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Paws & Claws Club Provides Auburn Pets the Opportunity to Be Fans

Furry friends now have the ability to rep Auburn pride through a new athletic department pet club that was established last August.

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Picture this…

You’ve graduated from college. Perhaps it was last year. Or you are getting ready to celebrate your 10-year reunion. Being a proud alumnus of your school, you are a die-hard fan. Or maybe you are a current student who represents your university in every facet of your life. You love your team and rep them as you walk to your next class, at the gym, and of course, at every on-campus athletic event you attend.

Whatever the case may be, you support your team passionately. College football, basketball, softball, baseball, swimming, you rep your team through the thick and thin. And as a thriving adult, there’s a good chance you have a pet, specifically a dog or cat. You love your pet and you want to ensure that they are cared for and happy. It’d be a bonus if they were as passionate about your college as you are.

If only there was a way to share your love of your university with your furry friend.

Well, if you proudly rep the burnt orange and navy blue of Auburn, you are in luck. Established in August of last year, Paws & Claws is the Official Pets Club of the Auburn Tigers. As the first and only pet club in intercollegiate athletics, Paws & Claws provides fans with the exclusive opportunity to receive perks throughout the academic year.

SEE MORE: ‘Climb With Us’ Moniker Leads Marketing Efforts for Penn State 

According to Dan Heck, director of athletics marketing, and Patrick Boniecki, marketing graduate assistant, the true success of the Paws & Claws club has been over a year in the making.

“Paws and Claws was an idea that arose in the spring of 2017,” said Heck. “Kathryn Dillin, who is now an assistant director of marketing at Northwestern University, brought the idea to our team when she was a GA.”

“It is the ultimate inspiration for GAs and interns to be a part of,” said Heck. “The entire process of the club has been run by GAs. It is empowering to have ideas come to life and to see something go from concept to reality and see it all the way through.”

That idea blossomed into the full package that it is today. For only $15, as well as $5 for each additional pet added, every membership of the Paws & Claws club receives an official welcome pack (drawstring bag, phone grip (pop-socket), and car decal), a birthday card autographed by Auburn mascot Aubie the Tiger, invitations to pet-friendly Auburn events, and exclusive event and experience opportunities among others. Members can also choose pet specific items for their dog (plastic flying dish and doggy bandana), cat (scooper food dish and cat food lid), or other pets (water bottle and lanyard) that they own.

READ MORE: University of Florida Looks to Drive Engagement With On-Court Projection

The integration of the program has been a natural fit due to the university’s highly touted veterinarian school. With the school’s success in college football, equestrian, and many other sports, the club is a natural fit within the Auburn athletics’ landscape. The Paws & Claws club began to take shape towards the end of last year as fans were encouraged to bring their pets to certain Auburn sporting events.

“Last year we ran a few outdoor events that were pet-friendly and we encouraged fans to bring their pets,” said Heck. “Equestrian, soccer, baseball, men’s and women’s tennis were popular amongst pet owners. We encouraged fans to tweet about bringing their pets to the game and share their experience.”

The social engagement led the marketing department to create more pet-focused events. This focus led to pet-centric outings for certain sports as soccer promoted “Pups at the Pitch” and baseball pushed “Bark at the Park.” The new events echoed on social media as fans drove engagement while posting photos of their pets at Auburn games.

WATCH: Why Georgia Brought New Concourse Experience to Sanford Stadium 

“We wanted to have something to “brand” your pet with both through physical products and through a social media presence,” said Boniecki. “We created the @aupawsandclaws Instagram account earlier this year and now we have over 1,600 followers who actively engage with our posts and we encourage our fans to use the hashtags #PawsandClaws.”

The Paws & Claws club has had a large impact on the alumni base. The online engagement has prompted the Auburn marketing team to get creative in connecting with former students who still wish to be a part of their school’s day-to-day athletic events.

“We have continued to push more giveaways on Instagram,” said Boniecki. “Whether those are tickets to a football game, a prize pack or encouraging Paws & Claws club attendance at our outdoor events, we want to have others feel like they are a part of the club.”

With the club continuing to grow in size, both in membership numbers and in experiences and events organized, opportunities continue to be realized for this marketing initiative.

“The best part about this club is that it fosters more memories and more experiences,” said Heck. “It’s a nice value-add that doesn’t cost us much money to have others involved and take part. It is good for current and future members and it serves as a unique way to grow Auburn athletics and to share that experience with your pets.”

Marketing

How MGM Built Hype for ‘Creed 2’ With Athlete Screenings

The campaign seemingly paid off as “Creed 2” had the largest Thanksgiving weekend opening ever for a live-action title by grossing $55 million.

