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Building a Marketing Campaign

Mary Pink's picture

As one season closes, planning for the next season starts right away. Each year, I sit down and reflect on the previous season trying to figure out how to elevate sales and drive revenue for our football program. Planning for the next football season begins before the end of the current season. The first part of the planning is developing our ticket pricing and goals. This is a collaborative effort between the ticket office, development and marketing. Things that are considered for our pricing: Win/Loss record, ticket sales, revenue projections, attendance, how to drive new sales and future schedule.

As an example for 2010, we created a new price level in our stadium to encourage our fans to move from our end zone seating (our cheapest reserved seat) to a higher price level on the sides of our stadium. Another strategy created two years ago one that came out of this meeting was to get our fans to renew earlier (many of them waited until the last minute) and to get them to renew online (to save on our mailing costs for future renewal periods). Through this planning session, we created a special offer – for the first two weeks of the renewal process, we waived the processing fee ($25 savings) and offered 14 days of unique prizes, with a winner being picked each day. We increased football ticket renewals by over 243% as compared to the same two-week period in 2011. More people also renewed their season tickets online - 70% compared to 37% in 2011.

After pricing and goals are approved, I switch gears to focus on the marketing campaign. One of the first and most important things to consider is how your brand is viewed among its constituents. I look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of our football program. This helps me to develop one of the biggest pieces of the campaign - the theme. I sit down with our agency, The Meyocks Group, to discuss how our brand is positioned in the market and how to capitalize on this assessment. Working with an agency has been important to us in building our brand. The Meyocks Group developed the theme “CyclONE Nation” in 2009 which has become a rallying statement for our fans. The “ONE” theme has been used in subsequent campaigns, and even for some of our other sports.

Next, I develop the marketing plan for the season. This plan includes taking the ticket goals and our target markets and developing strategies. Each ticket goal has a varying strategy depending on the market. For example, I created a special ticket sales strategy to target our students. We offered sales incentives to our marketing interns and alumni student workers who sold student season ticket packages in the spring before school ended. In the past, our returning students have waited until right before the season started to purchase their season tickets. By then it was too late to change our strategy if sales were down. This sales strategy offered us the opportunity to jump start sales and get students to buy them earlier. Through this strategy and other tactics we were able to exceed our student season ticket sales goals by 22% from the previous year.

In laying out the plan, one of the parts that I look at is our advertising. I don’t utilize print advertising and haven’t for a number of years. Newspaper circulation numbers have continued to decline and I haven't found it an effective return on investment. I place some of our advertising dollars with TV, using our three main three local affiliates on primarily news broadcasts. With the cable and satellite providers and a limited budget, local news has given us the best reach and frequency. I have also instituted trade outs with our radio affiliates to get exposure throughout the state of Iowa. One of the most effective strategies I have used has been through mobile text messaging, email and direct mail. I can directly track their effectiveness and success.

Social media has been another important part of the campaign utilized to promote ticket sales and the upcoming season. It’s very effective because of the low cost investment vs. amount of exposure. One way we have used social media in our campaign is to tie it with another advertising medium such as digital billboards. This past year, we did a “Countdown to Kick Off” promotion leading up to our first game. Countdown to Kickoff was started on the Iowa State Athletics Facebook page ten days prior to the start of the 2013 football season. An image was posted to our Facebook wall each day of the countdown with the corresponding number of days left until the game. In addition, each day fans had a chance to win two tickets to the season-opening game and a poster or rally towel signed by Head Football Coach Paul Rhoads. Fans could enter each day for a new chance to win. In order to enter, they were required to “Like” our Facebook page. A viral component was included as well- after entering to win, fans were prompted to share the contest with friends via Facebook and Twitter for bonus entries, creating additional awareness. Another component of the campaign featured the countdown images on digital boards throughout Des Moines from August 24-September 1. The billboards resulted in1,831,389 impressions that week. We also posted pictures of the digital billboards on Facebook, telling fans to look for them and let us know what they thought.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give is that you need to be flexible and have the ability to change parts of your campaign as the season unfolds. Some strategies need to be updated or new ones implemented depending on how the team is performing or attendance. This is crucial, especially if you’re struggling to meet the goals and projections set prior to the season.

I also stress the importance of looking at new ways to develop your campaign and taking the time to sit down and see what you could do differently each year. Sometimes things need to be changed completely and other times, just some tweaking can make all the difference.

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