Marketing 101: DiTolla talks to TitanCentral.com

Steve DiTolla, assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions, has only been here about three weeks but don't let that fool you. He knows exactly what needs to be done and he sounds like he knows how to go about doing it. Yes, actions speak louder than words but DiTolla is just what the doctor ordered.

Like department employees such as George Horton, Donny Daniels and Michelle Gromacki, he has emotional ties to Cal State Fullerton. After serving nearly seven years as associate athletic director for business affairs at Cal State Fullerton, DiTolla left to become vice president of sales at Jammin' sports apparel in Anaheim. After eight years he is back and with a vengence. TitanCentral.com gives you a glimpse as to what to expect from our new marketing and promotions director.

TitanCentral.com: Some of the folks around campus were pleasantly surprised you took this job since you had a pretty good one over at Jammin'. What were the factors in taking this new assignment?

Steve DiTolla: The old adage around here is "Once you're a Titan, you're always a Titan." Once you're in athletics it kind of gets in your blood. It's good to come back. I felt like I could come back here and make an impact on the athletic program. One of the things Fullerton has traditionally not done a good job at is saying thank-you to its' student-athletes, coaches, sponsors, etc. I feel like that's something which needs to be done. Promote the institution and keep it going. I have a lot of loyalty to the program and I want to continue that.

TitanCentral.com: Your official title is "ssistant athletic director for marketing and promotions" but what does this really mean?

Steve DiTolla: Basically what I do is sell all different types of sponsorships, whether it's on our scoreboards in all of our venues or on the fence signs in baseball and softball, game day programs ... if we have it to sell I'm in charge of selling it. In addition, booster clubs will most likely report to the athletic department and we will oversee these clubs and because of my prior experiences, I also have sport supervision responsibility as well.

TitanCentral.com: How does this tie in to what Larry Zucker is doing? Do you report to him or are you reporting to the athletic director and Dr. Palmer?

Steve DiTolla: I report to the director of athletics. Larry is in charge of marketing the entire institution. I am in charge of marketing the department of athletics. Therefore he no longer controls the inventory that are in athletic venues. For example, he used to be able to package something that dealt with the bid of excitement, alumni golf tournament or whatever the case may be, along with a scoreboard panel or something like that. His inventory has now been reduced where anything which involves athletics is now within its own entity.

Now, I do communicate with Larry. John Q. Public sees us as Cal State Fullerton. He doesn't care whether he's talking to me or Larry, we just need to make sure he's not talking to me and Larry.

TitanCentral.com: When you took the job did you foresee John Easterbrook leaving so soon?

Steve DiTolla: I did not have an inkling he would be leaving that soon.

TitanCentral.com: With him leaving, will this change any of your responsibilities?

Steve DiTolla: That would all depend on what the new athletic director wants to do. I foresee the core responsibilities as being promotions and marketing.

TitanCentral.com: Have you applied for job opening of athletic director?

Steve DiTolla: No, I have not applied.

TitanCentral.com: What are some of the ideas you have tossed around as far as promoting the key sports, namely baseball and men's basketball?

Steve DiTolla: I have some ideas, one in particular for the springtime. I would like to establish an athletic Hall of Fame for Cal State Fullerton. The idea goes back to honoring and saying thank-you to some of the people who have come through this institution and have done great jobs for us and represented us well.

I would like to do this at a basketball game and actually create that as a single game promotion where we can try to sell the gym out. Get people to come and pay tribute to the people who have done a good job at Cal State Fullerton. Try to create an affair where we would have a nice dinner, probably some place close to campus like the Marriot, and use that to help with the expenses that would be incurred in creating this Hall of Fame. We would then honor those people at half-time of a men's basketball game.

I would also like to, whether it's the same night or not, it depends on the criteria and who's involved in the Hall of Fame, but I would like to honor the football program in some way. Our football program in 1992 just went away. Back to the thank-you issue, nobody ever said thank-you to Cal State Fullerton football. There were Dick Coury's, Gene Murphy's, Obie Graves, Damon Allens and there were tremendous coaches and players who have come through this school and they just went away.

At one point in time we were No. 19 in the country and that's significant. When you look at Division 1A football programs and to be here and finish the season as the 19th team in the country, that's significant. And then just to vanish into thin air, I think after 10 years it's time to say thank-you. After 10 years it's time to honor the blood, sweat and tears and this institution needs to say thank-you. If it's done in the proper way it will be a nice affair.

And like I said, perhaps we can corporate this into the Hall of Fame, perhaps not. It might be its own stand-alone. It's one of those other issues where we bring people to men's basketball games because of how we play and because of what we do by getting coach Daniels involved in pre-game talks and those types of things, people will want to come back. It's not just about the Hall of Fame, it's about drawing people to men's and women's basketball games as well.

