Developing a successful marketing campaign that unifies all recreation programs, facilities, services and events under one department is critical.
Each program represents a piece that is unified by our mission: to cultivate mental, physical and social development through recreational services, programs and facilities. We are a family under one roof striving to improve the lives of students through recreational bliss. However, we struggle to unify our department under one marketing umbrella. Our marketing team tried to balance both quantity – creating all that programmers requested – and quality – strategizing and creating cohesive campaigns.
For years, this approach pushed our creative teams to mass-design, mass-print, mass-post, and mass-table until our department was drowning in an excess of event and program marketing. Although our promotional pieces were well recognized throughout campus for stellar social media engagement, popular videos, fun designs and other marketing wins, the copious amounts of promotions did not bring the team satisfaction. The challenge was determining whether we wanted to be executional or strategic marketers, and which method served our mission best.
To accommodate the sharp growth of programming while trying to preserve, or create, personalities embodied by each program area, our team brainstormed new approaches to marketing that would emphasize program individuality but also departmental cohesiveness. For example, each program area serves a particular demographic that is very different than another program area. Therefore, should messaging be catered toward that particular audience? How do we effectively market to one demographic while also marketing to the entire student population? Do you market the department like a resort or do we treat each program area like individual brands or businesses?
The conflict is apparent in the use of multiple social media platforms. It appears many recreation departments are consolidating their platforms because managing three or more separate accounts on three or more social media platforms is not manageable for a small, in-house, marketing team. Even with large student teams, managing six or more accounts plus handling other duties well is impossible. But direct requests from program areas drove how we promoted services in the past. A program coordinator requests a social media post for their event happening tomorrow; we post it. An assistant director needs a poster to promote a series of classes; we design it. A new web page is needed to provide information about a new service; we create it.
As a result, talk between programmers about differing promotional methods, such as the amount of media printed per program area, or the number of social media posts made, led to a competitive mindset between program areas. Without having a holistic marketing strategy that focuses on the entire department, we promoted each program individually, turning our team into executionists of mass media. Separating our programs and treating them like individual businesses was reinforcing a silo mentality and perception of autonomy.
A change was needed. The desire to organize, strategize, plan and promote the department holistically grew along with the desire to minimize the marketing noise sent out to our community.
Recreation marketers are provided with a wonderful bounty of activities and events every year that we share with our community to encourage them to be physically, socially and mentally active. The offerings provided are not meant for any one particular type of individual. Our participants are not just swimmers, not just snowboarders, culinary enthusiasts, athletes, weightlifters, rock climbers or badminton players. Recreation is a type of wonderland where all walks of life can come in and be themselves. Our marketing team is yearning for creative ways to tell the community to come and play, stating, “We have exactly what you’re looking for.”