A student section should never be the 'job' of an athletic marketing administrator. Here are a few reflections why for you to consider before basketball season.
Reflection #1 The job of athletics marketing is to get 'butts in seats'. Well a student section should never have 'butts in seats'—rather 'butts outta seats'. Students should stand the whole game. So already, there is a contradiction in job responsibilities. And how do you get more 'butts in seats' from alumni, donors and the community? A robust, raucous, electric student section. Create an entertaining atmosphere students and fans want to be at. Then if nothing else, people will come to watch the students. Why do certain mid-majors have zero issue selling out games while other Power 5s suffer? The student section. Reflection #2 Few athletic administrators have actually ever built a student section from scratch. This is not their fault, nor is it a bad thing. However, if a student section falls within their scope of responsibilities... And they've never done it as a student... How are they supposed to succeed in building a student section? So whose responsibility it? Student leaders. Reflection #3 Every athletic administrator is stretched thin, with limited time. You're probably skimming this email because you have 20+ more to get to... I get it. If for no other reason than TIME, this is why student leadership is crucial. The student leaders do all the work, freeing up your time and making your job more rewarding. Imagine showing up to the game, and students are there already because they want to be there... Without spending hours of creating content and folding t-shirts... But simply meeting with leaders 1-2 hours a week. Reflection #4 Student sections are products of culture. Administrators can't physically build culture themselves. They can cultivate it and provide an environment for it... But only students will ever build culture. What are the ingredients to build student section culture? Here's a simple formula: Student leaders + branding + in-game coordination = Organic culture building. Focus on what you can contribute to. Give leaders structure and transform games into FOMO events. Reflection #5 Most budgets are still spent erratically and focused on the wrong things. Budgets are spent on free stuff, rewards programs and anything to incentivize students. If this worked, every university in America would have a great student section. When you remove the incentive, they have no reason to come. The game and culture itself should be the incentive... Which is done through student leadership and the in-game environment. Why not invest your resources into what actually works? It costs less than t-shirts, giveaways etc. Budgets must be spent differently, to get different results. Reflection #6 Basketball games can no longer be just games. They must become events. This is the only way to keep students engaged. Rather than worrying about sponsorship PA reads, make games 'lit' for the students. Play loud relevant music. Incorporate the student section. Have a purpose during pre-game, timeouts, halftime. Coordinate cheers between spirit programs and the student section. Make games about the students in the stands, not just the players on the floor. There will be plenty of sponsorship inventory still, trust me. Students will love it, and thank you. (So will your sponsors) Reflection #7 It's time to get uncomfortable and to stop thinking small. Set big goals. Remember why you work in athletics. Takes risks. Innovate. Do things different. Because unfortunately most administrators live within their comfort zone. And games will continue to be plagued by apathy. So, a student section should never be the 'job' of an athletic marketing administrator.
It should be a calling of student leaders.
Where do you go from here? Invest in the proven process to build a new-age student section where games are parties and students show up because it's their calling. Now is the time. Schedule a strategy call here.
- Brandon Kaiser