As I headed into my morning marketing class, I was thinking about ways that coaches can increase the support surrounding their program. Naturally, this lead me to considering event attendance and the steps necessary to put butts in the seats. Moving into this academic year, it is critical that coaches are looking to find ways to promote their events that take place on campus. While there are a variety of strategies to achieve this, it starts with setting a vision for what you would like to achieve via marketing. So, with that being the case, here some some steps that every coach should take if they are interested in building attendance at their events.
Step #1 –Set attendance goals for each of your events: In athletics, you set goals so you have something to strive towards. It gives you a vision that allows you to stay focused during a hectic schedule. So, why the heck would you not do this in your marketing efforts? Every coach should know their goals for the attendance that they would like to achieve during each home event. It is important to make these challenging so that they force you to step out of your comfort zone. However, they also need to be reasonable so that they effectively guide promotional efforts.
Step #2 – Make your goals visible in marketing efforts: Once you have your attendance goals in place, don’t be afraid to make them a visible part of your marketing efforts. There is no reason why you would not let your fans know about an attendance record you are shooting to break for a key home event. After all, they have to know about it if they are going to help you promote the event via word-of-mouth marketing. In addition, making a goal public also makes it more real and less likely that you will back off during the season.
Step #3 – Involve student-athletes and alumni in process: Even before you make your goals public, you should inform your student-athletes and alumni about the programs intentions with attendance goals. Heck, you can even ask them for suggestions on how to help increase interest at events. In marketing, brainstorming with a group of engaged stakeholders is a guaranteed way to come up with more creative ideas to help reach your goals. Even better, their involvement up front helps encourage buy-in when you move forward with marketing the events.
Step #4 – Create themes for key events: If you are going to make your events appealing, you must truly embrace the concept of “Making them an Event” (see page 28-29 in Marketing Manual). With this being the case, you need to start by packaging them to make an initial impression. Rather than just calling them a home event or “UNC v. Virginia,” you can come up with names that tap into emotions for students and individuals on campus. On page 13 of this UNC Wrestling marketing plan, there are example of themes for home dual meets. In this instance, you could use the #BorderBattle theme in your social media efforts leading up to the marquee match. The point is that you need to package your events to make an initial impression that reflects a little creativity.
Step #5 – Strive for an attendance record at one event: While you want to maximize attendance at all events, every program should strive to “go big” at one home event each year. Pick an exciting match-up and develop a theme that ties into the attendance record you are shooting for (e.g., “Takedown 2k Event”). In addition, if this is a lofty goal, you need to find a way to tie-in to a larger cause that will help drum up interest in the event. For example, it could be an event co-sponsored with Dance Marathon where you are attempting to raise 2k to “takedown cancer” via research. This concept is not fully developed, but you get the point. The cause will help you extend your reach while also appealing to people’s emotions. This also has the potential to build your brand because it is supporting an extremely good cause. You get the point…
It is unrealistic to think that folks are just going to show up at your events. As a coach in today’s competitive entertainment environment, you need to give people a reason to attend and to keep coming back. While this does not address the promotional elements you can include to truly create “an aura surrounding your event,” it gives you a starting point to consider as you develop your marketing plan. So, get to work right now and you can achieve unique things this year via attendance. It is on you to create a support system surrounding your program.
“Strive for a level that will make you truly unique. If you fall short, there is a good chance you will still differentiate during the process” (ELSM Innovation Team)