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12/17/2023 1:48 pm  #1


Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

To the entire GW Hoops community (both of you! ), first and foremost, I hope this is a happy holiday season for you!

This past week, the debate over why GW doesn't draw students arose again.  This is an old topic, but one that is perhaps more relevant now that the team is playing well.  For myself, a few thoughts to share...hopefully you'll find this thought-provoking if not useful.

I teach event management at George Mason, and one of my event marketing case studies that I use is that of the apathy of GMU students.  After their Final Four run, students were highly engaged and happily attended games.  As the years progressed, their attendance dwindled.  I do a survey of my students on how many have attended even one game during their time at Mason...and usually out of 15 or 20 students, maybe 1 or 2 have attended (and generally only a game or two).  The reasons students give for not attending vary, from it's not convenient to they have other things to do, to them just not having interest.  

We then spend that class day going through an exercise on how to get students to attend.  For those who know Simon Sinek's Golden Circle model, I stress that marketing to students must give them a "why" as to why the game should be important to them.  I ask them to compare going to their high school football games (when they were in HS), and "why" everyone went to those games (i.e.: it's social, FOMO, place to be seen, but generally not for the football itself).  The idea is that students must feel like their lives are better by going.  

Anyway, the reason GW students don't attend is there really isn't a "why" that is important to them.  I'm not going to pretend I know what the right answer is for GW without doing more specific market research, but it absolutely has to start with WHY their lives would be better by doing so.  For the George's Army crew, it's clear that this is more than school spirit...it's social. For other students, not so much.

As for alumni, there are completely different reasons, but it all still relates to how their lives are positively impacted.  Could it be that alumni be given "spirit credits" that perhaps give them benefits they wouldn't otherwise have without financial donations?  Even for a fan, it is very easy to just stay home and watch the game on tv or streaming. Someone referenced parking, and I couldn't agree more.  Buy season tickets and get parking free of charge.  It doesn't cost the university much at all, since the parking lots have plenty of unused spaces.  

Another area to focus on would be faculty and university staff.  Make it a benefit of working at the university that every FT staff member is given comp tickets to a nonconference game.  Better yet, recognize the academic superstar students for a given department at halftime (like we do with athletes from other sports), and the faculty AND students would show up.  Giving away free tickets isn't a financial loss if you have unused capacity and the recipients wouldn't buy those tickets.  That's what marketing is.

Finally, there are plenty of businesses and residents of Foggy Bottom, eastern Georgetown, and the K St. corridor who have no connection to GW.  Again, offer free tickets to get them in for a game and maybe they'll want to buy more tickets to other games.  Maybe not, but community engagement is a gateway drug to gaining corporate and community support.

Last bit of academic thought here...There's a marketing theory called Story Brand Marketing by Donald Miller.  Without getting into details, it offers that most marketing fails because the service or product being marketed views itself as the hero of the story, that they're great and you (the customer) should want to spend your resources on them.  The reality is that successful marketing works when the marketing entity view itself as the guide and not the hero (think Obi Wan and Luke, or Dumbledore and Harry Potter).  We can talk all we want about how we have a good product that people should just want to spend their resources on, but GW basketball is not the hero of the story.  

You are.  

And GW Athletics and university leadership must view themselves making a difference in your life, and not that you're making a difference in theirs.

That's my two cents.
 

 

12/17/2023 2:00 pm  #2


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Agree with points Barry. 

Personally I don’t think it is as much of a student issue as the paying customer.

To add another couple of ideas - I always wondered why the school did not take advantage of it a location and offer specials such as:

Intern Night with a space delicates for networking pre-game
State Department night - free of cheap tix to the 1st couple hundred employees.

Agree that people are not going to buy the tickets in the upper end zones anyway.  Get people there 1x for free and maybe they will
Come back.  And if they buy a hot dog or beer you are in the + anyway.

 

12/17/2023 4:19 pm  #3


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Barry, I've not posted in a long time, but I visit your board frequently.  I agree with most of what you've written.  I only wonder if the lack of press hurts us.  These days, it seems as if the press (not just the Post or Hatchet, but maybe, ESPN, Athletic and other outlets including social media) set the tone and create a buzz and demand, including feeling of FOMO.  GW seems to hardly get any press.  I don't know if GW is an a position ot influence, but I suspect there's a way....

