How can an athletic department get the community involved not only sparking interest in a program but coming out on top, win or lose in the game?
South Carolina and men’s basketball coach Frank Martin have come up with a creative way for that to happen.
The Gamecocks have launched the “Martin’s Math Club,” a contest for students from kindergarten through eighth grade in the state of South Carolina in partnership with the South Carolina athletic department and the S.C. Education Oversight Committee. Martin, a math teacher for almost 15 years at a Miami high school, happily granted approval to the contest that was devised by South Carolina director for marketing Josh Waters. Math educators in South Carolina pitched in with contest specifics and the Education Oversight Committee published 18 standards-based lessons for K-8 students that incorporate math and basketball.
Students and their teachers have a chance to win two tickets to a Gamecock basketball game from the competition that runs through Feb. 24.
“The one aspect that continues to disappear in our society is the respect for the greatest profession in our country — teachers,” Martin told the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier. “I’m hoping a program like this can start the process for creating the respect for the most underpaid profession in our country.”
South Carolina’s Colonial Life Arena seats 18,000 and the Gamecocks’ average attendance is only 11,654 through the first nine games. Rather than stand pat, Waters and the South Carolina marketing department are trying to come up with ways to drum up support.
“Martin’s Math Club” works wonders in that it can help fill seats at a minimum cost to the school all for a great cause. A contest is a unique way to generate fan involvement. Many schools have giveaways or discount promotions that spark fan involvement with a meaningful cause involved.
Washington State, for example, is sponsoring the “Junior Cougar/Youth Sports Day” on Jan. 21 when Colorado plays the Cougars in Pullman, Wash. All Junior Cougars (fan club of kids ages 12 or younger) will receive free admission and local youth can wear their sports jersey for a ticket discount.
Two weeks later, on Feb. 4, Washington State hosts USC on “Teacher Appreciation Day”. All Washington State faculty and staff and teachers in the Pullman area will receive a ticket discount. Washington State director of marketing and promotions Jennifer Hanson and her staff understand the need to be creative and work diligently for a program that is not at the level of marketing itself. The Cougars average only 2,384 fans in their 11,671-seat Beasley Coliseum.
Sweepstakes are a type of contest for fans to win general admission tickets. Colorado, with a new partnership with Quicken Loans, incorporated a sweepstakes event with Quicken Loans footing the cost to supply fans with season tickets as part of its sponsorship deal.
The Buffaloes average 7,509 fans this season in its 11,064-seat Coors Events Center. Colorado chief marketing officer Matt Biggers is attacking that challenge of filling more seats by negotiating the deal with Quicken Loans. Biggers achieved two objectives. First, he filled seats. Second, he received money for those tickets from Quicken Loans. They were not given away.
Marketing departments at universities for many years have come up with ideas to get people from their community into their arenas. It’s refreshing to see what South Carolina has developed with its “Martin’s Math Club.” It can help the Gamecocks’ attendance issues while encouraging the importance of math with young students. That innovative approach can have a prolonged impact on South Carolina as the contest grows in popularity in future years.
What will they come up with next? Sounds cliché but that question really has some meaning.
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site AllSportsTucson.com.