Athletics should think outside the box

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 1, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Western’s varsity sports teams are hotter than ever this year. Women’s volleyball and basketball, and men’s basketball and hockey, are all poised to make big playoff splashes. The powerhouse cheerleading, squash, track and field and rowing teams have all given us reason to show Purple Pride.

In contrast, promotion for Mustang Athletics seems somewhat lacklustre this year. Booths in the University Community Centre atrium, giveaways, posters and displays enticing students to attend games are sparser than normal.

If Mustang Athletics wants to draw decent crowds to games, it must do a better job promoting events.

Some of Athletics’ promotions have become stale and out of touch with most students. While many students may not be interested in particular sports competitions themselves, most are interested in having a good time with friends and meeting new people. Promoting the social aspect of attending sporting events would be a fresh approach.

There are lots of easy social selling points for games. First, Mustang games are cheap. Most hockey tickets cost $6. That’s about half the cost of a movie and less than the price of two drinks at most popular bars.

Mustang games also have no age restrictions, and spectators can be as loud as they want. Athletics should look into having group nights to get large contingents of people to enjoy nights together. Soph, Purple Spur, University Students’ Council and club nights would probably be quite popular.

The Mustangs men’s hockey team plays downtown in the John Labatt Centre. While the venue change was promoted a lot last year, it’s barely been mentioned this year, and many new students may not know they have the opportunity to support Western’s hockey team in a sleek, new downtown arena.

Athletics should take advantage of this move and encourage students to head downtown to games. Perhaps it could offer dinner-and-a-game deals and give students discounts at downtown restaurants before taking in games. Afterwards, many students would flock to any bar that offered a similar beer-and-a-game deal where they could get a dollar off a pitcher if they show their ticket stub.

Many Mustang athletes promote their own teams and herd people to their games. Having varsity athletes sell tickets, hold demonstrations and promote their games on campus and at bars has always been successful because it’s a way for athletes to establish a personal connection with their peers.

Canadian varsity athletics will never reach the status of American college sports for a variety of reasons, including history, funding and size. However, there’s no question Mustang Athletics must improve its promotions by putting some new twists in its playbook.

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