I was thrilled with the amount of people who attended the NACMA presentations that Mary Pink (Iowa State), Zack Lassiter (UCF) and I facilitated two weeks ago in Orlando about the strategy of selling Women’s Basketball. I was even more excited about the participation that happened once these folks were inside the room. Truly incredible dialogue that brought everyone together to move forward with marketing the game with a unified voice.
The driving message was to truly value the product, which means no free tickets. While this may seem like a great way to get people in the door, several people confirmed that fans aren’t actually using these tickets and if they do want to come to a game later on down the road, they will just wait for the free tickets instead of purchasing one. Instead, add value to the game by providing a cool experience for the fans (e.g. fan tunnels, first in line for the autograph session, name on the scoreboard, be the halftime contestant).
We also discussed limiting the number of discounts each season, and when you do discount the ticket make sure there is a reason behind it. For example, it’s just for a select group, it’s only for a limited time, you need to go to a certain location to purchase or a sponsor is tied to the game so it appears as if the sponsor is passing along the savings to the fan.
Strategy was the core of the presentation. It was what you need to go back to with every decision you make. Figure out where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, and then stick to it. Of course, things happen that may cause you to change course, but ultimately you should always have a reason for implementing a tactic. Don’t just do something because you did it last year. Do some research to figure out if your ideas are working. If they’re not, stop doing them.
In order for your strategy to work, you need buy in from your Women’s Basketball “circle of trust”, as Zack called it. If you don’t have a core of people, including your coach, believing that marketing the program is the top priority, you’ll have a difficult time actually doing it.
Also, go after the right target. If you know families aren’t attending your weeknight games because it’s too late, go after a different audience instead. When you identify a new target, be sure to follow through. While having a big promotion to bring fans in is a great start, sometimes we forget that it takes a lot of follow up to get them to come back. For example, Field Trip Days are very successful in Women’s Basketball, but just putting a sweet flyer into the kids’ backpacks before they leave the arena isn’t enough to bring them back. You could send the student-athletes to the schools throughout the season to keep building that relationship, you could have your coach speak at parent-teacher function, you could start a reading program that gives rewards for those who complete the books, etc. It takes work to build these relationships, but don’t all relationships involve work?
When you do all of this work, you need to make sure you tell people about it. One of the reasons you have coaches calling you with tons of ideas or asking you to give away tickets is because they don’t know what you’re doing. While you may meet with them before the season to go over the plan and then periodically provide them with an update, I suggest sending a weekly email to your coach, athletic director and SWA. In this email you can provide the recaps from the games that week, which will include your successes, as well as your failures. Let them know what worked, but if something didn’t work let them know what you’ve learned from that so you can do it better next time or scrap it altogether. You can also provide a preview of what’s coming up so your coaches can help you spread that message, which we all know that our coaches are our best spokespeople. Make sure they have as much information as possible so they can be an asset to your plan.
Finally, we talking about solving the right problem. We tend to try things because we saw them work somewhere else, but each school is unique. If you don’t know why people aren’t coming, then you can convince them to attend. For example, when I was at Northwestern, I heard an idea at the NACMA Convention about having a tailgate before the games, but when I asked my students why they weren’t coming it was because it took too much time away from their studies. Knowing this, adding two more hours on to the event didn’t make sense … unless we turned it into a Study Hall at the arena with free food, which is what we did.
We could’ve chatted with the marketing folks in that room for days because the information that was shared was extremely valuable, so thank you to everyone who attended. We’re all trying to do the same thing, so let’s keep the dialogue going this summer and into the season. If you have ideas you want to share or questions you want to ask, comment below!