Foot Golf, Spike Ball, Bubble Soccer, Weight-Lifting, Video Games, IM Combine, Paintball, Tube Water Polo and Wrestling — these are just some of the many unique intramural sports offered by Campus Recreation at Colorado State University.
People fear the unfamiliar—and for many, “Foot Golf,” “Bubble Soccer,” “IM Combine,” and “Tube Water Polo” are highly unfamiliar. When the opportunity comes to sign up for an intramural sport, why would students pick the sports they’ve never heard of instead of sports they’re familiar with, for example, football and soccer?
Colorado State University Campus Recreation recognized this problem and decided to implement a digital marketing strategy around their unique intramural offerings. It’s 2017, and digital/social media marketing is a trend that’s here to stay. While it’s easy to scroll through your Twitter and ignore the links embedded in a tweet, an eye-catching video that automatically plays will make students pause and watch.
Adam Walsh, assistant director of intramurals at Colorado State, realized how effective social media marketing efforts were, and decided to take that route in promoting the unique intramural sports that had lower participant levels than the more popular ones.
“This type of marketing helps reach our “fringe” participants that might not otherwise participate in our program,” Walsh said. “Most students expect your traditional sport offerings, and are going to take advantage of our services without the extra effort in terms of promotion. Capturing non-traditional activities in your promotion speaks to the holistic approach Colorado State University Intramural Sports prides itself on.”
Walsh said that the department tries to market all of the programs they offer similarly, but will change where they promote the individual program if it begins to lack in participation.
“There are fairly strict university and department policies on how much mass communication we can send out,” Walsh said. “So, we save our social media posts for events that might be more unique than our most popular sports.”
The videos that are promoted on the social media platforms average at around a minute long, and their success is evaluated by the department in terms of views, registration numbers and yearly assessment questions from participants.
Walsh said that it is his responsibility to create the content, and he does so by sending a request for promotional videos to the marketing and communications manager of Campus Recreation.
“I basically provide a brief overview of what I want in the video and then our marketing team, led primarily by student employees, create the videos and send them back to me for review and final approval,” Walsh said. “They do an outstanding job and really are the creative minds behind our promotion.”
While Walsh recognizes the importance of all forms of both digital and traditional marketing, he believes video marketing is an effective strategy because of the excitement and engagement that stems from them. Walsh also said that while many of the videos are comprised of still photos, they become seemingly impressive with the addition of music and action-shots.
Walsh said the digital marketing strategy also helps the facility communicate changes with the students.
In the spring semester of 2017, Colorado State University changed the way they charge for participation in their intramural sports—moving from a team-based fee structure, to a per-participant fee structure. Walsh said that creating an instructional video about the change and posting it across multiple social media platforms was an effective way of reaching the participants, considering that they made the change over a holiday break when the traffic of students visiting the facility was less frequent.
“Surprisingly, we didn’t have very many questions from participants, which led us to believe our marketing strategy worked,” Walsh said.
Walsh hopes the videos encourage students to get out of their comfort zones and participate in activities that they may have not considered trying before engaging with the marketing.
“Hopefully, when a student who is thinking about participating in our program identifies with something they see in a promotional video, whether it’s the activity or someone they might identify with personally, it will encourage them to get out and do it themselves,” Walsh said.
Expert Advice: “What works well at one institution might not necessarily work everywhere else, if you don’t have an outstanding marketing staff in place, like we have here at Colorado State, you’re obviously limited in terms of your resources. I would say to absolutely get your students involved in the marketing process, ask them for input on how they like to receive info and when and where they get it. Additionally, you need to make an effort to actively seek out the populations you are marketing to and go engage them in their spaces, not just wait for them to come find you. We often live inside our “recreation bubble” and assume everyone knows about the services and the great programs offered, this isn’t always the case, especially for fringe participants on campus.”
Karima Neghmouche is a staff writer for Campus Rec Magazine, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.