Schu Strings: Marketing Football

How do you market a team that hasn't smelled a bowl game in four years? Perhaps with simplicity. Dump the flashy graphics and modern concepts. Arizona is going back to basics.

If you live in Tucson, you've undoubtedly come across the Arizona football marketing push. The most noteworthy examples are the billboards occupying space at busy thoroughfares throughout town. This year's approach is simple. Go with player quotes. The billboards feature offensive threats Jason Johnson, Clarence Farmer and Bobby Wade speaking about the importance of packed houses for football games.

"Nothing Gets the Team Going Like a Packed House." Quotes of that nature. And despite the occasional geeky copyediting annoyance in regards to capitalizing the first letter of each word, as if it's the title of a book, it seems to me to be a pretty good approach. I'll get to the why in a bit. But first, a brief tangent. In the marketing meetings, you just know the folks at the UA sweated beads discussing this whole capitalization thing.

They'd hunker down at the round table with the Big A in the middle over Starbucks and Bisonwiches takeout, and scan those proposals while dabbing the sides of their lips with recycled napkins in an effort to come up with what they felt looked best. Man, if an English Major was on that committee, imagine the potential fireworks.

"Oh To Be A Fly On the Wall."
--John Schuster on UA Marketing meetings.

This is probably a tad more humorous if you've actually seen the billboards, and then barely at best. Anyway, I'm chuckling, which makes me feel like Adam Sandler, laughing at my own jokes. Ooh, now I'm crying. Tangent done.

Anyway, simple is a good approach in Tucson. Always has been, likely always will be. There's often this desire to attempt to slick things up, but when that happens, Tucson seems bent on resistance. I think it's a big city backlash thing. A lot of folks in the Old Pueblo don't go for slick. Reminds them too much of Phoenix. Classy is fine, slick does as much harm as good. Arizona football ad campaigns have been pretty slick in the past. Remember the video game, where the UA minds created that TV spot where the football highlights blended into a makeshift PlayStation? Pretty slick. Didn't do jack for attendance.

And while I'm not sure the simple approach is the grand key to bringing fans into Arizona Stadium, like say, scoring loads of points and winning football games would be, this year's ad approach at least won't cause an offensive backlash. It comes off as humble and appreciative of the fan support without blatantly begging for greater attendance. Additionally, Johnson, Farmer and Wade are good ambassadors in this endeavor.

Onto other things non-sports related.
There was a time when Tucson got all the great shows. There was a time when bands would visit Tucson and shun Phoenix because the Old Pueblo had a reputation for being more eclectic. Sadly, those days are long gone. Tucson's reputation as a concert haven is poor these days, because despite a population base of three-quarters of a million people, those interested in supporting anything a bit out of the mainstream are few and far between.

Bands now go to Phoenix by default because it's the nation's sixth largest city. As a result, Tucsonans often have to make the journey to the Valley to see interesting shows. When I was a junior in high school, a friend of mine and I drove from Prescott to Tucson to see The Clash during the Combat Rock Tour. The Clash didn't play Phoenix. Only Tucson. Craziest show I've ever seen.

So imagine my surprise when Tool, a well-known, highly-respected rock band, opted for Tucson instead of Phoenix last week. OK, I'll save you the effort.

Um, I was surprised that Tool scheduled a date for Tucson. I didn't know until the day of the show the band skipped the Valley. Let me say up front that I'm pretty much the old fogey I had hoped I wouldn't be. I think music today pretty much sucks, or at least the music that gets airplay on corporate, cookie-cutter radio. Let me rephrase. There's actually more music out there than at any time in our history, but most of the stuff that gets major airplay is crap.

Tool is not crap. Indeed, Tool is cool. There's nothing quite like Tool. If they have one consistent theme, it appears to be the desire to keep the listener uncomfortably off-balance. From the time signatures to the mannerism in the videos (jees, my old humanities teacher at Yavapai College would be so proud of that pretentious sentence), to lead singer Maynard's lizard-man contortions on stage, everything about Tool is unconventional.

They're like a rock orchestra, allowing the visual play around them to take center stage. For a big-time rock band, the spotlight rarely shined on an individual performer. The lead singer is situated on a revolving stage next to the drum set, as opposed to parading in front. In many respects, Tool looks like the shiest live band since XTC. A complete mystery, and it adds to the aura of imbalance.

Even the encore was unique. Tool finished a set, left the stage, and then played a looping computer image of some freaked-out mannerism dude before returning for what amounted to the encore. No fan cheering, no "thank you's" prior as if the cliche encore might not happen. Just part of the show.

Sadly, this event didn't sell out. It was close, but it didn't quite get there. Tickets were close to 40 bucks, and in Tucson that's a lot of money, but one wonders how it will bode for acts that consider the Old Pueblo in the future.

Over the weekend, Fox showed a two-hour Simpsons television block, and during that time it played two episodes I had missed. One was the controversial Brazil episode, where the Brazilian government demanded an apology for the derogatory themes in the show. After finally seeing the much-ballyhooed episode, I can only say that Brazil needs to get a sense of humor.


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