Selling Queen’s sports

New department looks to put more bums in the seats

Queen’s Athletics hopes to attract more fans all year, not just to the Homecoming game.
Queen’s Athletics hopes to attract more fans all year, not just to the Homecoming game.

The University’s Athletics and Recreation Review is officially still in consultation, but the athletics department is already implementing recommendations to up its revenue. The review, released in June, recommends the University make a concerted effort to boost self-generated funds. Although Principal Karen Hitchcock has held off on approving any aspects of the review until Dec. 31, chair of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said the structure she has put in place will support either direction the Principal wants to go.

Dal Cin said having a marketing department was the first step in generating more revenue.

“First of all, what we’ve done is we’ve actually created a marketing unit, so I think that’s part A of the equation,” she said. “We’ve actually got some resources and a person.”

Dal Cin said the department will spend its first year researching on how to make more money.

“This year is really about research and promotion, because promotion should lead to additional spectatorship and a full house, and a full house is what gets sponsors excited,” she said.

Dal Cin said one of the department’s promotional problems is a lack of consistency in the Gaels’ overall image.

“You know how you go to a game and you can watch three Queen’s teams play and they don’t even look alike, because of colours and numbers and letters?” she said. “We need to get all of that cleaned up.”

Brad Greenwood, who played and coached rugby at Queen’s for 15 years, is the new marketing, communications and events department’s director.

Dal Cin said Greenwood is well suited to helping Queen’s sports move forward.

“Brad was put in charge of a couple of events last year—the Rock the Jock and a couple of the basketball promotional meet-and-greets—and did a tremendous job of increasing awareness and building some really good properties,” she said. “It was a perfect fit: we didn’t have to look very far.”

Greenwood, who started his role Aug. 1, said the department is still acclimatizing to its new responsibilities.

“We don’t have a lot of specific stuff done right now,” he said. “This year’s kind of a learning period and fact-gathering. We need to put all of this stuff together so when we move and get ready for the Queen’s Centre, we’re ready to go with a business model.”

Greenwood said one of his team’s goals is to assess the value of the current interuniversity sport program.

“What we need to do now is take a step back and actually put values on what we can offer some of these sponsors,” he said.

Greenwood said he’s looking to better understand why attendance at Queen’s sporting events is generally low. He said he hasn’t had time to do so yet due to the busy fall schedule.

“It was get to Homecoming and take a breath, so we’re taking our breath this week and this is where our plans will start to roll out. I would like to have a couple of things in place before Christmas and then really the main focus will be the winter term, where we really gather some more information,” he said.

“I think we need to go to the students and ask them. We need to find out what pushes your buttons, why will you attend one [game] and not the other and what can we do to make these events better so that you will come out and support our teams.”

Dal Cin has raised the idea of charging students a fee to attend varsity games. Greenwood said although he understands why students might not support it, he also sees how a fee could be beneficial.

“The issue that I have with it is that there’s no perceived value at times there for students because they don’t have to make an effort,” he said. “Even if it was a very nominal fee they’re making that token gesture that, ‘I’ve committed to the event as I’ve going to the event.’”

Greenwood said the marketing department has already taken strides to provide more of a fun atmosphere at Queen’s sporting events. The addition of music to Gaels’ football games at Richardson Stadium has been received positively, he said.

“We realize now it’s not just about the football, it’s about the entertainment value of the whole thing. If somebody’s going to commit three hours of their life to come there, they want to have some fun.”

The review also recommends a strategic initiative be developed to engage alumni in their sport. Football and rowing were cited as teams that traditionally have strong alumni booster clubs.

Football head coach Pat Sheahan—who is also the Department of Athletics and Recreation’s co-ordinator of Alumni Relations—said a strong alumni presence is necessary for intercollegiate excellence.

“Year in, year out, [the alumni] are the ones that continue to drive and strive for excellence and support initiatives,” he said. “If the former players don’t have any affinity for the program and don’t support the program, then why should anybody else?”

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