Big school. Little school. Football school. Basketball school. Lacrosse school! Whatever college you come from it probably has a sports team or two and you can likely find them on TV or streaming online these days (yes, some venues can stream games). Holding game watches around that team can be a great way to meet alumni in informal, fun settings. It’s usually not too difficult to get a good following at your game watches if your school is nationally known for one its teams. However if you’re a small school or in the same state as your school, you can face some challenges in growing your attendance. Let’s take a look at some ways that you can get a strong showing at your club’s game watches.
Alumni Only? Fans? Who To Invite?
When I was leader of a club that was faraway from my college, I asked the University for a report of the alumni in my area. That report indicated that there were about 1200 alumni and parents of students (I asked for them to be included in the report). I figured that we could, if we got the word out, have a nice sized game watch crowd but it still wasn’t going to be very big. I determined from the outset though that I would not limit our crowd to only alumni but that their families, friends, co-workers and fans of our teams would also be welcome. The atmosphere I wanted to create was one in which our attendees cheered for the team but also talked to each other about this team – and this school – that we loved. That club has continued that tradition and each year they’ve steadily built a loyal crowd who’ve also become friends. I recommend that, if possible, local alumni clubs adopt a similar philosophy and apply that to your marketing strategy.
In-State vs Out-of-State School
You would think people would come out to your game watch regardless of whether your school is in or out of the same state as the alumni club but you would be wrong. I’ve been a club leader in both situations and I can assure you that it was much easier to grow attendance when the club was not in the same state where we were located. Why? Because out-of-state alumni are usually not able to attend the game on game day. This can be problematic for clubs that are within easy driving distance. This is my current situation. Our approach is that we hold “official” game watches on week nights and late games on Saturday or Sunday nights. Our game watch spot always has our game on during “prime time” and many times some of our volunteers are present then too but this way our alumni know that they can always catch the game with other alumni when they’re in town.
Invite Your Opponent!
One of my all-time favorite kinds of game watches is when we invite the opponent’s alumni club to watch with us. This can create a fun, interactive environment more like an actual game. It’s also a great way to boost your numbers at the venue and make new contacts. Word of warning though. I wouldn’t recommend this if you have a well-known heated rivalry and you are in the general vicinity of either of those schools. People can be a little more serious about it and if there’s alcohol involved, things could escalate. I’ve had good luck holding an event like this when the rivals were well outside the state of our colleges but I realize that’s not going to be the case everywhere. Reach out to the opponent’s club leadership and discuss it. Perhaps there can be another type of event that the clubs could hold together.
Spread the Word About Your Club
Don’t forget to post your game watch events on your social media and in your emails. That will cover the folks who know about you. Here are some ways to get the word out about your club and game watches for folks who may not know about their local alumni club:
- Create Facebook or Instagram ads – for a little bit of money and some good targeting you can get Facebook or Instagram to help you find people who support your school. These are quick to create and you can track their views and conversions. I recommend creating a short, descriptive post with a good picture and then boost it. Check out my post on boosting your Facebook event.
- Ask your university to post your events on their alumni website – Many times the university will keep a calendar of local club events. Alumni may check that calendar if they will be out of town for a big game and want to find a spot to watch it with local alumni. If your university doesn’t already do this, ask them to start one!
- Get your game watch location to post your events – Ask the venue’s owner or event coordinator to include your events on their website and social media. You can help them along by making sure you tag them in your game watch posts so they can easily share or retweet to their followers.
- Ask your regulars to mention the club and its game watches to their friends – When I was the club leader of the out-of-state alumni club, I was continually shocked by how frequently I met someone with a tie to my school! I would always invite them to join us or just find us on Facebook (see my next point). Sometimes they would show up and, wouldn’t you know it, bring another friend of theirs who was also an alum or fan! Make sure your regulars do the same.
- Leave a club card for a supporter – Does your alumni club have business cards? A
small card that will give your club’s name and contact info? If not, you should have them. Your university will likely print those or pick up the cost of them. These can be great to hand out when you meet someone with a connection to the university. One club even leaves them on cars who have your school’s decal or tag on it! Another club created school color polka-dotted 3×5 contact cards with the text “You’ve been spotted!” to leave on cars. (I recreated this in PicMonkey.)
Finally, I recommend getting a head count at each game watch so you can track the size of your group and look for trends in attendance. This will also help you see the progress your communication and marketing efforts are making.
Growing attendance at your game watches will take a little time if you’re new to it so stay creative and don’t give up!