It might be ill-advised to compare the fan bases at Idaho and Washington State and the respective home atmospheres for the Vandal and Cougar basketball teams.
One of those teams plays in a converted football stadium — the other reaps the benefits of a basketball-only arena that fits its Pac-12 status rather well. One draws its fans from a pool of 11,500 students — the other, 27,000.
And one day ahead of Battle of the Palouse No. 2, the separation between fan bases appears evident once again. The Cougars visit the Vandals for a 7 p.m. tipoff in the Cowan Spectrum.
If the Spectrum bleeds Cougar red rather than Vandal gold, don’t be surprised.
Two years ago, WSU students flocked to Moscow for the annual rivalry game between the border foes. The visiting students wore matching crimson shirts, which read “Idaho Invasion 2011.” ASWSU put together another strong marketing campaign to advertise Saturday’s game, giving away t-shirts to the first 300 students who purchase a $10 ticket.
Idaho’s marketing team created its own campaign, one that entails many of the same ideas. The Vandal t-shirts are nothing out of the ordinary, displaying an outline of the state of Idaho, with a Joe Vandal logo and text reading “Idaho basketball.”
While the shirts don’t signify the magnitude of this match-up, which pits Idaho against the only rival its played at home in recent years, they’re a testament to the effort that Idaho’s athletic marketing team has made — one that may have bottomed out a few years ago when the athletic department unveiled the “Throw the V” campaign, which flamed out shortly there afterward.
The marketing department has provided new ideas to a fan base that wasn’t as receptive to the ideas of the old regime. Attendance numbers in 2011 and 2012 are indicative of that.
To promote the WSU game, they stuck point guard Glen Dean in the Student Union Building, posted a Facebook photo of his location and waited for a lucky winner to locate the University of Utah transfer.
The next day, Dean handed out fliers promoting the game to students on campus.
Simply selling fans on Dean himself, an ex-Pac-12 point guard who is expected to be one of Idaho’s flashier players this season, exhibits an innovative way of thinking for the marketing department.
A lot has left to be desired, though, and we can only hope that these ideas are a sign of things to come, rather than a one-time thing.