Marketing Bronco Winter Sports

As Western Michigan University approaches the 2003-2004 school year, the Marketing Department is hard at work. Working on ways to market Bronco athletics their primary focus right now is how to market fall sports with what is being considered a limited budget, even though the budget has yet to be finalized. While they are focusing on marketing fall sports the marketing team is also working on marketing the Broncos winter sports.

The Broncos have returning three winning programs in women's basketball, men's basketball and hockey. The women's basketball team returns as the defending MAC Champions. The Lady Broncos finished the 2002-2003 season with a 20-12 record finishing the season with an 82-66 loss to the Stanford Cardinal in the NCAA tournament.

The men's basketball team finished with an almost identical record of 20-11. The Broncos made an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament and for the first time in school history won a NIT game before ending their season with a 68-62 loss to Siena.

Despite finishing the season with a 15-21-2 (13-14-1 CCHA) record, the Broncos hockey team made great strides in the 2002-2003 season. The Broncos played a brutal schedule, which included games against some of the best college hockey teams in the country. Those games showed the Broncos where they are at and what they must do to become one of the elite teams in the country.

With the successes the three teams had last year, it really helps the Broncos Marketing Department in promoting the three to help improve local interest among the student, alumni and fans. The hockey program is the one program of the three that can consistently draw the support of the students and the community with what would seem the very limited marketing. But the one thing that is a sure thing to bring people out to enjoy any sporting event is winning and the hockey team has developed a tradition of winning and winning against top ranked opponents at Lawson Ice Arena.

So, when the Broncos start their hockey season in October, they will get tested early. According to Bob D'Amelio and Jeff Rank, when the football team plays Marshall University on October 25th, the hockey team will tentatively play Michigan State. The Broncos have designated October 25th as Blackout Saturday with the football team playing the defending MAC Champions Marshall, the volleyball team playing Ball State and hockey versus the Spartans.

According to Rank they are working on some things for hockey, but still need to talk to Coach Jim Culhane. "Hockey we have, once again I haven't had a chance yet to sit down with Coach Culhane to look at the schedule, I've looked at the schedule tentatively," he said. "Once again we did Turkey Bowl last year, may do that again if there's a Thanksgiving which I believe we do have some Thanksgiving games. Blackout Saturday, a food drive and looking at doing some possible different promotions in the game to get the students involved and get the fans involved."

Something new and unique the marketing team is working on for hockey fans is putting together a plan to allow one lucky fan the chance to ride on the Zamboni during the intermissions. "Another thing that we haven't finalized yet is we're trying to get a, I guess what you would call a ride-along or a jump seat for the Zamboni," D'Amelio told Broncos Illustrated. "We are going to offer Zamboni rides between periods at the hockey games but we haven't finalized how people are going to sign up to ride for that and so forth."

When asked if the ride along would be available for anyone D'Amelio told us, "I guess we are going to do some research on that. Because there are some liability issues and basically we are going to speak with some schools to see what their experience has been as far as how they've allowed people to ride on those." He continued to tell us, "obviously, you have a very small child that could be a dangerous situation or if you have someone a little more on the frail side. Elderly you just really have to a little careful as to, for the most part it's going to be safe but you want to be cautious as well. It could very well turn into a kid's thing or it could be a student thing. I would think, certainly it would be very popular with the students."

The women's basketball team starts out the season on the road in a game against the defending National Champions the University of Connecticut Huskies. But when they return home to University Arena they will have a chance to celebrate their MAC Championship that they won in the 2002-2003 MAC Tournament. "Well that first game, women's basketball game we may do a banner raising. But we have to get with a few other administrators within the department and really discuss that and figure out," Rank said. "But that's a pretty good possibility where we'll do some kind of ceremony and that would involve the banner being rose or raised up. That will be one of the first home, regular season basketball games for women's basketball."

D'Amelio admitted the Broncos want to do a little chest thumping, "sure and we've done that in the past and I wouldn't think that this would be any different for this year. There certainly would be some recognition. We haven't had a lot of them recently and so I'm sure we're going to pound our chest as much as we can."

Of the four major sports at Western Michigan University, the Broncos don't have many problems drawing fans to football or hockey games, but the are going to make an assertive effort in drawing fans to home basketball games. One of the things they want to do is to get the coaches to visit the resident halls. "I know the marketing is WMU students and that we're putting a concentrated effort on getting them out to more games. In particular, here in the arena at Read Fieldhouse, we get good number at hockey, good numbers at football, really want to put an effort for those students to come out here to the basketball, volleyball and other events that are held here." Ranked continued to tell Broncos Illustrated, "we are going to go back to getting our coaches out in the resident halls. We are also going to be working with off campus apartment complexes to get information distributed out to those students that once they leave the main campus we kind of lose contact with them with the exception of using the Western Herald."

Rank also talked about putting together some more in-game promotions, "We also are creating some different in game promotions for students. We have a pretty good little kid promotion. We have some other adult promotions. We have a "Best Seat in the House" which is geared towards students. Students can still do the Meijer shootout, but something that the students can get involved with at the game as well. We're exploring some options how to administer registration when they come to the game. Get them involved. We really want to push the BackCourt."

Looking ahead the Broncos have some big goals for improving attendance and are looking for ways to implement the ideas that they are coming up with. Without knowing what their budget is going to be and not yet talking to the coaches they can only speculate at what they will be able to do. However, once the budget is finalized and the team has had a chance to sit down with Coach Culhane, Coach Hawkins and Coach Stewart, Broncos Illustrated will once again sit down with the marketing team to find out what they have decided to set in place this season.

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