How will the University of Ottawa fill the seats on time for Saturday’s game to arouse RBC’s interest?
What would be the right marketing strategy to keep the seats full in the long run and to obtain sufficient and additional financing?
Develop a marketing strategy which would bring sufficient financing from a combination of public support and corporate sponsorship to support the teams and counter balance the budget cut. Promote the games as an event and promote the sense of pride to attract higher attendance of around 2000 to 5000 spectators per game. Then, achieve a budget level comparable to around 94-95 level, adjusted for the male-female ratio policy.
(a) Assuming the meeting is being held on Monday morning, there is little time left before the RBC visit of Saturday. Nevertheless, there is no more than 7 days for the Sports Advisory Council and MBA interns to take action.
(b) There are many other (professional) activities within the city that would be more interesting to go to for students. These would include Ottawa Senators, Ottawa Lynx, and Loggers Roller hockey. Large array of sporting events which detract from the local University games.
(c) The teams are performing well; poor performance shouldn’t be the reason of low attendance. The council should find out solutions other than performance.
(d) Not many students are aware of the games. Those who know have no incentive for going. People go only because they want to hang out. University needs to appeal to the students’ interest.
(e) Have to make the game into an event, create a more exciting ambiance/atmosphere. Emphasize on the pride, sense of belonging to the University of Ottawa teams.
(f) The schedule of the games might not be suitable for all students. However, it is the less flexible aspect because we can’t accommodate both visiting universities and local students.
(g) There’s an issue with the transportation, especially with the football stadium, which is half an hour walk from campus.
Analysis of the situation
o There are 23,749 students at the university who can be targeted in many different and immediate ways and who could be reached either via the University’s website or in the school itself. These people along with some members of their family should be able to relate to the teams more easily than anyone from outside of the university, and therefore, represent the group that is most likely to attend the games.
o Being one of the oldest universities in Canada, the University of Ottawa has quite a large community of past graduates. These people are now in better financial position than most current students. We should try to awaken the sense of pride within this group.
o This is a smaller however very important group. Having these people attend the games could lead to word of mouth advertising by means of relating their experiences to the attentive audience; mainly the students attending their classes.
* Surrounding community
o Attending university games can be presented to this group as a low-priced and convenient form of entertainment in their area. We believe it would be a good opportunity to target in particular lower income families or families with many children.
o Companies can be targeted directly by offering deals and/or some kind of advertisement such as speakers mentioning the company during the break and encouraging members to cheer. University of Ottawa should seriously consider especially companies that work closely with the younger generation. These companies in industries like clothing line would be easier to convince.
* Other clubs
o There are clubs for younger children playing the same sport and the university could sell a group package ticket or memberships to them.
* Market share not covered by professional teams
o For sports like football for example, the city of Ottawa does not have or has just lost a professional team to provide entertainment to the die-hard fans. The university should use this opportunity to grab that additional market share.
Consumer Segments and Needs
o Need is always present for current students to have entertainment and social gatherings. Games should be an excellent opportunity for them to meet with friends and family at little cost. Whether they are a student from the university or not or from different age groups, those who choose to attend a game go for two reasons: (a) to socialize with friends and (b) to watch the game and enjoy the ambiance.
* Young population in Ottawa
o As shown from the statistics (Exhibit 1), we can see that the majority of the area’s population are of age below 65 years old. There is a relatively young population in Ottawa. Generally, a large number of students in their 20s live near and around the University. It would be easier for this group to relate to students’ activities as well as to actively participate in them.
* Income level of households
o Ottawa is a city with relatively high income, mostly ranging from $45,000 to $95,000 and therefore price is not an issue if the sports council plans to target the general population (Exhibit 2). This is an opportunity for the council to promote quality entertainment for low cost.
Cultural and Social Environment
* University Culture
o Sport activities can be made an integral part of university culture. Yet again, we will have to be able to awaken the sense of pride in students and encourage them to be a part of the games. It is easier to convince the students within the University that the games are worth their time than it would be with the general population.
* Student activities
o We could take advantage of activities on campus to advertise and keep the students attending the games. One of the popular ones are frosh parties from the university’s eleven faculties. Bringing new students to the games would also help in creating the sense of pride within the students.