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A look at one of the posters for “Creed 2.”

As President of Motion Picture Group (MGM) Jonathan Glickman puts it, the “Rocky” movies have separated themselves as “the preeminent sports movie franchise.” With a narrative throughout all eight films that chronicles the trials of underdog boxers, it seems natural that athletes have taken such a liking to it.

It also seems natural that after the critical and box-office success of 2015’s “Creed” starring Michael B. Jordan, and the original Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, professional and college teams from all over the world were incredibly excited to get an advance look at the sequel.

“Athletes from all walks of life can identify with that story of being doubted and having the odds against them,” Glickman said. “The tagline for the original ‘Rocky’ in 1976 was ‘His whole life was a million to one shot.’ Athletes ever since have been taking inspiration from the stories in the films to achieve athletic greatness in real life.

READ MORE: How to Break Into a Career as a Creative Storyteller 

For that reason, MGM started offering advance screenings of the film in the weeks leading up to its November release to teams that needed or wanted some extra motivation. A University Michigan alum himself, Glickman saw a great place to steer this campaign by giving the Wolverines football team a chance to see the movie prior to their game against Penn State. The idea worked, seemingly, as Michigan rolled to a 42-7 win.

“With U of M being my alma mater, I was very excited to offer the chance to screen the movie for coach Harbaugh and members of the team,” Glickman stated. “It was admittedly very cool to see the movie get them riled up and then to see them get that victory against Penn State.”

MGM’s communications team reached out to several other professional teams, athletes and colleges to work with them on screening programs, and had a few request information about the screening as well.  The list included Alabama and Georgia football, Michigan State, Virginia — coach Tony Bennett is a “Rocky” savant — and the Kansas men’s basketball team, which was also given a preview screening.

Perhaps most notably, the Philadelphia 76ers screened the movie early and integrated the movie into the reveal of their 2018-19 city edition jerseys, which pay homage to Philly’s history in the boxing world.

READ MORE: Traditional Pro Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

MGM also worked closely with the NBA to have as many as 13 teams engage with the film and even worked with Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwoodie to design custom-made shoes, a pair of which were worn against the Sixers on Thanksgiving weekend and were auctioned off to charity.

MGM collaborated with ESPN and the NBA to create a custom open with Michael B. Jordan for LeBron James’ return to Cleveland during Thanksgiving week, which was the most-viewed regular-season game in at least four years on ESPN.

The film was also used in other contexts by teams who were granted advance screenings.

In this vein, the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks screened the movie for local at-risk youth in an effort to inspire them to overcome their own adversity. The Nets used the film to partner with their Brooklyn Boxing initiative to bring young boxers in to experience the film, and light middleweight champion Caleb Truax held a screening for youth programs in his native Minneapolis.

The campaign seemingly paid off as “Creed 2” had the largest Thanksgiving weekend opening ever for a live-action title by grossing $55 million. Expect MGM and other studios to continue with this style of campaign and tapping directly into athletes to market sports movies in the future.

“If pro athletes see a movie and tweet or post positively about it, then that’s a huge win for us,” added Glickman. “Not only does that get the message out about the film to the rather large followings that these teams and players have, but it gives us a direct line to what is ultimately our target audience, and it establishes a line of credibility when high-level athletes identify with stories like the one in ‘Creed 2.’”

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Marketing

Why Major League Lacrosse Turned to Troika/Mission Group for a Visual Rebrand

Major League Lacrosse is about to have a new look and feel. During this upcoming process, Troika will be offering immense support and guidance.

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When Sandy Brown took the reigns as Major League Lacrosse commissioner, he knew a few changes needed to be made.

On the marketing front, the biggest alteration is yet to come with a complete visual rebrand for the league. This will include a new logo, a new website, and new league-branded apparel along with a new look for all marketing and communications materials for the league.

Naturally, this is a fairly large undertaking considering the league has been operating under the same logo and branding since its founding back in 1999. While some fans will always have an affinity for the original, it was time for a change. MLL Director of Marketing Carrie Gamper explained why.

“On the old logo, you can see the helmet, and the player is a little bit out of date and it doesn’t necessarily connect to how the game has grown leaps and bounds since the time of the league’s inception. We want to make sure that where we are and where we’re going is reflected in the new branding.”

READ MORE: The New Direction of Major League Lacrosse 

To get this project done, MLL has brought in Troika/Mission Group, a brand consultancy and creative agency. Troika’s previous sports-rebranding and promotion work has included projects with the NFL, ESPN, UFC, and the PGA. Notably, Troika created the PGA’s current slogan “Live Under Par,” which was included in a larger brand campaign that helped reenergize professional golf among younger fans. This campaign was a big selling point for MLL as it decided on Troika from four agencies.

