You’ve graduated from college. Perhaps it was last year. Or you are getting ready to celebrate your 10-year reunion. Being a proud alumnus of your school, you are a die-hard fan. Or maybe you are a current student who represents your university in every facet of your life. You love your team and rep them as you walk to your next class, at the gym, and of course, at every on-campus athletic event you attend.
Whatever the case may be, you support your team passionately. College football, basketball, softball, baseball, swimming, you rep your team through the thick and thin. And as a thriving adult, there’s a good chance you have a pet, specifically a dog or cat. You love your pet and you want to ensure that they are cared for and happy. It’d be a bonus if they were as passionate about your college as you are.
If only there was a way to share your love of your university with your furry friend.
Well, if you proudly rep the burnt orange and navy blue of Auburn, you are in luck. Established in August of last year, Paws & Claws is the Official Pets Club of the Auburn Tigers. As the first and only pet club in intercollegiate athletics, Paws & Claws provides fans with the exclusive opportunity to receive perks throughout the academic year.
“Paws and Claws was an idea that arose in the spring of 2017,” said Heck. “Kathryn Dillin, who is now an assistant director of marketing at Northwestern University, brought the idea to our team when she was a GA.”
“It is the ultimate inspiration for GAs and interns to be a part of,” said Heck. “The entire process of the club has been run by GAs. It is empowering to have ideas come to life and to see something go from concept to reality and see it all the way through.”
That idea blossomed into the full package that it is today. For only $15, as well as $5 for each additional pet added, every membership of the Paws & Claws club receives an official welcome pack (drawstring bag, phone grip (pop-socket), and car decal), a birthday card autographed by Auburn mascot Aubie the Tiger, invitations to pet-friendly Auburn events, and exclusive event and experience opportunities among others. Members can also choose pet specific items for their dog (plastic flying dish and doggy bandana), cat (scooper food dish and cat food lid), or other pets (water bottle and lanyard) that they own.
The integration of the program has been a natural fit due to the university’s highly touted veterinarian school. With the school’s success in college football, equestrian, and many other sports, the club is a natural fit within the Auburn athletics’ landscape. The Paws & Claws club began to take shape towards the end of last year as fans were encouraged to bring their pets to certain Auburn sporting events.
“Last year we ran a few outdoor events that were pet-friendly and we encouraged fans to bring their pets,” said Heck. “Equestrian, soccer, baseball, men’s and women’s tennis were popular amongst pet owners. We encouraged fans to tweet about bringing their pets to the game and share their experience.”
The social engagement led the marketing department to create more pet-focused events. This focus led to pet-centric outings for certain sports as soccer promoted “Pups at the Pitch” and baseball pushed “Bark at the Park.” The new events echoed on social media as fans drove engagement while posting photos of their pets at Auburn games.
“We wanted to have something to “brand” your pet with both through physical products and through a social media presence,” said Boniecki. “We created the @aupawsandclaws Instagram account earlier this year and now we have over 1,600 followers who actively engage with our posts and we encourage our fans to use the hashtags #PawsandClaws.”
The Paws & Claws club has had a large impact on the alumni base. The online engagement has prompted the Auburn marketing team to get creative in connecting with former students who still wish to be a part of their school’s day-to-day athletic events.
“We have continued to push more giveaways on Instagram,” said Boniecki. “Whether those are tickets to a football game, a prize pack or encouraging Paws & Claws club attendance at our outdoor events, we want to have others feel like they are a part of the club.”
With the club continuing to grow in size, both in membership numbers and in experiences and events organized, opportunities continue to be realized for this marketing initiative.
“The best part about this club is that it fosters more memories and more experiences,” said Heck. “It’s a nice value-add that doesn’t cost us much money to have others involved and take part. It is good for current and future members and it serves as a unique way to grow Auburn athletics and to share that experience with your pets.”