With 347 division one basketball programs, many marketing departments are pushing new ideas, but it is the work of one college hoops brand that is standing out amongst the rest.
Being at the forefront of the latest ideas and technology to make it possible has allowed the Georgetown Hoyas, led by Assistant AD of Marketing Chris Grosse, to take the initiative to be creative and push the envelope for the Hoyas basketball team and its fans.
Joining the Hoyas in 2014, Grosse arrived at a time of transition for the Big East Conference. Luckily, he saw a unique opportunity in that.
“I came to Georgetown at a very unique time. The BIG EAST Conference had just undergone realignment, which saw several of our traditional rivals move out of the yearly schedule. We also play in a huge arena. I believe it is the seventh biggest in the country, so there are a lot of seats to fill. We couldn’t stick to the status quo of just releasing our schedule and watching tickets sales soar, we had to be more strategic about things, and come up with creative ways to bring extra attention to some of our lower demand games,” said Grosse.
Like many conferences today, there’s a struggle to attract the fan base for certain games and Grosse has found that this trend can change with activities and themes off the floor.
“Since I took over, I think we have tried to add more to the experience for both our students and our general fanbase. We have tried to be creative, to offer the fans something different from other experiences in the area. We have introduced more themed nights for our student body (Denim Night, Fashion Faux Pas Night, Winter Onesieland), to create some buzz on campus and give the students something to rally around. We have really adopted more of a minor league promotional/creative approach to the way we do things. As the team is improving and getting better over these next few seasons, that will only add to the experience,” said Grosse.
Grosse knows that being creative is a big part of developing the brand, and that it takes support from the administration for an idea to see the light of day. Thankfully, this is something the Hoyas possess.
“There are a TON of amazingly creative people in this industry, both college athletics marketing and sports marketing in general. I think we are lucky to have an administration that enjoys pushing the envelope with a lot of what we do. They understand that we are a small marketing staff with limited resources, as compared to a lot of schools, so they see the value in being creative and trying to grab headlines,” said Grosse.
It is easy to overthink, but sometimes it’s just the simple plans that work best for basketball marketing departments when students are away from campus throughout the season on breaks.
“A lot of these promotions really help bring attention to some of our less-hyped games. We try to do the most creative stuff during our non-conference schedule, so we can drive people to our games in hopes they enjoy the experience and come back.” – Chris Grosse
“Some promotion’s results are easy to measure; you can count tickets sold through promo codes or increases in overall attendance. We have been running our ‘Student for a Day’ promotion, which fills our student section with general fans over break games, for four years now, and every year the section is packed with fans. It’s easy to measure those results. A lot of what we do, though, is to raise awareness of our events, our department, and the great things our student-athletes are doing, and that is a little tougher to measure. We see increases in social media engagement, earned media and coverage of our games, but sometimes we might not have tangible attendance increases to count,” said Grosse.
As for us as fans, we see the final product and continue to have fun with the ideas that marketing brings to the table, but it may just be what we do not see that’s just as vital.
“It’s quite the process and, sometimes, depending on the trending topics, a lot has to be done in a short amount of time…As we develop the idea, we always have to keep in mind how we are actually going to execute the plan on game day. We have to be creative and work within our budgets to make a lot of the things we come up with happen. A big part of our plan is making sure our promotional announcements on social media are done correctly…the initial announcement is important, especially on Twitter, because the initial tweet will get the most views if the promotion goes viral,” said Grosse.
Not everyone can make it out to every Georgetown hoops game, but the marketing team, putting together so many great theme nights, gives fans a reason to come out to the games.
“Almost all of our ‘viral’ ideas come from out-of-the-box thinking…the ideas that get the most attention come from when we break the mold and take some risks…We try to be the first to do something, or we try to be different than other promos that have already been done and take them to the next level…Our coach was in Space Jam, and we wanted to do a theme around that. We didn’t just do a Space Jam Night, we called it Monstars Night and had some fun with it,” said Grosse.
One thing is for sure, the Hoyas, behind Grosse’s leadership, are using their platform to the best of their ability and the results speak for themselves. Being first to the idea is not just a passion for Grosse, it’s in his DNA, and that has the Hoyas set up for success for years to come.