“With that ‘Live Under Par’ campaign, they were able to remain true to the organization’s history while marrying it with this new, fresh, young, energized, digitally focused brand that they are,” Gamper said. “That also enabled them to engage younger fans and current golfers in new and exciting ways. Given who our core audience is and who our athletes are, that got us really excited to work with them.”

Troika will be working off data gathered in a Nielsen study among MLL fans that was completed over the course of the 2018 season. It was this same study that convinced MLL’s leadership that a rebrand was the right step in the first place. The Los Angeles-based agency seems ready for the challenge.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Major League Lacrosse on the rebrand,” said Dan Pappalardo, president of Troika. “It is an opportunity to reinforce MLL’s legacy as the beacon of the lacrosse community, and position the league for the future.”

READ MORE: Major League Lacrosse is Turning to Digital Assets to Grow the Game

Troika/Mission Group and the league office, as well as MLL’s nine teams, will work hand in hand to establish new brand standards that will factor into all of the league’s new marketing materials. Fans can expect these new materials to start rolling out just prior to the 2019 MLL season, which begins on May 31.

“The support and guidance that Troika has been able to give us have been fantastic,” added Gamper. “The feedback and support we’ve gotten from our partners, sponsors, players, and owners have been overwhelmingly good. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of. We couldn’t be more excited to show everyone that new brand in 2019. It’ll look great and be a great beacon for the sport.”

Follow Major League Lacrosse on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to watch its visual rebrand unfold.

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NeuLion College’s New Tool Makes Social Marketing Easier

Collegiate social marketers hate having 40 different tabs open on their browsers, so NeuLion College crafted a solution.

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Many of the most recognizable brands in college sports distribute their communications through NeuLion College’s publishing tools. Customers use the Titan content management system to post to the team website, mobile app, and/or email lists.

Now, with SocialDirect, NeuLion College users can also post to team social media accounts right from within Titan.

NeuLion College’s Director of Product Innovation Mark Hodgkin believes that people already familiar with using Titan will pick up SocialDirect fairly quickly and easily.

“SocialDirect is embedded completely into the Titan content management system, which is what we use to control all our digital offerings, mobile apps, and ticketing/donor platforms,” Hodgkin said. “So, it’s kind of baked right in there as a standalone tool, but also embedded into a bunch of the most common workflows.

“If you’re creating an article or uploading a video or photo and you want to share it right away, hit save, and it takes you right into the SocialDirect flow using the link that the system creates — putting it right there for Bitly to shorten. You can also put a photo in there, sending it natively to the social platforms, while the program takes the headline and gives the photo a suggested caption.”

While social media has not traditionally been the biggest component of NeuLion’s products in the past, this seems like the logical next step for its CMS, as Hodgkin can attest to.

“It’s not our overall core-business focus of being a social aggregator,” he said. “We just tried to make Titan as robust a content distribution tool as possible. So, instead of having 40 different tabs open on your browser, digital managers and SIDs are now able to do it in one place.”

To say the least, this tool can save an athletic communications office precious time in getting all content to the proper channels very quickly.

SEE MORE: Overtime Is a Sports Network for the Next Generation 

“There’s less of the copy-and-pasting and uploading photos,” said Hodgkin. “The photos you’re going to use are already in the system. Once they’re in the system, you could use them for articles, ad spaces, or post to SocialDirect.”

One of the big differences between SocialDirect and other similar tools out there is that there is no limit on the amount of Twitter or Facebook pages that can be associated with an account. As athletic departments often have many different handles or pages for the different sports or staff members, this makes getting content where it needs to be even easier. Those accounts will still operate on a permissions basis, though, so anyone who does not have the login credentials for a specific account will not be able to publish.

Users can also submit posts in an approval queue, allowing for a scenario where, say, a student worker can create a post to be distributed on Twitter and Facebook, submit it as a draft, and an SID can review it and publish later.

SocialDirect also has Bitly integration, enabling the posting of custom URLs — if the school has one — very easy. The feature also works on NeuLion’s mobile app, making publishing on-the-go much easier.

Simply put, like much of what NeuLion College has launched, this is yet another product perfectly tailored for college sports communicators.

“We’ve added several people to our team recently who are either former SIDs or directors of marketing at colleges around the country,” Hodgkin said. “So, we wanted to have people on our team who have been in the seats of these schools and can relate to what they deal with beyond just a normal technology.”

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