 

12/17/2023 4:57 pm  #4


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Agree, great points Barry. When I was a student, it was just something you do, similar to your high school football example, go see people, hang out with friends, kind of a communal party thing. Attendance was high for students. I also think more leisure opportunities in DC has hurt drawing student crowds. Things like the Miracle on 22nd Street street fair are a good start.

However, somewhat separate from student attendance is the other side of the arena. There's a group of regular attendees (probably a lot of the people here) but beyond that it's often pretty sparse. I love the idea of special theme nights. Maybe alums of specific schools, government workers, Hill workers, etc could be different nights.

And then there are non-GW affiliated folks. Maybe there could be things like if you live in the District you get a discount, invite local schools and rec league basketball teams, Mystics fans, Wiz fans (especially since the team may be moving) etc. Folks who might appreciate a fun night of basketball.

I also think GW should reach out more to current grad students like the law school, med school, and other schools. They might not have as much free time or connection with the university but "XYZ School Night" with maybe some networking opportunities would be one idea. Bring the dean, profs, prominent people in those fields, etc to meet up at the bar under the stands, or maybe somewhere else before or after games.

Plus especially with law and medicine, those are folks who will probably be making a lot of money and thus might donate a lot in the future.

 

12/17/2023 8:43 pm  #5


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Big push to change moniker by non alumni. Name changed to bring unity and school spirit. Really? Where are those people now? Sad.

 

12/17/2023 9:33 pm  #6


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Given BGF's thoughtful analysis and good points made by others, can't help but think about one major issue bigger than basketball, but affecting attendance.
  It's the apathetic relationship between the school and its alumni. How many here think that GW cares about them,outside of donations
and volunteering? It's a one-sided relationship.
  Talking about the university in general, not the Athletic Dept or the bball program. As BGF astutely observes, it needs to be them making a difference in our life, not us in their life.
Anything other than alumni giving them something seems to be handled begrudgingly at best.
  Even get the feeling they actually look down on GW alumni, in general. Laughable,considering the accomplishments of many alumni,but an attitude other alumni  have shared.
  Outside of us and our passion for basketball and those perhaps with similar predilections,many alumni don't care because they don't care.

 

12/17/2023 11:14 pm  #7


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

You make some good points jf, what do you think could be some solutions? How could GW engage alumni better and make it useful?

One thing I noticed from grad school (not at GW) is that a ton of people there have affection for things they used to do on campus - there’s a lakefront terrace with a bar and food, a cool old German beer hall in the student union, etc. And the alumni magazine and various other official publications remind people of that all the time.

GW doesn’t really have anything like that. There’s no cool place just for students, no real traditions, and so on. And GW is a very old school!

Not that it has to be a bar, but why not have some kind of rooftop thing on the terrace at the Marvin Center, or make the Alumni House in F St an actual place for students to go, or some other kind of fun social campus place that doesn’t change every five years (RIP the Hippodrome.)

Bonus points to who can guess the grad school

 

12/18/2023 12:00 pm  #8


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

I suppose that this is a subject where everyone will have their own experiences to draw upon, but I'd like to take a moment to defend the school with respect to alumni relations.  First, let's not be naive about the fact that donations are integral, not just to GW but to any college or university.  So any argument that centers around "they are consistently asking for money" should fall on deaf ears.  They have to ask.
The next question then is "what do I get back for my donation" or even as an alum in general?  Here, you have to ask yourself how involved you would like to be.  I often receive notices about upcoming alumni events for either educational, networking or entertainment purposes.  If you don't and would like to know what programs and events are going on, make sure your name gets added to their distribution list.

I'll also add that I know of a few people who have successfully used GW's career center for job leads as well as advice on resume writing, interviewing, etc.  The feedback I've received is that the GW representatives have been nothing but friendly and helpful. 

As I mentioned in a different thread, I believe the real shame has been the disconnect between the marketing/promotion of this program to area alumni.  There are literally tens of thousands of GWU alum who presently live in the DMV.  These people need to be reached.  Email a basketball newsletter to them and ask them to indicate if they don't wish to receive future issues.  Then, continue marketing game tickets to those who do not opt out.  Digitally advertise to these individuals. 

