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Targeting Youth Can Build Your Fan Base

Mary Pink's picture

This past weekend as I dined at a Red Robin restaurant, I was reminded at how powerful targeting youth in your event and marketing efforts can be. I have two kids, 8 and 6 who have a vote (not all the time, but half the time) in our dining plans. After choosing Red Robin (our kids had never been there), they fell in love with the place. Red Robin was smart in that it catered to our family. They offered my kids balloons when they walked in the door, coloring papers and supplies, children’s size chocolate shakes, great kid’s pizza and when I asked to split a kid’s meal, they really split and gave them each their own half. After the meal, my daughter declared this was now her second favorite place to eat and will be asking to go there again soon. This dining experience showed me how marketing to kids could influence future entertainment choices. A study in 2010 by Rudd Center showed the power of marketing as it indicated that 40% of parents said their child asked to go to McDonald’s at least once a week.

With concerns about a decline in attendance across the country, increased marketing efforts to children and families should be a part of your strategy. In 1995, our kid’s club, Jr. Cyclone Club, was a small part of our marketing plan and installed only to help our women’s basketball attendance. Five years later, the club was enhanced to offer more opportunities to families to be involved with the rest of our sports. Today, with almost 6,000 members, the Jr. Cyclone Club is one of our main strategies for continuing to build our fan base, brand Iowa State Athletics and increase attendance/ticket sales. Price, product and position have also been a part of the planning. We offer an incredible value-added membership price point of only $59. For this membership price, kids receive free admission to all home football, women’s basketball, wrestling, volleyball, soccer, gymnastics and select men’s basketball games. Some may argue that what we are offering is a great deal and could be losing revenue (for football) but I look it as another way to build lifelong Cyclone fans and engage parents. In discussions with a company recently, they told me that through their research kids develop their loyalty to a team by the time they are 12 years old. In addition, many parents have a lot of time commitments and options as their children grow older but they get involved in our kids club and attend our events because they see it as an affordable option to take the whole family. We have continued to try to find new ways to engage our kid’s club such as, free pre-game clinics with our student-athletes and coaches, a free movie night at the football stadium our pregame experience area for kids before home football games and various other events. We have seen an impact in our attendance and ticket sales with this club as our football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and volleyball attendance continues to increase each year and not necessarily with teams who have a winning record or have won significantly.

Another touch point for us focused on families has been our Cyclone Tailgate Tour which stops in 12 different locations throughout Iowa (including one stop in Nebraska) during the summer. It is an outreach event in which our coaches, student-athletes and administration are present. The event is free to attend and features a, casual environment with inflatables and affordable food prices. At the evening stops, kids are asked to come up to the stage and receive a free Cyclone branded item (this year was a backpack). The last part of our stop is our Cyclone Fan Fest event which kicks off the sports’ season. The event is also free and caters not only to the football program but for all of our sports. Each sport has an interactive station in which kids can interact directly with our student-athletes and coached, or get autographs. Attendance for this event has increased each year that we’ve hosted it, and creates a heightened level of excitement for all of our sports programs.

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Just as restaurants market heavily to kids with toys, service and special experiences, more effort should be made in marketing to kids as it could bring in new found sales.

If you have any ideas for future articles or questions, you can reach me on Twitter @maryzpink or at

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