First of all, I'm grateful for the opportunity to become a member of this community and want to share with everyone a little about me as a means of introducing myself.
I am Associate Athletic Director at Northwestern State University, Louisiana, a Division I member of the Southland Conference. I am also a professor of Journalism and Public Relations. My full-time gig in athletics is as a development officer, overseeing the identification, cultivation, and stewardship of donors to NSU Athletics. And my gig on the side is as a professor in the public relations component of our New Media studies-centered Journalism program, where I teach the basics of PR writing, management, and campaigns. There is an interesting, fertile, and symbiotic relationship between these two roles and rhetorical spaces that I inhabit, and through both roles I've learned that effective fundraising and promotion of intercollegiate athletic programs require excellent marketing and its more often overlooked but no less important counterpart, public relations.
Much of what we do in intercollegiate athletic development involves securing funding and in-kind support for various initiatives. There are fixed costs (scholarships, books) which require annual funding, campaign costs which require significant one-time investments, and always, always, tickets to sell and seats to fill. This means that marketing, or the creation, acquisition, and satisfaction of customers, has as its end a monetary gain of some sort. And plenty can be used to market athletics -- interesting story lines, record-breakers, high performers, championships to defend -- and so much more. Look at any athletics website (check out www.nsudemons.com, for example) and you'll find evidence of the prevalence of sports marketing, including game promotions involving corporate sponsors, branding, deals on tickets, and opportunities to get involved.
But the development officer should also be sure to produce or make available ample amounts of public relations materials, or materials which generate goodwill for your organization. Examples include feature narratives about coaches and student-athletes, press releases about off the field accomplishments (like academic awards or community service), and routine contact with donors through E-lists, hand-written notes, and other forms of contact that simply keep them feeling good about your operation. A nicely produced annual report, or a clipping sent with a note about a student-athlete sent to a benefactor of an endowed scholarship does not have the soliciting of funds as its end game. Rather, it shows appreciation for past support and, hopefully, sets the stage for future asks. It also creates goodwill among potential donors and supporters out there whom you may not have come into direct contact with.
So remember, take time to develop good marketing strategies and attend to the ways that you promote your program through public relations. Both are keys to identifying, acquiring, and retaining consistent supporters of your athletic program. I will post some examples in upcoming submissions.