Promoting, engaging and increasing attendance at athletic events are all part of the marketing strategy for Vandal Athletics, and Athletic Marketing Director Ryan Gilmore has been planning events to do all of the above this basketball season.
Part of that plan also includes working closely with The Vandalizers, a student-led school spirit group.
Grady Hepworth, ASUI Athletics Board Chair and leader of The Vandalizers, said the goal of the group is to bring more energy to the student section at any university event.
The Vandal men hosted Utah State Thursday, while fans gathered to “white out the Cowan Spectrum.” The Army National Guard and Frontier Communications sponsored the event.
“We’re in the front row of the very center of the student section and we make it a point of pride to be standing up the entire game and interacting with the cheerleaders a lot and that sort of thing,” Hepworth said. “While The Vandalizers hasn’t brought in a lot of students, I think us being a role model for the rest of the student section has made a huge difference.”
Hepworth said there are currently 52 active members of The Vandalizers, and that every “Vandalized” game has boasted a more energetic crowd.
While Hepworth and The Vandalizers seek to increase student attendance and enthusiasm, Gilmore said he works to bring in community members and alumni.
Frontier Communications and the athletic department are sponsoring Military Appreciation nights, first this Saturday as the men take on San Jose State and again Feb. 7 when the women return to Cowan Spectrum.
Military personnel, veterans and their families will receive discounted tickets for these games courtesy of Frontier Communications, Gilmore said.
The next event Gilmore said he is excited about is the Feb. 9 women’s game dubbed “Hoops for Hope.” The game is dedicated to breast cancer awareness and will feature a survivor walk before the game, free tickets for survivors, an auction and a cake party with players and survivors after the game.
The first 500 fans will receive pink T-shirts to wear during the game, and for every person who arrives at the game already wearing pink, Gilmore said Frontier Communications plans to donate $3 to the Light a Candle Foundation, a local cancer research fund sponsored by Gritman Medical Center.
“We’re also asking women-based organizations to decorate bras and we’ll hang those up around the arena as another fun thing,” Gilmore said.
Other basketball events include a Greek and 80s night for the men’s basketball game against La. Tech on Feb. 16, and an intramural game of the week beginning next Thursday.
“Following the Thursday night basketball games Butch will pick two teams and it’ll be kind of a showcase game for intramurals,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore said he has utilized The Vandalizers to help get the word out to students about these upcoming events.
Gilmore has also begun work on planning for the upcoming sports seasons, including next fall and the new era of Paul Petrino as the Vandal football head coach.
One event Gilmore has planned, Football 101 for Women, is still in the planning stages and will take place this spring during Moms Weekend.
“It’ll be a women’s only event … they’ll get instruction, coaching … it’s just something for moms and daughters to do together and learn football from the coaches, use the equipment, weight training, see the training room and video and what goes on behind the scenes and do the stuff the team would do,” Gilmore said. “It’ll be a lot of fun for them.”
Hepworth said next year he hopes The Vandalizers will start off the year by leading the student section at football games.
“Then we really want to bring our support to women’s volleyball and more women’s basketball, and then my ultimate vision is that it works its way not just from an athletics perspective but into a school pride group where we support theatre productions and things like that but in the near future it will be athletics,” Hepworth said.
Members of The Vandalizers receive a free T-shirt, reserved seating, pizza at select games and priority for post-season tickets. Hepworth said he is also working on obtaining other incentives in the future including the possibility of VandalStore discounts.
For now, Hepworth said he encourages any and all students to attend events on campus and cheer on The Vandals.
“Having a big turnout for games really makes a difference and if you have an energetic crowd and a lot of cheer and school spirit I know the players play better,” Hepworth said. “Having a big home field advantage can make a huge difference and it’s about school spirit and being involved. These are the events we’ll remember down the road.”
Kaitlyn Krasselt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org