In today’s intercollegiate sports clubs, there are no athletic scholarships. Financing is meager or non-existent. Coaches are primarily volunteer. Hard work is the norm. It takes weeks just to prepare for a single game or match. But “quit” isn’t in their vocabulary. Whining isn’t their modus operandi; winning is. These athletes take ownership of their game and of their team. They call the shots. They play because they love the game. Today, an estimated two million college students play competitive club sports compared with a little over 400,000 involved in athletics governed by the NCAA and the NAIA. Astounding figures!
But there are problems. Attendance at games is low. Fund-raising becomes a major effort. On campuses across the country, many sports clubs go unknown and unrecognized. How can they draw crowds, put butts in seats? Recruit players? For college sponsored teams, it’s done through advertising and marketing. For sports clubs, the promotional dollars just aren’t there. Plus, most sports club coaches are totally unfamiliar with marketing their teams. Even if they have some experience, they simply don’t have the time.
The 40-year-old intercollegiate D1A Men’s Rugby program at the University of Oklahoma found a solution:. Lindsey + Asp Advertising and Public Relations , a student-operated agency in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at OU. Under the guidance of public relations junior Jarret Cofer, the men’s rugby program now has a champion. As part of the learning experience for Lindsey + Asp students, Cofer organized a Sports Marketing
Department within the agency. Students create events, provide publicity, design promotional materials and work with the sports clubs to increase attendance and raise funds. And the work is done pro-bono. Great news for teams struggling with finances.
According to Cofer: “OU’s rugby program is amateur sport at its finest, a lot closer to the original operational model for student athletics. In addition to the hands-on experience it gives the student staff in Lindsey + Asp, we’re supporting our hard-working, hard-charging sports club athletes.”
David Tarpenning, faculty adviser to Lindsey + Asp, agrees. “Working with these collegiate sports clubs is not only great experience for our students, it’s exciting to see the agency’s promotional efforts rewarded with increased game attendance and vigorous new club recognition on campus.”
The new Head Coach of the OU rugby program, Jason Horowitz, said: “We’re totally excited to be working with Lindsey + Asp. As of this coming spring, rugby has been part of the University of Oklahoma for 40 years. There’s no better time than now to take our marketing, public relations and recruiting efforts to the next level. Cofer and his team have been outstanding, very professional, and we look forward to growing the OU rugby brand together.”