The University of Pennsylvania is hoping that by tweaking its marketing tactics it can increase student engagement with the school’s sporting events.
Ahead of the football and basketball seasons, Penn assistant athletic director of Marketing and Fan Engagement Denise Fitzpatrick, and assistant director of marketing Emily Jakimowicz hope to re-engage current Penn students in the sports culture.
“We want to be an avenue to bring out Penn pride and Penn spirit in our students and let them know that the entire time that they’re here [will] not be, ‘I have to wait until I’m an alum to be proud that I went to Penn,’” Fitzpatrick to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “While you’re here you should be proud that you went to Penn and let us be the avenue in which you show that.”
The team has conducted a survey to understand student attitudes around athletics. They’re hoping to try a number of ideas and go with what sticks.
One idea that worked last year was offering students a free ticket to big games — such as the last year’s basketball matchup with Villanova — as long as they attended several other games with lesser-known opponents.
“We weren’t sure how that was going to be received, but it was received really well and something that worked. Now we know in the future we can leverage those big-time games to support attendance at other events,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are seeing what sticks because the student population is extremely important to building our fanbase in the long run.”
The marketing team has also introduced things like 10K Saturdays, as well as free pizza or donuts with notable faculty and coaches.
For football, the marketing team has focused on merchandise giveaways, as well as “punt, pass, kick” games, and “run the field” games, which were an effective draw last year.
With Franklin Field currently under construction, and seating being limited, Fitzpatrick an opportunity to change fan-athlete interactions in a distinctive way.
“Our team is shifting our sideline so all of our fans, even the visiting fans, everyone in the stadium, will be right behind them and supporting them,” she said. “I think it’ll actually create a unique atmosphere.”
Another new initiative this year is called “Pregame on the Green,” which will be activated for the Brown, Cornell, and Princeton home games this season and will allow anyone to rent a space for friends, student groups, and fraternities and sororities.
“[G]roups can get their tented space, come in, have food and alcohol for those who are 21 and over, bring their cornhole, little bluetooth speaker, and have their setup out there,” Fitzpatrick said.
The school is also connecting with veterans’ groups on campus to designate special seating at football games, further develop their Military Appreciation Day, and are collaborating with Princeton groups to create intercollegiate sport outings.
“We’re in the business of creating fun for others, so we want to make sure we’re having fun,” Jakimowicz said. “And if we’re not having fun or making it a fun environment for the students, then we’re not doing our jobs right.”