Monday, August 9, 2010

Northwestern Marketing Hits Media: Hope for a Georgia Tech Sellout?

Is NU reusing an old idea in the new marketing campaign?

Northwestern has launched a new marketing campaign that started just a week ago and begins in full force just as football starts and single game football tickets go on sale. This campaign right now is obviously focused on football, but one has to assume we will see basketball related marketing as well. Interestingly, the campaign touting Northwestern as “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” is very similar to a past campaign from the start of the last decade (see picture above). Some people have objected to this. Basically, they feel that NU is trying to repeat a failed strategy. I somewhat disagree. Yes, NU has tried to hit on being a “Chicago” team before. However, Northwestern really hasn’t ever spent a great deal of money in marketing. That is changing. I’ve seen full page ads in the paper, radio spots, and billboards which will be up year round. That’s a far cry from the past then NU basically didn’t market outside of the NU community. If NU is every going to truly make a dent in a very competitive media market in Chicago, it is important that NU be visible on a regular basis. Having daily ads helps with this a great deal. It also probably isn’t a coincidence that this campaign is occurring in the same year NU is scheduled to play football at Wrigley Field. No place in Chicago says Chicago sports more than Wrigley and so NU is trying buy some Chicago goodwill from that move as well. With season ticket sales up a reported 30% perhaps it is already working.

The question, though, is will those sales be consistent next season and will anybody who bought football tickets this year because of the Wrigley game be motivated to buy basketball tickets as well. Well, one good thing for marketing basketball is you’ve got a ton of potential basketball season ticket buyers at football games. When you consider that a crowd of even 20,000 is about three times NU’s average attendance in basketball that means that somehow if NU could make just 3,000 of those 20,000 football fans into hoops fans Welsh-Ryan could be sold out every game. Sure, some football fans have other issues which allow them to make Saturday football games and not make basketball games, but out of the multitudes of NU football fans who don’t come to basketball games at least a few thousand must exist who could come, they just aren’t motivated to do so yet. One suggestion I do have is that I’d like to see NU’s big basketball matchups promoted during football games. It’s hard to sell the Chicago State game, but it can’t be that hard to sell fans on watching ACC runner up and NCAA Tournament qualifier Georgia Tech. If Northwestern was smart they would make a concentrated effort to sellout the Georgia Tech game (Nov. 30th 6PM CT ESPN2) during football season. I’d like to see ads for tickets during timeouts or maybe even a deal for tickets to that game for season ticket holders. That game will most likely be the jewel of NU’s non-conference schedule and it’s on national TV. Aside from how having a sellout crowd would help energize the team. Seeing a packed gym on TV would also impress recruits in a critical recruiting year.

Getting fans in the stands is a start and the next key is getting them to comeback. The other great thing about trying to pack the place with football fans for Georgia Tech is that it will probably be a great game with a good atmosphere (similar to top football games). Experiencing that atmosphere would hopefully make those people comeback. I’d also love to see NU football season ticket holders who aren’t basketball season ticket holders bombarded with ticket package deals. For example, a Big Ten game only package or a package that has the Tech game along with Michigan State and Illinois. Something that at least gets large pro-NU crowds in Welsh-Ryan for key games. Bottom line, building a larger fan base for football might be an achievable goal long term, but doing so for basketball should be even easier. Hopefully NU will have saved some money to try and make that happen. Personally, I encourage everyone to try and get your non-basketball fan friends to buy Georgia Tech tickets. When Georgia Tech (and ESPN2) arrive in Evanston on Nov. 30th let’s have them see a sea of purple.

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