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EMU’s integrated marketing communications social media strategy experience plan: 2010 edition

December 18, 2010

Among the information presented to the Board of Regents Thursday was a summary of the football marketing efforts and results for 2010.

The presenters began by describing the challenges facing EMU football as a “perfect storm”, citing the 0-12 record in 2009, the 14 consecutive losing seasons (during which time the Eagles compiled a 41-119 record), no increase in the marketing budget ($240,000), the bad regional and national economy, the possibility of poor weather, the fire in the main concession booth, and the need to 15,000 tickets per game for the NCAA audit year. They supposedly conducted “extensive marketing research” including 20 focus groups, “comprehensive” surveys of the EMU and Ypsilanti communities, specific surveys of EMU students, faculty, staff, athletics staff, alumni, boosters, football coaches (presumably referring to other than EMU), football players and their parents, and season ticket holders. I’m a bit curious as to the true extent and depth of this marketing research, because we have several of those categories in our household, and unless the survey was so trivial as to be insignificant, we didn’t hear anything whatsoever about this market research effort.

Questions as to the true extent of the research aside, however, I can’t really argue with their findings, which included a desire to increase fan connections with players and coaches, the feeling that EMU football is a good entertainment value, a desire to target marketing to more groups and families, the need for a formal student cheering section, the need to improve the concessions, a need to develop a “festival experience” (whatever that is), a desire for more contests and giveaways, more ticket packages and discounts, more social media presence, more online videos, clarification of tailgating and alcohol rules, better signage (both for directions and for branding), improved ushering, and more energy leading up to the game.

Toward those ends, EMU came up with two plans, four goals, and five overarching strategies:

Plans:

  • Integrated Marketing Communications Plan
  • Stadium Spruce-Up Plan

Goals:

  • Increase home game attendance by 10%
  • Increase student attendance by 10%
  • Acheive NCAA audit goal of 15,000 per game
  • Improve game experience and student spirit

Strategies:

  1. Increase football visibility and awareness.
  2. Improve football game experience.
  3. Rebuild/build football relationships.
  4. Rethink ticket sales, programs, and promotions.
  5. Reconfigure football marketing workload.

So far, so good, right? I can’t really argue with any of that. Let’s take a look at how EMU implemented all those ideas.

Under Strategy #1, “increase football visibility and awareness”, part of the goal was to build on the basketball attendance marketing in 2009-10, which resulted in a 42% increase over 2008-09. EMU chose to downplay traditional advertising in favor of social media, and hired Brogan & Partners, an ad agency with primary offices in Birmingham, Michigan, and Cary, North Carolina, to create and test theme/design options, from which “United We Swoop” was chosen. Based on that theme, EMU built an integrated advertising campaign including billboards, radio ads, newspaper and online ads, banners, and tchotchkes (posters, bookmarks, magnets, cups, t-shirts, etc.).



Rynearson Stadium entrance tunnel, before and after "enhancement"

For Strategy #2, “improve game experience”, EMU sought to improve services, such as ushers, concessions, and the shuttle bus, increase communications and promotions, including through social media (Facebook presence, in-game Twitter coverage), and alumni tailgates, created the “Rynearson Rowdies” student cheering section/organization, expanded the Homecoming activities, and spruced up the stadium. Speaking of the stadium “spruce-up”, which I derided when it was first announced as nothing more than basic maintenance that probably should have been done years ago. By and large I stand by that assessment, and given that the project requested $450,000 and received just $30,000, it’s not surprising, but all that’s not to say that it didn’t make a noticeable difference in the Rynearson Stadium atmosphere. My personal favorite improvement was the decoration around the entrance tunnel, but the concession signs and new gates were also nice.

Turning to Strategy #3, “rebuild/build football relationships”, EMU hosted the second annual Football 101 Clinic for Women, which in addition to the clinic itself, gave attendees an early look at The Bubble (due to inclement weather) and was a great bargain for the season ticket. EMU also held an appreciation picnic for season ticket holders, started “Tailgate Tuesdays” in the Student Center, and generally increased player and coach appearances.

For Strategy #4, “rethink ticket sales, programs, and promotions”, EMU developed some special ticket offers, including the 10-pack voucher book. They also upgraded the gate procedures to scan tickets, which will allow for tracking of who actually attends games and how they get their tickets, and, of course, PepsiCo bought a ton of tickets and gave them away to area schools, with EMU offering to bribe people to attend.

Under Strategy #5, “reconfigure football marketing workload”, they hired seven current EMU students, three alumni, and two other employees, and created a slew of football subcommittees.

So how did all that work out? Did they achieve their four stated goals for football marketing in 2010? What was EMU’s actual football attendance? And just who was that masked man? Stay tuned, for this and more…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. EMU advocate permalink
    December 18, 2010 9:48 am

    One of the most widely derided slogans of this football marketing campaign was the one about EMU football fans “yelling” or “cheering” their “brains out.” True football fans (who saw little on the EMU field to be happy with) and true educators (who value brains and prefer them not to be tossed out) alike found this stupid and annoying. And it had no discernible favorable impact on attendance, despite the very costly signs featuring the slogan.

    And, cynics may ask, how many EMU football fans are their? Very few. And most of them prefer to watch a good game on ESPN than venturing into an empty stadium for a mediocre at best, though very cheap in price, spectator’s experience.

    Good post. Thank you!

  2. Ralph permalink
    December 18, 2010 10:40 am

    I would venture to guess there are around 5,000 +- real fans of EMU football. However, not many are season ticket holders. I prefer to watch an EMU game at home rather than watch someone else on TV. The crows will eventually come back when we start winning. As for the marketing plan, they forgot to concentrate on one of the most important of the five “P’s” of marketing – the PRODUCT. Forget the bull crap marketing which does not enhance my experience and increase the teams budget. Also get a head coach from a winning program.

  3. February 19, 2011 10:11 pm

    Were you going to follow up with this? In game attendance improved by 33% from last year. Student attendance increased by 31% and EMU will never not fulfill the NCAA audit, it’s almost impossible with too many factors involved to name, I’m not sure why that was a goal. I agree with others, the goal should be to WIN games. Win games and ticket sales and attendance will become a non-issue.

    I just came across your blog, thanks for the keeping it current and relevant.

    • February 20, 2011 5:08 am

      Yeah, I posted the actual numbers the very next day.

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