Athletics marketing machine needs a boost

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By Caroline Alphonso

When it comes to promoting athletics, Ryerson is finding that ideas are almost as scarce as the fans attending games.

Poor attendance records is attributed to Ryerson being a commuter school, but the main problem lies in the athletic departments’ limited marketing attempts of a team’s upcoming games.

Lack of fan support, however, does not hamper the athletics budget.  Students contribute $49.59 each to make up the athletic budget of $619, 875 for 16 teams.

“Co-curricular activities are an incredible component.  Students do best when integrated in university.  They have a sense of belonging to something,” said v.p. administration Linda Garyson.  “in a commuter university you need to have as many activities as possible for students to connect to their universeiyt.”

But if the athletic department wants the students to make the commute, they have to give the students an incentive, said RyeSAC president David Steele.  Steele recommends recruiting players and fans during orientation.

“It’s a marketing problem and they don’t have staff to handle it,” he said.

Mary Freskiw, a second-year nutrition student, said she never hears about the games.

“If it were posted then I’d probably go,” she said.

Although not noticed by students like Freskiw, Ryerson’s assistant athletic director, Chuck Mathies, said posters are put up around the campus announcing upcoming games.

The department is also looking to hire a marketing student with ideas on how to improve fan attendance.

Like Ryerson, other universities are going full steam ahead to increase their fans at games.

Carleton University has a dwindling attendance at games, even though most of their facilities are on campus,” said Gail Blake, assistant director of varsity athletics.  Their athletic department is now working with the student council to increase fan support at games.  This year students are not charged attendance at games.  “By having more students at games, we hope to get people from outside Carleton too,” said Blake.  “We may lose a little in the short term, but gain later on.”

With 30 teams on campus, York Unviersity is definitely “trying to fill the stands,” said Patricia Murray, director of sports and recreation.

When playing football at their own stadium, out of the 2,500 seats approximately 1,800-2,000 are filled.  At Ryerson, winning teams get the most fan attendance, said Bob Fullerton, director of the athletics department.

The number of Ryerson fans coming out to basketball games fluctuates.  During some games half of Kerr Hall Gym is filled with Ryerson students supporting the team.

At soccer games, fan attendance is negligible.  This is a result of students having to commute to Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough.

York University has an innovative method for attracting large crowds to their games.

For York, sponsorship money totaling $15,000 at the end of the season does help its marketing.  In home games for hockey, basketball and football, spectators are selected to qualify to win $5,000. By scoring the most baskets or shootings the most goals, students can qualify for the next round at the next home game.  This goes on until one students for each of the three sports is left at the end to win $5,000.

This is a creative solution to a lack of attendance that sets York apart from Ryerson’s paltry attempt to market itself to students.

“We’re trying to make these games as entertaining as possible,” said Murray.

The fact that most universities have their facilities on campus does make a difference.

The lack of green space around Ryerson’s campus makes on-campus facilities unrealistic.  Students would have to commute to watch games.  It is even a struggle for athletes to get to these facilities, said Mathies.

It takes approximately an hour to reach a soccer game at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough.  Fan attendance at these games is minimal to non-existent.  York University, on the other hand, has Ice Gardens for their hockey games and a high-tech indoor complex is home to other teams.

“There’s more things to do in Toronto than attend a game,” said Brian Smith of Ryerson’s men’s basketball team.  He said a winning team is the best way to generate as much support as possible.

“If teams win, it helps build notoriety for the school,” he said.

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