A little more than two weeks ago an e-mail arrived in my 98.5 The Sports Hub e-mail account that jumped off the screen and grabbed my attention. On any given day I receive at least a dozen e-mails at that address. Most of the e-mails are either press releases from sports organizations, listener comments, or a notification that somebody left their lights on in the parking lot.
This e-mail was different. It hit my inbox at 3:53 p.m. with the subject line “UMASS Spot.” Without even opening the message I knew that it signaled the start of something big for UMass Football in terms of marketing. I had been hearing for months that UMass was working with The Gold Group to develop a strategy to gain significant exposure in Eastern Massachusetts. The e-mail was sent to me from a co-worker and it was a request to record a new commercial for UMass Football. I was thrilled on a number of levels. It was great to know that the extensive planning and hard work put in by UMass and The Gold Group had come to fruition. It was also great to have an opportunity to play a small role in helping get the word out about UMass moving to FBS.
The radio commercial was recorded and was on the air in a matter of days. It was only the first piece of the marketing puzzle. A few days later, advertisements began to appear in the two major Boston newspapers and on billboards along Interstate 93. All of this put a smile on my face and I figured that others were having a similar reaction.
I was wrong.
Fellow Maroon Musket blogger Bob McGovern wrote the following on July 30:
I am frustrated that the school is trapped in the triangle of traditional advertising: radio, television and newspapers.
UMass has at its disposal an athletics website, an institutional website, Twitter pages, Facebook pages and a gamut of other online resources that are cost-effective ways to spread the word about the program.
Commenters on this site went so far as to term UMass’ efforts as anemic, ill-prepared and inexcusable. I was legitimately stunned to read these reactions. I feel that the criticism is unwarranted and I disagree with the sentiment that social media is somehow superior to traditional advertising because we live in an “iWorld.”
Here is a full rundown of what we have seen from UMass so far with numbers that illustrate the potential impact of the advertisements:
- A radio commercial on 98.5 The Sports Hub. (A commercial is also running on WEEI.)
The commercial has aired during both drive-time shows on 98.5 The Sports Hub. (Full disclosure: I work there.) In the latest ratings The Sports Hub had more than 430,000 listeners in the month of June.
- A large advertisement on the back page of the Boston Herald on Tuesday July, 24th.
The Boston Herald has a daily circulation of more than 113,000.
- An advertisement on the front page of the sports section of The Sunday Globe on July 29th.
The Boston Globe has a Sunday Circulation of about 360,000.
- Three billboard advertisements including one on I-93 in Dorchester.
According to the Massachusetts Highway Department, the Southeast Expressway carries approximately 200,000 vehicles per day.
UMass has already had exposure to hundreds of thousands of people in Eastern Massachusetts. Social media can serve as a great tool in helping promote UMass Football, but I don’t believe it’s where the focus should be. UMass Athletics has approximately 5,200 followers on Twitter and 6,700 Likes on Facebook. Gillette Stadium has 18,400 followers on twitter. The potential impact of these social media accounts is very small compared to the major advertising we have seen in recent weeks.
The best news of all is that the campaign will soon grow. Matt Vautor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that ads will soon appear on the sides of MBTA buses and on train station walls. UMass will also have approximately 3,000 television ads which will be seen on a number of different stations. It is also worth mentioning that UMass has been taking advantage of an opportunity to connect with throngs of football fans in Foxboro. The Patriots have drawn record crowds since opening training camp last week and representatives from UMass have been there every day to get the word out about the program and tickets.
UMass was even set up for the New England Revolution soccer game on Saturday night.
You can expect to see a social media push in the coming weeks, but the real impact should come from fans. A very wise UMass fan once wrote on UMassHoops.com “Stop waiting for UMass to do something big and help UMass do something big.” The absolute best kind of marketing is through word of mouth. UMass fans can do simple things such as talking about UMass Football on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Some people have started to circulate an advertisement for tickets on Facebook and have changed their header image on their profile to the image here. UMass’ following on Twitter and Facebook consists largely of people who are well aware of the football program’s move to FBS. Reaching new people in Eastern Massachusetts, especially alums, is imperative. How many people have you talked to lately about UMass Football?
I think that UMass Football Fans need to realize that the process of marketing the program and growing the fanbase is one that will take years. Fans should also recognize that the responsibility of growing this program does not fall squarely on the Athletic department. I urge those who are complaining about UMass right now to re-direct your energy into helping spread the word. I think things are off to a great start and I think there is plenty of reason to be excited as the season approaches.