Getting students to watch Ryerson varsity sports is a difficult task, but the current strategies the school has used have worked extremely well so far.
The best strategy so far has been cheap beer at men’s hockey games. It’s a marketing manoeuvre that’s perfectly catered to university students who have a penchant for drinking, but have trouble with affording it most of the time. For the students that don’t drink there’s cheap pop at the games too.
Cheap beer is how to entice students to come, but the biggest challenge the school faces is that most of its students don’t live on campus, meaning the likelihood of them coming back for a game from the suburbs is still low, despite the beer.
“In a school of 30,000 students, we have less than 1,000 beds in residence on campus,” Kelly Austin, the Rams’ director of sales and marketing, said. “We’re a commuter school, so we try and take advantage of the times when the students are on campus and are more likely to stay for a game.”
The obvious games to market are weeknight games because students are already at school. It’s the biggest potential audience, meaning Rams weeknight games get a bigger marketing push.
Beer nights for men’s hockey games began in 2012 and expanded after a successful trial run last year to every Thursday night home game (of which there were only two last season). The numbers were huge as beer nights were the most attended hockey games of the year, with over 2,000 students at each game. Only three other home games had over 1,000 people attend.
Stephanie White, associate director of athletics at Ryerson, said they’ve made some changes to the schedule this year to get more weeknight games to accommodate these special promotions. There will be six Thursday night games and each one is planned to be a beer night, so the Rams should see a spike in attendance.
Cheap beer, however, isn’t the only reason why attendance has been increasing.
There are a lot of tactics that go into marketing these events. Students may be more likely to come because of cheap beer, but it’s the entire marketing effort to advertise those games and make students aware of them that gets them in the seats. That includes signs plastered all over campus, whiteboard campaigns, ticket giveaways and even a two-hour tailgate party before the game. All those things play a big role, and so far the effort has paid off.
“When you have a combination of tactics that might work, then you look at using them more widely,” White said. “We wouldn’t put the signs out all on Church and Gould and plan to do it for every game without doing a little bit of evaluation to think we’re seeing some level of increase.”
The Rams have also added a new promotion for Friday night games that should get students just as excited: all-you-can-eat wings for $12.
Kelly said they’re constantly trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t. Cheap beer and all-you-can-eat chicken wings? Sign me up.