Marketing Efforts at Ole Miss Spark Increased Fan Involvement in Football Program
By: Shannon deLoach
Shannon is a freshman journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
Selling Ole Miss to sports fans and donors may have never been easier. Sports marketing expert Scott Pederson says that Ole Miss Athletics has a big opportunity now.
The 2012 season was a success in the eyes of many fans, not only because the Rebels finished with a winning season, but also because the athletics department got fans more involved. Pederson credits the new athletic director.
“Even before the team did well, Ross Bjork did a great job of inviting the rest of the university back into the program,” Pederson said.
Kyle Campbell, assistant athletics director for media and public relations, said that Bjork is the type of person who wants to meet people and “really touch those around us and inspire the fans.”
Between the dress code put in place for game days, several pep rallies during the season, an online TV series called “The Season,” Rebel Rewards and Rebel Fanfare, the fans had a lot of ways to get involved.
“I think the athletics department did a great job of showing the fans what goes on behind the scenes. ‘The Season’ gave fans a chance to watch the amount of effort that each person puts forth during the week. Fans were more excited because they felt like they were much closer to this group of players than in years past,” said Levi Dunagan, senior Ole Miss student and avid football fan.
Rebel Fanfare was a place for people of all ages to go within the hours leading up to kickoff. It had inflatable games for children and guest appearances by cheerleaders, Rebelettes, and former players.
Attendance was high in the 2012 season. The game against Texas drew in Ole Miss’s fourth largest crowd in the history of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The average attendance of 57,325 was up by more than 1,000 fans per game over the 2010 season.
Campbell says his department can’t take all the credit.
“At the end of the day, we can do all the marketing on earth, but if we aren’t winning, it’s going to be hard to sell.”
In the post-season, tickets for the BBVA Compass Bowl were anything but a tough sell.
According to olemisssports.com, “Ole Miss sold its initial ticket allotment of 10,000 in just two days before requesting and receiving an additional surplus from the bowl. Ole Miss also agreed to accept a portion of Pitt’s ticket allotment and sold 5,556.”
How can the athletics department continue to build on this excitement from the fans? Pederson says through fundraising.
“With the success of the football team, people who were not interested in the past may now be interested in giving to the program.”
Now, with the Rebels heading into the 2013-2014 season with what ESPN called the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation coming in, Campbell is optimistic.
“I don’t see this dying. I really think we have the leadership in place now to be a consistent winner and keep rising up that ladder.”