The Beavers behind the dam

Janessa Thropay is a sophomore forward for the Beavers’ women’s basketball team.

Athletics Department aims to increase awareness of programs.

Walking around Oregon State University, there is a good chance of hearing “Go Beavs.” What seems to have become a common phrase in Corvallis has become second nature to OSU students, faculty and staff. Why is this saying now a familiar trademark with the school and athletics programs attached to OSU? It’s all in the marketing.

A team of promoting, advertising, ideation and financial directors share the responsibility of marketing and promoting athletics at the university. With fundraising help from OSU’s Foundation staff, the advertising and development of the Athletics Department led the way in advocating a strong message to the outside world about what Beaver Nation has to offer athletically.

Steve Fenk, associate athletic director, said the main responsibility of the marketing team is to drive attendance and the fan experience at games and events.

“The Marketing team’s goal is to increase the awareness of our intercollegiate sports programs to that which drives attendance and interest, and ultimately generates revenue for the program,” Fenk said in an email.

Steve Clark, vice president of university relations and marketing, said the athletics department has an operating budget annually of $82.7 million. The Athletics budget is managed internally by Athletics Department staff, but is part of the university’s overall budget and financial management.

Ticket revenues from football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling provided $11.9 million in the 2016-2017 seasons. Revenues that support the athletics department budget come from a variety of sources, including funds from the Pac-12 Conference and NCAA, ticket revenues, advertising, sponsorship revenues and annual donations from fundraising. 

“Intercollegiate Athletics adds significant value to the overall student experience, as well as the culture and success of Oregon State University,” Clark said via email. “For example, Athletics contributes to the university’s engagement with students, alumni, donors and the broader community.”

Fenk said every student-athlete gives OSU permission to use images of them for promotional posters, social media and schedule cards by signing forms. The Marketing, Communications and Ideation teams, in conjunction with the specific sports program staff, select the student-athletes used in promotional work.

“Intercollegiate Athletics by nature is a very diverse entity across the country,” Fenk said in an email. “Typically student-athletes are selected as good standing members of their respective teams (academically and socially), as well as athletic ability.”

Janessa Thropay, a sophomore forward on the women’s basketball team, said it is logical that the more successful a sport is, the more promotion and attention is given in form of advertisements and promotionals. However, she can see why other sports could feel left out or don’t receive the same amount of support and encouragement.

“I feel that OSU does a pretty good job as far as diversity and representing its student-athletes fairly in regards to race and gender,” Thropay said in an email. “I feel that women’s basketball is represented a fair amount, and we are happy with the recognition we have received for our accomplishments and overall success. In general, I feel that female sports do need to be promoted and recognized on a bigger scale.”

Traditional advertising, as well as posters and social media posts, are all a part of promotional work done by the staff with OSU Athletics, Clark said. Branding principles within OSU Athletics allow for elements of advertising to be consistent over time, while content of advertising or a given promotion can be specific to a given sport or a specific Athletics Department message or promotional campaign.

“We create sport-specific content and marketing plans for each of our sports that are communicated distributed through different platforms,” Clark said via email. “We are doing a ticketing trial program for softball this season. We sold tickets at a swim meet last season against Stanford. We will continue to explore the expansion of ticketing for additional sports in the future where we believe it can add value.”

The amount of university funding allocated for Athletics is between $5.5 million and $7 million, but varies from year to year, Clark said.

“While the university does provide some support to Athletics, the university receives tuition and fee revenue for the more than 500 student-athletes who would otherwise not attend OSU and, as a result, this revenue would likely not be received by the university.

Football is the Athletics’ leader in terms of ticket sales and advertising revenue. Due to widespread popularity and media exposure, football creates the most interest of any program, Fenk said. Football season brings alumni, fans and visitors together to embrace the opportunities OSU has to offer. On a financial note, football nearly generated a gross $33 million last fiscal year, supporting all of the other Athletics’ programs in some way. 

“You may have heard the term, the engine that drives the bus,” Fenk said in an email. “That’s what football is—the engine. Football is Athletics’ greatest revenue maker, almost universally in Football Bowl Subdivision programs and particularly at the Power 5 Conference level.”

Additionally, Fenk said that ticketing prices for men’s and women’s basketball are based on market analysis. Factors that determine the ticket prices include popularity, demand, venue and success.

“Our women’s basketball and baseball programs are tremendously successful and demand for tickets has never been as high at OSU,” Fenk said via email. “Our men’s basketball program also remains very strong in terms of interest and has among the richest traditions of any program in the country.”

Thropay said taking the time for promotional pictures of film segments for the women’s basketball team can be difficult to fit into an already packed daily schedule. She sets aside time to do so, simply because it is one of the demands of being a student-athlete at this level.

“When I am used for advertising for OSU, I feel as though it is a part of my job as an OSU athlete,” Thropay said via email. “When accepting to come to Oregon State for women’s basketball, I was aware of these types of responsibilities being asked of me and I am happy to oblige to any requests or marketing that come my way.”

Athletics is an important economic contributor, Clark said. Visitors to Corvallis for athletic events contribute an estimated $35 million annually, which in turn means a large positive impact on the local economy. 

“Intercollegiate Athletics adds significant value to the overall student experience, as well as the culture and success of Oregon State University,” Clark said. “For example, Athletics contributes to the university’s engagement with students, alumni, donors and the broader community.”

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