We have also talked about the Diamond Club and Titan Hoop Club, trying to piggyback on each other and I think that would be a good thing as well. Other than that I think there will be some individual game promotions but I'm a strong believer that if you're going to do it you need to do it right.

There's a limited staff right now in marketing. It's me. I have an assistant who's supposed to be hired but it's in the vice-presidents office currently. When that comes through we'll deal with it then and probably enhance our promotions.

At this date we're trying to prioritize the things which will make the most impact on the program right now. Sponsorships and significant promotions and things like that for the sports which generate the most revenue.

Baseball has a pretty good deal going out there right now, obviously with the sponsorships. I would like to bring back or add to the between innings promotions that give Titan baseball the flavor that it's a family-type atmosphere.

We would obviously like the basketball people to come take a look at baseball as part of an overall Titan athletics involvement. A theme I would like to portray is that we're not Titan basketball, we're not Titan baseball, we're not Titan soccer or softball, we're Titan athletics. We're all part of this thing and we need to support each other and we're proud of the fact we're Cal State Fullerton.

The other thing, whether it's this year or not, for both baseball and softball, I would like to create a place in the sports complex which honors two of the greatest coaches in those two sports ever: Augie Garrido and Judy Garman. Create a pavilion in each one of those venues in which it is named after the coaches and you would find that we would be able to honor people who played a significant role in those programs. The Wallachs, the Nevins, Kotsays, and the Connie Clarkes, the Michelles are perfect examples.

Again, going back to the honors and thank-yous. And that might get them involved as well. I came back because I am emotionally attached to this program. If I can get other people who have been through this program to use that emotion and come back and be part of it I think there's a long line of success.

TitanCentral.com: How do we get the students to actually come to the games?

Steve DiTolla: We just have to create an atmosphere that makes it fun. It's difficult at a commuter campus but at the same time you can create an atmosphere that's fun. You can do some fun things at a basketball game. We already to funs things at baseball and softball games.

But one of the key deals, no matter where you are is you have to win. If you live on campus and you give people a place to go, that's one thing. But if you don't live on campus and there's such a wide variety of things to do in this community it's going to be a tough one.

By no means are we giving up but we do understand what our restrictions are. I'm not going to sit here and tell you we'll sell the place out with students because I know that's not true. At the same time I'm not going to say I give up on the students.

We are going to have student promotions. We have spoken to a company who is very interested in giving away free tuition if people participate in a program revolved around men's basketball. It's a free throw shooting type of thing where students are selected at random and you build it up during the conference schedule where you have 8 or 9 games and pretty soon you have 20 people involved and if you make a shot you win free tuition.

It's things like that. You don't want to overdue it but you want to do something that's classy.

TitanCentral.com: You had some Big West meetings recently, any good ideas come up from that?

Steve DiTolla: One proposal I made at the Big West meetings was to include in each season ticket for men's basketball two vouchers which are good for admission at any of the five southern California schools -- Irvine, Long Beach, Riverside, Northridge and us. This would be another way to enhance attendance at our games. It's been recommended to the Big West council and awaiting approval and that would happen in the next couple weeks.

TitanCentral.com: Donny Daniels is a very marketable guy. Do you have any plans to take advantage of this?

Steve DiTolla: I think what he's doing currently with the Titan Hoop Club Chalk Talks is outstanding. I think that he needs to get involved more with the community groups around.

My plan is to not just go the sponsors and sell them fence signs and ads but to actually hold functions where sponsors come together. People who sell cars also have people who need hotel rooms. And people who need hotel rooms also buy from people who sell food and so on.

I'm not trying to sell somebody else's product, I'm just trying to give them a vehicle in which they can interact. I think functions like this are perfect for Donny. He's a very marketable guy, he's a good guy and he doesn't have a lot of ways to get out into the community. This would be a way for him to show up, meet some sponsors and be as personable as he can.

We'll provide him with more community opportunities. I'm going to take him to the Rotary Clubs, I'm going to get him involved with people in the community and I'd like to do that with different student groups. As long as he is willing to go out and do anything he can we're going to get him out to as many places as possible.

This can only increase attendance. Fullerton is an emotional buy not a media buy. People will become emotionally attached because they rub shoulders with the basketball coach, talk to the director of athletics or whatever the case may be. They'll come. And once they come they're hooked because it is an emotional thing.

TitanCentral.com: Any last thoughts for our TitanCentral.com readers?

Steve DiTolla: It's good to be back!