Firstly this article and any that follow it on similar subjects of the clubs future are aimed at everyone, not just the exec. It’s especially important that everyone takes a responsibility for where this club goes from here, regardless of your level of experience. I wouldn’t trust any exec to do even a competent job without the advice, scrutiny and criticism of a club behind them. If you do not get involved in the discussion we need to start having, to my mind you’re letting the club down.
In 1959 Volkswagen launched what would become the most famous advertising campaign of the 20th century. The campaign completely redefined the US markets opinion on Volkswagen. Previously unfashionable, inconvenient plus it was manufactured in Germany, the campaign took an unsuccessful product and completely changed it’s fortunes. Volkswagens became desirable, intelligent purchases and most importantly became a small part of the changing cultural identity in the US over the next decade.
What does this have to do with Ultimate? Well Warwick Bears are Volkswagen, Warwick University is the US and the DDB campaign is our publicity going into the 14/15 season. In previous years our publicity has been very similar to that of other clubs. Typically we post on the facebook groups for incoming students and flyer and place business cards within as many undergraduate kitchens as we can. Last year I think our reach online was limited but it was a challenge given our website wasn’t quite ready on results day. During the first week our reach seemed pretty good. We flyered a lot of kitchens in the opening weekend and then had presence around campus for the rest of the week (freshers I’m sure we’d love some feedback on how our publicity seemed to you).
BUT what we say is far more important than how often we say it. Our publicity has been very similar to other clubs in previous years i.e. “We exist, we play here at these times”. Not only does this mean that by definition we don’t stand out as a club, it also means we’re failing to present the unique attributes of our club and sport. Ultimate is completely unlike any other club at this university.
- It’s a sport most people have never played before
- It has an impression of a relaxed, casual sport
- It can be played competitively in Mixed, Open and Womens
- You can start playing at 18 and play internationally a few years later
- It has a name that people struggle to take seriously making it hard to justify as competitive
- University clubs are smaller, closer and more intense (if that’s the right word) than other sports clubs
- It’s self-refereed
- Most people have never heard of the sport and/or do not realise the level of technical skill and athleticism nor the commitment of players to it.
- There is a tiny bit of understanding slowly filtering across from the US that Ultimate Frisbee is a sport that people pick up at University.
That’s just a brief list off the top of my head. Note that not all the points are positives but they’re all points that we need to address in our publicity campaigns.
The final bullet point is one that I think we could consider carefully. In the US Ultimate Frisbee is a known sport and many people go to College with the intention of picking up the sport because it’s “part of the University life”. Ultimate does suit University very well. It’s new, different, sounds sociable and everyone starts from the beginning, just like those first few weeks at Uni. A campaign that makes undergraduates believe Ultimate is a natural addition to being a fresher would be ambitious, possibly overly so but if it worked it clearly would have huge benefits.
My point is that we need to use publicity to shape the way people think about the sport as well as letting them know it exists. The membership count of this club is currently a tiny portion of it’s potential, the fact that half our male freshers this year came from one accommodation block is proof of this. In my opinion the club should be looking forward with real ambition and part of that is being bold and doing things differently. I hope that the publicity campaign that we launch this summer is carefully thought through, creative, has real intent and stands out from the rest of the sports clubs. We have a unique sport and we need to show people that. So EVERYONE start thinking, talking, arguing and pitching your ideas to teach other. That’s your responsibility.
(Apologies if this is written a little scrappily, hopefully the intent of the article is clear though)