Balancing Opportunity & Vision

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Tim McMurray speak about the new strategic plan for the Athletic Department at Texas A&M University-Commerce. McMurray spoke of the process they went through in defining goals, laying out a plan to achieve them, and the significance of having departmental ‘buy in’ with the approach. With clear goals in mind, he was confident the strategic plan would guide everything they do – and I agree.

I thought back to that presentation when Josh Remington, the Assistant Director of Marketing at Illinois State, pointed out the following tweet:

The question on the surface is pretty easy: Does your department want to capitalize on some of your events’ moments that have traditional gone unnoticed? The article notes the potential to sell off the opportunity of high-fiving the team as they run through the tunnel, going on to the field to retrieve the tee after a kickoff, and a number of other elements that we – as people working events – often dismiss as inconsequential.

As Josh and I exchanged a few tweets, I tried to think of it in the big picture mentality. My initial comment to Josh was that I’d rather see such opportunities presented to donors before being parted out in a menu-style offering. While it’s easy to look at the immediate impact on the bottom line, there needs to be consideration for the value of a relationship between fans and ‘their’ team. What’s more valuable to your department: The $150 to have two children be a part of the high-fiving line or the goodwill you generate with the family as a whole by inviting them down to do so at no additional cost?

At each Mules Football game, Central Missouri has a member of our youth club deliver the game ball to the officials after the coin toss. In recent weeks, the officials have given the child something additional to take with them: The MIAA conference coin that was used. This past weekend, I watched the youth club member return to his father on the sidelines beaming with pride. That little boy will be back to watch Mules Football – I’d bet my last dollar on it.

It’s a thought process I hope to carry with me: Relationship-based marketing can take collegiate athletic departments to an entirely new level in the sports landscape. From the way we interact with donors to the game day experience, investing in the fan will always have a greater impact than making a quick buck.

Today’s t-shirt sales are great for the budget but that shirt will eventually fade. The kid with a shiny, new MIAA coin from the time he went on the field? He’s going to remember that for years to come.

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