In my last post, I reflected on my personal experiences and discussed the three things I felt were most important to laying the foundation for a successful campus recreation department. One of those building blocks was developing a comprehensive marketing plan that included a deliberate social media presence, conventional campus marketing with flyers/posters and the like, and lastly, unconventional or guerilla marketing.
In a world that is more connected than ever, it’s easy to develop a marketing plan that relies heavily on social media. An intentional approach to developing and maintaining a social media presence should be a significant ingredient in any department’s marketing mix. However, other less conventional marketing tactics that often go overlooked, or even unheard of, can have the same reach as a well-crafted, well-timed social media post and deliver even better engagement and returns. So, what does a guerrilla marketing promotion look like? How does it work?
My personal favorite is a monthly promotion we call “Rec’n’Roll.” For Rec’n’Roll, we borrow a six-seat golf cart from our admissions office and drive around campus during peak class times, offering rides to students. While students ride along we ask them trivia questions similar to the gameshow Cash Cab. If they get five questions correct before we reach their destination, they receive a nice water bottle branded with our logo and social media information on it. If they are unable to get five questions correct, they receive a bottle of water with our logo and information on the label.
A simple promotion like Rec’n’Roll successfully checks several boxes for our high priority marketing objectives with a minimal investment of both time and money. We promoted the department’s brand, directly interacted with students, improved our visibility on campus, and as a parting gift, we would leave our students with information about an upcoming program, intramural league or the latest group fitness schedule.
Another promotion I hope to try is setting up a temporary giant ball pit in a couple of different high traffic areas on campus, specifically around midterms or leading up to finals week. The idea is to provide students a nostalgic, stress-relieving mental break, even if only for a few minutes. During the event, we will distribute information on any upcoming stress-relief programs or events leading up to midterms or finals.
Both of these promotion ideas require varying levels of time and funding, but guerrilla marketing can also be as simple and easy as adjusting some events or activities already going on in your department. For example, moving a group fitness class outdoors on a nice day is a great and simple way to improve awareness of your group fitness class offerings. Or, hosting a pop-up cornhole mini-tournament outside a dining or residence hall to promote an upcoming tournament or league. The opportunities are endless.
Thinking outside the box in terms of marketing or programming can be difficult. Ask your students, faculty, staff and coworkers for ideas, or reach out to other campus recreation departments to see what works for them. Adapt the promotions mentioned in this blog to your campus. As campus rec professionals, we are all on the same team and the more we collaborate and share, the better off our students will be.