I believe that college sports marketing is unique.  It is extremely difficult, not impossible but extremely difficult, to expect individuals who did not attend or work at GWU to become frequent attendees at games.  You can discuss entertainment value and our exciting fast-paced play all day long but this isn't the same as marketing a professional franchise.  Even a bad pro team (looking at you Wizards) can market other team's stars but in our case, the A10's appeal will not be broad-based.  Our alumni office has these names.  Any campaign should be centered around reaching these folks.
 

 

12/18/2023 12:24 pm  #9


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Ahh, the annual why aren't we drawing more conversation. This has bedeviled GW for more than 30 years. We have never drawn well excepting games here and there. 90% of the students are disinterested and will only show up for big TV games (which lately we have had virtually none) and we have an aging blue seat fanbase. It's a shame but after 30 years I am prepared to accept this reality after watching many efforts die unsuccessfully. If you all have ideas, by all means try them. Personally, I am not expending any more energy going down this rabbit hole again. 

 

12/18/2023 12:31 pm  #10


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Let’s see what attendance looks like if we can get back to the tourney.

 

12/18/2023 12:32 pm  #11


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

GWRising wrote:

Ahh, the annual why aren't we drawing more conversation. This has bedeviled GW for more than 30 years. We have never drawn well excepting games here and there. 90% of the students are disinterested and will only show up for big TV games (which lately we have had virtually none) and we have an aging blue seat fanbase. It's a shame but after 30 years I am prepared to accept this reality after watching many efforts die unsuccessfully. If you all have ideas, by all means try them. Personally, I am not expending any more energy going down this rabbit hole again. 

Thank you Rising for expending the energy to let us know that you will not be expending any more energy on this matter.  Am pretty sure a non-response to this thread would have carried the same effect.

 

 

12/18/2023 1:45 pm  #12


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

I'm curious, what are the parking options these days.  I know legal street parking was difficult to find back in the days I lived near DC (almost 20 years ago).  I don't expect it's any better.   How does parking costs compare to other schools?   Could that impact alumni attendance?   

 

12/18/2023 2:44 pm  #13


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

BC wrote:

I'm curious, what are the parking options these days.  I know legal street parking was difficult to find back in the days I lived near DC (almost 20 years ago).  I don't expect it's any better.   How does parking costs compare to other schools?   Could that impact alumni attendance?   

It’s incredibly easy to find street parking. I’ve never had an issue, at least not for years. Sometimes that means a meter, but sometimes I can find free spots.

 

12/18/2023 3:30 pm  #14


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

But FQ, you always got to games late, I always went early - I couldn't miss the Colonial Club pre-game stuff.   I guess spaces cleared out after the 7:30 PM classes ended.  Sundays and weekends were OK for parking.

 

12/18/2023 3:54 pm  #15


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Even if you have to go into the garage (which I do sometimes due to time constraints.  It is $12 - I had a visitor a couple a weeks ago that wanted to pay for parking as his part of the evening - he laughed when he saw $12.

 

12/18/2023 4:02 pm  #16


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Surprised nobody has mentioned the home schedule as a factor in the low attendance.  Not sure how this is fixable, but people will also go to a sporting event to see the visiting team play, and at least this season, we have had no opponants worth the price of admission.

 

12/18/2023 4:50 pm  #17


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Did he laugh because it was so low - or so high?   $12 isn't so much here in the Portland - Vancouver area for a day's parking,  

 

12/18/2023 5:22 pm  #18


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

He could not believe it was that low for parking anywhere In DC

 

12/18/2023 6:10 pm  #19


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

GW used to have a discount rate for those people with a basketball ticket stub.  Do they still do that?

 

12/18/2023 6:13 pm  #20


Re: Theories of Why We Don't Draw Well, and Perhaps a Few Ideas

Long Suffering Fan wrote:

Surprised nobody has mentioned the home schedule as a factor in the low attendance.  Not sure how this is fixable, but people will also go to a sporting event to see the visiting team play, and at least this season, we have had no opponants worth the price of admission.

Yeah I don't think it's fixable.  Even the A10's best teams are struggling to schedule home games like GW could do under the Lonergan years.

Dayton: UNLV (and it was cancelled)
VCU: Memphis, Temple
SLU: Utah State
Duquesne: Princeton

That's pretty much it.  A10 fans better get used to seeing a lot of Patriot League, CAA, and MVC schools or start travelling with the team on the road.

 

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