When I first started working at Northwestern, the marketing staffs at each Big Ten school got together every year around the Men’s Basketball Tournament to share ideas. Remember, this was before we really knew for sure if this internet thing was just a fad, and way before social media. These meetings were amazing. I was sitting around the table learning from some of the best in the business, including Mark Hollis (aka the guy who set the record for largest hockey attendance when MSU and Michigan played outside and the same guy who decided to play a basketball game on an aircraft carrier).
It was a two-day event where we not only shared with each other, but we brought in sports pros from different organizations to learn from as well. Since then, several conferences started doing annual marketing meetings, which cover several topics in a short amount of time. But two weeks ago, I was asked to be part of the Big East Marketing Workshop in Indianapolis dedicated solely to growing the game of Women’s Basketball. Amazing to be able to focus that much time on just one sport.
It started with an opening session with Anucha Browne, VP of Women’s Basketball at the NCAA, sharing updates on how far we’ve come since Val Ackerman’s White Paper and what’s still ahead.
Up next, we went to the Indiana Fever game to check out how they run a gameday. The following day was a full line-up of speakers, including people from the Fever who shared their sales plans that included strategies for creating ticket plans and the sales philosophies behind them. They gather data, but more importantly, they use it.
They have a sales team that makes calls, builds relationships and makes the sale, which is something you don’t often see in marketing collegiate Women’s Basketball. Most schools don’t have the time or the resources to do this, but let me tell you, the WNBA teams have proven that it works.
That’s what the Fever does so well. They try something out and then they track whether or not it works. Sounds simple, but that’s not always the case because, again, not everyone has the time and the resources to do this. However, because the Fever sales crew makes decisions based on research, they are working smarter instead of harder.
I rounded out the workshop by echoing the importance of creating a strategy and using research to make the sales. I reminded folks that the follow through is where you can make the difference on the bottomline. If you have a Field Trip Day with 6,000 kids in the arena, you can’t expect them to come back because they had fun and you put a sweet flyer in their backpack. You need to follow up to build a relationship with their parents to keep them coming back.
It all comes back to time and resources. If done well, making phone calls to sell Women’s Basketball tickets does work so I’m curious to know how many schools have a sales team that dedicates time to selling Women’s Basketball? Is it a priority or is it the last ticket they pitch after the customer has said no to Football and Men’s Basketball?