The University's Athletics Department uses promotions, new media to reach students
By Roya Ghorbani-Elizeh
When Wally Pilot changes his Facebook status, over 1,623 of his friends will see his game updates and news from The Bluff.
Welcome to the new world of sports marketing at UP.
With three separate Facebook accounts, a Twitter page and a YouTube page, UP's Athletics Department is increasingly using social media, the Internet and prize giveaways to raise interest in UP teams.
According to Tricia Miller, marketing director for Athletics, one of the department's goals for this year was to get students more involved in home games.
"I always seem to hear that students didn't know when the games were," Miller said. "It's easy to walk right by the flyers on campus."
With a few keystrokes, Miller and her marketing team are able to get information to students instantly by advertising games and future promotions through Web sites like Facebook.
Every Monday, the marketing team brainstorms strategies to entice people on campus, especially students, to support the teams.
"There are a lot of students and community promotions planned for this year," Miller said. "We have all sorts of fun stuff up our sleeve."
The most recent promotion, sponsored by corporate partner All About Hawaii, was Oct. 8.
Through the promotion, one student was given two plane tickets and five-day hotel accommodations to Hawaii.
Dubbed the "Duck Invasion," all UP students were invited to pick up numbered rubber ducks in the Academic Quad during the afternoon.
That night, the winning duck number was called during the volleyball game against LMU.
The winner, sophomore Tina Schicchi, found out about her win over the phone from a friend.
Schicchi missed part of the game because of a meeting, and had to run over to the Chiles Center to claim her prize.
"I sprinted all the way there, I was so excited," Schicchi said. "I don't think I've ever run so fast."
Miller described the promotion as fun and successful because of student participation.
"The promotion went really well because of the big crowd and then with the win volleyball had," said Miller.
Students also noticed the increased attendance at the volleyball game.
"I think that the promotion that night brought a lot of students to the crowd that wouldn't usually show up on a school night," said Schicchi.
Other UP teams have also seen a spike in interest from the students on campus.
According to junior Lynn Le, athletic marketing intern, students have been coming to the home games "decked out and in droves."
"There is a lot of enthusiasm from this year's freshman class," Le said. "They have been a major component to the spirit at the games so far."
While the marketing team does most of the advertising and promotions to raise awareness for the Athletics Department, some UP teams have employed their own marketing strategies.
The men's cross-country team has created several videos for the "UPPurplePride" YouTube website.
"These videos give the community a chance to meet the student athletes," Miller said. "They are great for promoting teams and also for recruiting new athletes."
Along with promoting sports teams, the marketing team also aims to create a sense of community on The Bluff and in the local area.
With the use of mascot Wally Pilot, the Marketing team attends local events to create awareness of the University and its sports teams. UP mascot Wally Pilot is putting in a lot of hours to help that effort.
Recently, he has appeared in local parades and other events held in the Portland area, including the Race for the Cure last month.
"Everyone was walking next to him and wanting to have their picture with Wally," Miller said.
"It was amazing to see the response he was getting from the people in the race."
With the new sports season around the corner, the marketing team is making plans for winter sports promotions.
A key focus will be men's basketball.
"We want to make the games as fun as possible," Miller said. "We recently just hired a professional DJ who will be playing music at every home game."
That's not all.
"This year we are creating a new school spirit tradition, and it's going to start at the men's basketball games," Le said. "It's called Pilot Riot, so keep an eye out for it."
Promotion of this year's men's basketball game against Gonzaga is already underway.
The Jan. 9 home game had initially caused some concern about attendance for the Athletics Department because of its proximity so close to the end of winter break.
"Residence Life's schedule had the dorms reopen on Sunday, Jan. 10 like they always had," Miller said. "However, we were able to change it to Jan. 9 so students could come to the Gonzaga basketball game."
Although the flurry of activity in the increasingly fast pace of athletics marketing keeps Miller busy, she has help.
Five UP students work as Athletics Marketing interns. They are responsible for things such as game day events and campus promotion.
"They're interns, but they are also Wally Pilot handlers, street team members and arts and crafts experts," Miller said. "They are everything to us."
The interns say they benefit as well.
"This internship has helped me learn how to consider marketing trends in a sports business atmosphere," Le said. "It's great exposure on how to effectively brand a name."
Call it a win-win for the Marketing Department and the community.
"We have a good story to tell about our teams and their participation in the community," Miller said. "We just want people to know that story."