On the Road Again
There’s nothing more exciting then March Madness and it all starts on the ROAD to MAAC-A-CHUSSETS. In order for fans to become engaged during the season, much groundwork must be developed by the arenas and NCAA D-I conferences that host the championships. As a part of the efforts to create fan awareness, I have been traveling with a marketing team to different MAAC Basketball games to promote the 2012 MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships in Springfield, Massachusetts. This year’s championship will be at a neutral site for the first time since 1989, which has brought a lot of excitement and anticipation from MAAC fans, coaches, and players alike. With the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (which now includes a permanent MAAC Experience exhibit) less than a mile away from the MassMutual Center, the 2012 MAAC Basketball championships is sure to be an awesome time for everyone.
As noted above, to sell the MAAC Championships, a marketing team has been developed, whose aim is to visit as many MAAC campuses as possible to make fans aware of the new site. The marketing team consists of me, Nate Harris, the Marketing Manager at the MassMutual Center, Samantha Hegmann, the MAAC Compliance Fellow, and Jimmy Ketterer, the MAAC Championships Fellow. The team has refined its approach during the course of many campus visits so far this season. This past weekend’s marketing visit landed us in Baltimore, Maryland on Friday for a Rider vs. Loyola showdown on the men’s side, and a doubleheader in Riverdale, New York on Saturday with Manhattan’s women facing off against Marist as well as a men’s game between Manhattan and Iona, who were then tied for first in the league along with Loyola.
Some of the items that we distributed at Loyola were flyers and brochures that had information about the championship, a map of downtown Springfield, blue wrist bands with the clever text that reads MAAC –A -CHUSETTS, a point of interest booklet, buttons, and an opportunity for fans to win an iPad2 in a raffle.
Interest is high at Loyola because the men’s team is tied for first place in the MAAC. Because of this, there was not one empty seat at the Reitz Arena last Friday, which worked perfectly for us. It was easy to distribute the marketing collateral to fans. We talked to supporters about everything from hotels in Springfield, to single tickets now being on sale at www.ticketmaster.com, to the closeness of the Basketball Hall of Fame to the arena. By the way, the race for first continues this Friday which when Iona visits Loyola at 7pm on ESPNU.
Since the 2012 championship is the same dates as Loyola’s spring break, Nate, from the MassMutual Center, thought that would be a great promotional angle to suggest to students a trip to the MAAC Championships. I wish I could take credit for this idea since “What better way to spend spring break, then by taking a road trip to Springfield, Massachusetts?” and “Take a road trip to Springfield, Massachusetts and come support your team (who is tied for 1st) in the MAAC Championships” are such great taglines. This worked well for us. A lot of the undergraduates took the brochures and seemed likely to make the trip to Springfield to cheer on their team. There were even several Rider fans in attendance that we were able to also provide information to about the tournament.
Like at Loyola, the interest levels at Manhattan for the MAAC Championships are high as well. Before the women’s game, the marketing team put rally towels in the student section, and rolled up t-shirts for cheerleaders to throw during their t-shirt toss promotion. Our promotions table was set up right next to the entrance. They set the table up with the same items that we had in Loyola. As soon as fans began walking in, we bombarded them with information about the championship. A majority of the fans assumed that Springfield was 4/5 hours away from Manhattan. I was shocked at how many people didn’t know that Springfield was actually closer than Albany but I’m glad we were able to give them the proper information. (Note to self: Need to develop PR campaign on the closeness of the Springfield to most MAAC cities.)
The Marist fans that traveled to the game, didn’t take the flyers that we had, because they already received the information a few weeks ago when we were at Marist promoting. Some of them used the information we provided to book their hotels and purchase tickets. It was the same reaction with Iona fans, since we promoted at Iona about three weeks ago. However, something new we added to this trip was a video blog. I talked to a few fans about who they thought was going to win the men’s or women’s championship. It was fun to see how many people were enthusiastic about their teams. There were two friends that I recorded (one was an Iona fan and the other was a Manhattan fan) and it was hilarious how they went back and forth about who they thought was going to win the championships. I’ve posted a few videos below.
I honestly think traveling to as many campuses as possible to talk to the fans and students about the championship will draw more attendance to the tournament. Overall the feedback from administrators about the marketing campaign has been positive, and I look forward to ending the MAAC Basketball marketing campaign with a strong finish.