We Want You!
It seems the UAA has adopted ole Uncle Sam’s mantra, and is directing it to the student population.
“We have made a commitment to focus on students, to reach them with some new marketing efforts and creative ideas,” Assistant Athletics Director Mark Gajda said. “Students have always been a priority, but we are targeting them in novel ways, like social media.”
Yup, the students are in the crosshairs of the University Athletic Association’s plan — a plan to pack the O’Connell Center with more Rowdy Reptiles during the Gators 2014 basketball campaign.
“This year we are intent on getting as many students into the building as possible — to maximize every single seat,” Gajda said.
With students being admitted free, the goal is noble and the intent is clear — make the Gators’ home court a rim-rocking and opponent-rattling environment.
“The students help create a huge home court advantage. When the students are there in large numbers, the energy level is way up,” Gajda acknowledged.
And the students have been there — in record-setting numbers.
“We had our all-time highest student turnout on Wednesday night, admitting 4,182 students,” Gajda said. “That beat our previous mark by about 1,000.”
And the Gators did their job, beating South Carolina by 16 points.
But how did some many students get to see this conference opening victory? How did the student total far surpass the usual allotment of 2,500?
“We are always researching and studying our attendance figures, and have seen a pattern for weekday games that allowed us to open more seats to our student body,” Gajda revealed. “And so we did.”
The UAA is not only seeking to increase student attendance, but also awareness.
“We are making a strong push to make sure students know when there is a basketball game taking place,” Gajda said. “And we are doing this through some traditional marketing means, but also with a heavy emphasis on social media.”
The UAA utilizes a number of Twitter handles to spread the word, with “GatorZoneNews” being its primary vehicle.
In addition, the Gatorzone.com website allows students to reserve entry into game, and will also notify of any increase in the student allotment.
“If we are allowing more students into a game than normal, that figure will reflect on the website,” Gajda said. “And a real important change is that students can now reserve right up until game time, as long as spots are available. Previously we closed reservations 48 hours prior to tip-off.”
The novel ideas and student-focused approach certainly seems to be working, but Gajda won’t attribute all the credit to his department.
“The truth is, we are getting many ideas from fans. We are reaching out to our core group of student fans —meeting with them, conducting focus groups and asking questions about what we can do differently or better,” he said. “And they are responding”.
Student fan input has included topics such as music, cheers, concessions, giveaways, ticket registration, seating and more.
“More” — perhaps that is the key word.
The UAA wants “more” — more students.
And they’re getting ‘em!