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Collegiate sports marketing and athletic departments will face unique challenges this fall. Even as colleges and universities promise a return to in-person classes, the year-long break will have consequences.
Increased safety concerns may cause students and alumni to stay away from the sporting events they used to love.
Creativity to sell sports and event tickets is critical for colleges and universities this year. From Division I to Division III, you can’t assume college students and their parents will simply show up like they did in pre-pandemic times.
Fortunately, creative sports promotion is CMG’s specialty. Below are 6 promotional strategies for college sporting events that can help you raise ticket sales and ensure a triumphant return of intercollegiate athletics at your institution this fall.
In a time when sports targeting has to reach beyond your internal audiences (college students), programmatic marketing can offer your school the perfect solution.
You can include your key messages on visual displays and video ads that appear on channels from Roku to ESPN, The History Channel, CBS Sports, and more. The keyis targeting your ads to reach the right audience at the right time.
Digital ads tend to be affordable, and are effective in reaching a narrowly targeted audience that’s most likely to purchase tickets for your school’s sport events.
The measurability of this tactic also helps to optimize your budget, ensuring that any dollar spent on ticket and event promotions makes a tangible impact.
Pro tip: adjust your messaging to match your targeting. Someone already checking out your website will likely benefit from more personalized, actionable ads than someone who is just looking for things to do, but who may be unaware of your school’s teams.
Most athletic departments already use email marketing for their existing audiences. It’s easy to send out an email blast to current students or past event attendees to let them know about the soccer schedule or available deals on tickets.
Don’t stop there. Email marketing has the potential to go far beyond these typical options in both targeting and strategic approach.
You can easily target a wide range of audiences, even if they aren’t currently in your database:
With the right audience in place, you can build a more comprehensive email strategy:
Like digital ads, one core benefit of email marketing in this context is measurability. You’re able to instantly see exactly which of your audience segments responded to your messaging and how impactful the emails were in boosting ticket sales.
As we move towards fall, COVID-19 remains top of mind for most college students and parents.
According to one survey of the incoming freshmen class conducted this April, only 20% of respondents said they had little or no concern about the pandemic when entering college.
The lesson is simple: don’t assume that promoting college sporting events will go back to the status quo. Your spectators — from students to alumni — will care about how you can ensure their safety as they watch their favorite sports team.
One strategy to account for that trend: incorporate campus safety communication into your athletics and event promotions.
Outline your cleaning practices, mask regulations, and other items of note on flyers, your ticketing website, and even social media. That sets clear expectations, while also putting your audiences’ minds at ease as they consider purchasing tickets.
No matter the sporting event, college events attract fans for2 reasons: school spirit, and the athletes. The latter of which can quickly become celebrities on campus.
Involving student athletes in your promotional messaging can pay significant dividends for your ticket sales:
Note: A recent Supreme Court ruling is important to highlight in this context. It set the stage for college athletes to be able to profit off their name, image, and likeness. States like Kentucky and Pennsylvania have already introduced legislation solidifying the ruling.
None of these developments should prevent you from working with student athletes to promote sporting events, but it does provide important context to keep in mind as promotions are planned.
Your university’s and athletic department’s main social media channels — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — are likely core channels to promote your sporting events this fall. But don’t underestimate the power and potential of some of your other options.
Snapchat has significant potential in the higher education arena. More than 80% of its users are between 18 and 24 years old, and its filters are ideal for messaging around school spirit and sporting events.
TikTok offers similar opportunities in higher education. More than 60% of its users come from Gen Z, and the video-based approach puts the visual needs of this generation first. It can help you with authentic, relatable content to draw attention to your athletics.
TikTok especially shines in the influencer marketing approach. If you can regularly get student athlete-generated content on your accounts and in front of your audience, your chances of increasing collegiate sporting event ticket sales increase drastically.
The primary focus for most schools is to convince their current students to attend sporting events. But external audiences — especially your alumni — matter just as much.
This is the audience group with perhaps the biggest degree of school spirit. Get them involved, and you have a great chance of steady and improving attendance.
No athletics or college marketing department can be an expert in all audiences. That’s why this is a great opportunity to bring in your alumni office for ideas on how to best reach out to their primary constituents.
There may be newsletters, alumni events, and solicitation letters to leverage. Sitting down with someone in the alumni office — maybe whoever works with younger alumni or on regional events, or the marketing department head — can yield plenty of ideas to improve and enhance your ticket sales.
Many admissions offices across the country are planning to move back to in-person recruiting this fall. That likely means multiple open houses, decision days, admitted student days, and more.
Consider an athletic-admissions partnership that can be mutually beneficial. Scheduling major admissions events during home football, basketball, and other sports games makes for a more natural connection between visiting a potential future school and experiencing its school spirit firsthand.
The opportunities here are multifold. You can offer discounted athletics tickets to admissions visitors, meet and greets with student athletes, or behind-the-scenes athletics tours as part of an open house.
Prospective students and families from out of state will be likely to take you up on the offer, since they’ll be in town for the full day to begin with. But even local students with an interest in athletics will become more likely to attend your sporting events.
Any of the above promotional ideas for sporting events can help you succeed individually. But they only begin to truly shine when taken together to build a comprehensive strategy to raise your ticket sales this fall.
We’re entering an unprecedented fall, where college students are ready to get back to normal while still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding a balance between these two mindsets is vital when promoting your school’s sports and event tickets.
Fortunately, College Marketing Group has extensive experience in both marketing and the higher education context, and especially with tactics like the above-mentioned email marketing and programmatic digital ads.
Let’s explore a potential partnership. Learn how you can maximize your ticket sales opportunities this year >