* In the case of hockey, although it is not necessarily the official national sport of Canada, it is nevertheless among the most popular sports in the country. This represents an opportunity to introduce international students or other foreigners to a part of the Canadian culture at very low cost. Also, since it is part of the culture, it makes promoting the University sporting event easier among Canadians.
Impact of Technology
o There is a large body of Internet users and therefore internet should be used for direct as well as general advertising. The goal of the Government of Canada is to become the most connected country in the world and therefore it is reasonable to assume that the number of users will be increasing. In addition to the GOC’s commitment to nationwide connection, Ottawa is one of the leading technology hubs in North America; therefore target marketing through the use of the internet may prove to be extremely effective, keeping also in mind that it is a very low cost method of advertising the games.
Major competitors: Professional Teams
o Professional team partnerships can help the University to take advantage of the more popular professional games by placing university games just before those scheduled games.
o University teams should take advantage of the timing of the professional games. If the home professional team is playing out of town, the university team should schedule its game to the usual professional game’s hours and if the professionals are playing at home, the university should give the chance for people to see both games without rushing to find seats at the professional game.
* General decline in interest
o There has been a long general decline in interest for all sporting activities in the university, community, and in the general Ottawa population when it comes to attendance at sporting events. This has been due in part to the lack luster performance of the professional teams in the region and the high ticket prices.
Impact of Technology
* Instant Messaging and online chat groups
o There are many other ways available of interacting and socializing at no cost at all. With the advent of instant messaging, forums and chat rooms, there is no longer the need to directly communicate in person with friends therefore reducing the need to socialize at university sporting events.
* Computer gaming
o This industry has been flourishing over the past few years, and with a multitude of games available for any and all types of personality, the need to attend sporting events is replaced with the enjoyment of simulating the games yourself. In addition, many of those games can be played in “Multiplayer” mode, allowing players to connect to each other via the Internet.
* Movies and theaters
o With movies and theaters becoming more as an event, there is an increasing need for the sporting events to offer more than just gridiron action. The university sporting teams have to create an ambiance centered on the complete enjoyment of the sporting event and the excitement it offers on and off the field.
* Professional teams
o Professional teams bring many viewers to their seats and therefore significantly reduce the number of potential university game viewers. The council’s challenge is to make the Gee-Gees games as entertaining and as exciting as the professional games. They should also convince the public and the student body that university games can provide a level of entertainment at the very least close to professional games.
* The council must be aware that the tuition and fees for the students have increased. Students have less extra money to spend on outside activities. The council should also keep in mind that it cannot increase the auxiliary fees any further.
* Access to information
o It is sometimes difficult to go through the university red tape to obtain information concerning students, staff, and alumni. In many cases, there can be valid reasons such as privacy protection. To market directly to the student body, faculty and alumni, the university needs to be able to tailor their approach to contact and attract these different consumer segments as they all have different reasons for attending the games.
Current marketing objective
* The sports council’s current objective is to obtain high attendance for Saturday’s game thus encouraging easier sponsorships, with main focus on seducing RBC. The present objective is on focus in the short run. On a longer run however, the council will have to research the market and work towards a more sustainable plan that would retain the high attendance during games.
Position in the marketplace
* University of Ottawa is North America’s oldest and largest bilingual university, located in downtown core of the city
o Easy geographic access for a majority of the population.
o Established university that has been around for a long time, so the community already know about the existence of the university.
o Gee-Gees belong to a part of the university’s culture, which makes it easier for surrounding communities to know about the sports teams.
* Price of tickets
o Prices of tickets are already so low that it wouldn’t make sense to cut prices any further. These prices can be mentioned in advertisements as a means of attracting the different market segments, by offering a high quality product (U of O teams are doing extremely well) for a low price.
* Performance of the teams
o University of Ottawa teams have been performing well in the past and still compete at the highest level. The teams won a number of important events in the past few years. This aspect would work in their favour when time comes to awaken the sense of pride in students and alumni.
* Performance of former members
o Some of the former members of the University of Ottawa teams are still competing at a high level. This could be used in advertisement campaigns to bring people to see the future stars. Also, from time to time these stars could be invited as guests to liven up the crowd and sign autographs after the game.
