hospitality: When attempting to build a premier sport event, hospitality (or customer service) can go a long way in ensuring that you enhance loyalty with consumers and the media. From the time I arrived at the event, the UTC staff went out of their way to make sure that I had everything that I needed. In addition, they constantly asked for feedback on how they could improve the event moving forward. This was illustrated in this week’s version of Monday MocTalk by the Chattanooga program. Rather than simply relying on instincts, they actively pursued constructive feedback from stakeholders to make sure that they are able to effectively improve the event moving forward. This is the best way to ensure that an event is created that is appealing to both coaches and consumers in the future.
4. Entertainment is an Essential Element: There is little doubt that high level wrestling is exciting for loyal fans. In fact, you could probably get away with doing nothing more than rolling out a mat and letting top wrestlers compete to please them. However, this does not mean that they would not enjoy the event more with an entertaining atmosphere. More importantly, you cannot effectively draw normal consumers (e.g., college students) without an environment that is competitive from an entertainment standpoint. When interacting with Cornell Wrestling’s head coach Rob Koll, he stressed the importance of creating a dual environment that is fun for a wide range of consumers. If you are not familiar with what he means here, see the most recent Redman season ticket video released by the Cornell Wrestling program. The bottom line is that 95% of wrestling programs will need to invest in creating an exciting product to build their attendance at local events.
Summary of Marketing Moments
As you look over the “Marketing Moments” form the Southern Scuffle, you will notice an interesting trend. With each of these areas, it takes a unique marketing mindset where your top priority is to create a product that is valuable to your consumers. The challenge is that this usually takes a change in mindset to be successful in marketing your product effectively. The promising thing is that there are already a handful of college coaches (including UTC) that have completely adopted this mindset. I have no doubt that this will increase significantly by next year’s Southern Scuffle event.
“Create an aura in your city. Make people understand that unless they come to the ballpark, they will miss something” (Bill Veeck)