Empty Rafters

How Stetson is Working to Fill the Stands

Ihsaan Fanusie, Writer - The Reporter

This year, Stetson has seemingly invested more into getting greater student involvement in school athletics than ever before. Fueled by a need to increase attendance and student engagement, the Athletics Department has undergone several significant changes in how they distribute resources and funds into promotional activities.

That is not to paint a bleak picture of student engagement at Stetson, however. Jeff Altier, Director of Athletics, noted that Stetson falls within the mid-range for athletic event attendance as compared to other schools in its conferences. Regardless, the focus on incentives for student involvement is clear.

“To reach out to community, [Athletics Marketing] will invite community groups,” like fraternities and sororities, to the games, said Altier, .

“I definitely think student engagement is an opportunity that hasn’t really been tapped into just yet,” said Maddie Massa, Assistant Director of Athletics Marketing and Promotions. Massa says there have been new efforts to “engage the students more and see what they want more.”

“We’ve incorporated some surveys where some of my student workers actually go out and table at the CUB,” she said.

Collecting surveys on what students want to see is just one of the methods used by the athletic marketing team to capture feedback on improving student involvement. They also collect data on how many students attend sporting events and whether or not certain promotions or marketing strategies were effective.

One of the most notable promotional events for Stetson this year was Tyler’s Amazing Balancing Act, a halftime performance that occured at the Stetson Men’s Basketball game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The halftime show consisted of Tyler Scheuer balancing various objects on his face, from wheelbarrows to giant ladders. Scheuer regularly performs at college basketball games, and has been the most booked halftime act at college basketball games across the country for the past two years. His appearance, coupled with a promotion from Student Employment giving free entry into a raffle for an Apple Watch for student workers, packed the stands for the game.

Acts like Tyler’s are expected to fill up the sports schedule into the spring. Beyond performances and organized entertainment, Stetson will have certain game day promotions be centered around themes, like a peanut butter and jelly theme for national PB&J day.

“We’re planning on having a country night in baseball, and pairing that with student employment again because that was such a great combination” said Massa.

Recognition of student achievement is another aspect of Stetson’s promotional strategy. “I know a lot of times, what I like for us to do is recognize the achievements of our students at sporting events,” said Altier. For example, Donald Parham, the senior tight end, is slated to receive a plaque for his outstanding work on Stetson’s football team during one of this season’s baseball games. In addition to serving as recognition of outstanding individual work, “it elevates the stature of our programs,” Altier said.

There have also been several budgeting changes to accommodate the different promotional strategies Stetson has attempted this year.

For the sports marketing team, there aren’t necessarily more funds then in previous years, but the method of allocation is different.

Massa has two budgets. One is principally the marketing budget and the other is a pool of funds that have typically been designated for Hatter Village, the tailgating area for fans before football games. In past years, the funds in the latter category were used for the football tailgates with inflatables and face painting. This year, the transformation of Hatter Village into a more low-key event has opened up funds to be used elsewhere.

“There isn’t necessarily more money allocated through the department,” she said. “It’s just how it was allocated.”

Some sports are given higher priority in terms of marketing attention.

“We promote harder our ticketed events, which are soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, football” Altier said. “And then we do less marketing of the non-ticketed events just simply because there’s less room.”

New promotions are always a risky endeavor. But Stetson’s sports marketing department is committed to increasing student involvement in the most creative ways.

“It’s being outside the box,” said Massa. “And it’s gonna be wacky and some of them are not going to be the greatest thing in the world. But we’re going to try and do things that haven’t been done before and make it fun for everybody. If the stands are full, then everybody wins.”