Segmentation, targeting and positioning
* Segmentation: Mass marketing
o Same entertainment offered to different customers (for example, who differ in age groups and therefore, with different entertainment needs)
o With the means that the university disposes of currently, we believe that the council should target its efforts mostly on the staff and students from within the university. The target would mostly be consisted of a relatively young population.
o Once the council have the financial means, it can then direct its marketing effort towards the community, such as companies, sports clubs, etc. to expand the level of attendance at Gee-Gees games. The market would then consist of different age groups, different levels of incomes and so on.
* Targeting: Differentiated marketing
o The Sports Services advisory council has different sources of funding, like Gee-Gees games or intramural activities. They offer the opportunity to participate:
(i) as a fan and to enjoy an ambience without having to sweat on the field
(ii) as a team member for those who are not part of a varsity team.
(iii) as a member of the varsity team.
* Positioning: Low quality and Low price (Exhibit 4)
* Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
o The RBC is genuinely interested in pursuing a sponsorship with the University of Ottawa. This potential sponsor is readily available and therefore the council can concentrate its efforts on offering the bank a deal that would be beneficial to both parties.
* Other sponsors
o Finding new potential sponsors should not be an issue. With an abundance of local businesses and the ever present government both federal and provincial, need only to appeal to their vanity to get them on board the Ottawa University sporting train.
* Marketing possibilities
o Teams can use direct target marketing to the 23,749 students of the university. Email can be sent to people directly, there can be signs written on the black board before classes, fliers can be mailed to students’ addresses etc.
* Alumni information
o Every university has a database of alumni. Since alumni are one of the potential target markets, this information could be used for targeting former students directly.
* Advertising efforts
o The games’ lack of entertainment value and also on the fact that the advertising efforts have not been excelling towards the students within the school, even less so toward the surrounding community. Some students were either unaware of the schedules or got the wrong information out of the advertisements.
o There is no sense of rivalry present. People are not supporting their city’s players even when playing against their traditional rivals (Carleton University). There has to be more involvement by the student body to encourage school spirit and a sense of pride.
* Games as an event
o Games are not a complete event, no special attractive quality to entice students. Students often claim that this is one of the main reasons why they do not attend the games. The MBA intern even noted that if it were not for friends attending the games, the students would never have attended in the first place. In addition, the survey pointed out that only a fraction of the students who attended the game did so to actually watch it.
o Sports programs are becoming more recreational in nature. A vast majority of students are signing up for intramural games, taking away some of the potential talent from the more competitive teams and most importantly, grabbing a part of the market share of the “low-cost entertainment for students” market. The council should drive the games’ level of entertainment at least up to the point where watching the game is comparable to participating in intramurals.
o We assume there is no transportation or no convenient means of travelling between the campus and the stadium. The stadium is a 30 minute walk away and this is an obstacle for many students (in the case of football games).
Identification and evaluation of alternative strategies
Make use of resources outside of the university culture and life. Develop associations with professional teams in Ottawa and charitable organizations. For example, the university could agree with the professional team about a small percentage of ticket sales that would go toward supporting the university athletic program. Before the Ottawa Senators take to the ice, the Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey team could play an intercollegiate game. This would occur a few times a year when schedules allow it.
Market development: Still offering Gee-Gees games, but in a different market. Instead of presenting the game in front of a crowd with majority of them being students, it will be presented in front of spectators mainly consisting of the general population.
Larger market penetration by having up to 30,000 seats available.
Cannot occur all the time because of scheduling conflicts. For example, members of the varsity teams might not be able to participate.
Opportunity for the Gee-Gees to get in touch with the general public because people usually arrive early at games.
People may not want to be at the games for several hours on end.
By taking part into the society’s events like charities, the University of Ottawa’s sports teams will have a chance to be known and promote their games.
Might be difficult to convince professional sporting teams about benefits of having a strategic alliance. Even after agreement, transportation and ticket prices issues for students may arise.
Great exposure, help solidify corporate sponsorships.
Probably the most costly method because of the additional cost that could be incurred to rent the arena or stadium.
Give a reason for the students to attend the game not only as a mere spectator, but also as an active participant. Some examples include: Show your University colors contest, Come dressed in your best burgundy and gold colors and win a prize for best school spirit. Have both sides of the stadium compete against each other for small prizes? Gender clash game, try and beat members of the opposite sex, offer pre-game activities that would involve faculty versus faculty.
Product development: with an existing market, the university is now modifying the existing product (game). The game will not only offer more excitement and a higher quality of entertainment both on and off the field, the spectators can also participate.
Offers a more distinctive touch to differentiate from other sources of entertainment such as of movies and theatres.
Uniqueness of the events. Should not be repetitive because otherwise, it would become meaningless.
If attendance is favourable, the ambiance will be closer to the level of professional games, offering distinctiveness from the quiet and calm atmosphere of theatres.
Constant need to think of new ideas and entertaining events.
Takes time in planning; carry out the plans and preparing the whole festivities. For more complex events, can’t be used as an immediate solution.
Advertise to local colleges, high schools, to local community and to local businesses about the sporting events that are taking place in and around the university.
Market Development: product (game) will be the same, but the council will now target new demographic groups to try and arouse their interest.
– Newspapers, mainly local
– Telephone poles
– Internet Website to put schedule, upcoming events concerning athletics
It’s a low-cost activity that would interest many high school or college level students who have usually low or no income.
Must convince the high school and college students that attending the games can be as much fun as shopping or playing video games with their friends.
Wider reach by expanding into different market segments.
Will incur additional costs related to printing, mass marketing is required.
The benefits might not be worth the costs. Reaching a greater range of population would be achieved but this does not guarantee that they will actually attend the games.
Recommendations and rationale
In our opinion, the games need to be the focal point of a larger and more enjoyable entertainment experience. We propose to develop a full marketing strategy (Strategy #2).
We would recommend the above strategy because it would allow the sports council to ensure attendance both in the short and the long term. Within five to seven days, organizing a simple event like “Show your colors” is feasible. In the short run, given the strategy will be successful at peeking the students’ interest; there would be a greater crowd for RBC’s visit. Moreover, it would impress RBC’s management because of the presence of university spirit and sense of pride.
This strategy could also be beneficial in the longer run because if successful, well organized events will increase attendance and participation levels of students and of general population. This will help the university retain and attract new crowds and keep RBC’s management happy about the sponsorship. With experience and more funds available, the council could move into more complex events. This strategy is very flexible because if the funds are not extremely high for example, smaller events can still do the trick. If a larger sum is available, the council can very well organize something bigger such as “fans day” which would include give-aways, free hot-dogs, etc. Moreover, it would attract additional companies who might be interested in advertising in front of large crowds.
As shown in Exhibit 3, our estimates and analysis of the council’s financial situation will be beneficial to the teams if the plan can be carried out. It is a low cost solution and as mentioned earlier, this solution could provide the sports council with flexibility even in the long run when it might encounter financial difficulties.
Plan of action
IMMEDIATE ACTION (6 MONTHS)
* Contact the RBC and get them to attend the sporting event
* Get a spokesperson to handle all publicity for the university, talking to the teams and distributing the free tickets to the players of all teams to encourage large crowds as much as possible.
* For Saturday’s game, distribute free tickets to families and friends of players from the university’s sports teams to get a bigger crowd.
* Put up posters in key areas around the university so that it is visible, but most importantly informative and clear to avoid any confusion. In addition to having posters, the council should also consider handing out the games’ schedules along with the events.
* Organize transportation arrangement to facilitate students getting to the events
* Keep the large crowds either by offering again the tickets to the other sporting teams or by creating other special event. It should be sustainable until the improvement is noticeable enough for a special committee to be set up.
* If revenues are sufficient, set up a marketing plan to be deployed so that the general population can also be informed and take part of the events. This will move the university away from being constrained to the student body and their families and friends.
FIRST 18 MONTHS
* Once the committee knows the strategy (making every game an event) is working, establish a permanent creative committee to regularly explore new ideas and plan, organize, and implement those events.
* Evaluation of RBC’s sponsorship and make changes to the strategies as necessary. Within 18 months, the committee should have taken notes with regard to the level of participation, benefits versus costs for each type of event. Based on those observations, the committee should be able to determine which events work and which do not. This will help in maximizing attendance and benefits.
* If the association with RBC turns out to be beneficial, the committee can approach other potential sponsors. If the RBC sponsorship won’t be beneficial we should consider seeking additional funding from other sponsors.