How To Bolster University Sports Marketing Initiatives Using Advocacy Marketing

college university athletics marketing

At SocialToaster, we’re proud to be the advocacy marketing platform of choice for dozens of universities. These schools are using SocialToaster to support a number of great initiatives including increasing student enrollment, driving Giving Day donations, and even bolstering their athletic programs. With graduation a few weeks away and many university’s fiscal seasons ending shortly thereafter, now is the perfect time to start building your athletic program’s advocacy marketing dream team in preparation for the upcoming back-to-school season. In today’s blog post, we break down some best practices universities and college sports marketing departments can use to activate their greatest athletic asset – their Superfans – through an advocacy marketing program.

Advocacy Marketing Is The Perfect Choice For Your Athletic Program


Whether comprised of alumni, student-athletes, current students, or even potential students, a properly managed advocacy marketing program can be the blitz you need to take your team’s sports marketing efforts downfield. For those unfamiliar, in an advocacy marketing program, your school’s fans opt-in to receive your latest athletic-focused content. They can then easily share that content to their personal social networking feeds.

This personal touch can work wonders on ensuring your content gets seen and engaged with on social media. People pay more than twice as much attention to posts and recommendations from their friends; even more-so, earned media (advocacy marketing) drives four-times the brand lift as paid media.

Bottom line, if you want your latest athletic video to be seen, quit boosting your posts and start leveraging the power of your #1 fans.

What Goals Can Advocacy Marketing Help Support?

Short answer: all of them! Seriously though, an advocacy marketing program can help your university’s athletic department crush a variety of goals including:

  • Fundraising – Encourage alumni to give back to their alma mater to support the creation of new facilities or support initiatives
  • Ticket SalesDrive sales to upcoming games
  • New Athlete Recruitment – Show off the might and muscle of your athletic program to entice your next generation of star players

And that’s just the beginning!

Straight From The Advocacy Marketing Playbook: Tips & Tactics To Get The Most From Your Program

Ready to pull the trigger on advocacy marketing to support your sports marketing program? Here are some field-tested best practices to help get you started.

Decide The Focus Of Your Advocacy Marketing Program

First things first. As in every sport, success comes from practice and preparation. You’ve got to do your homework and formulate a plan of attack. Be sure to consider these key questions:

  1. Do you want your program to focus on a specific sport (football/basketball), or do you want a general program that can help share content on multiple programs throughout the year?
  2. Are you focused solely on alumni or do you also want to appeal to current students?
  3. How often will you send content to your alumni? Send too little content and you’re not going to receive the full benefits of an advocacy marketing program. Send too much and you risk turning off your alumni.

Recruit An Engaged Audience

When you’re just starting off, it can sometimes seem a bit daunting to earn your first hundred recruits. Take a note from our playbook and focus your initial recruitment efforts on targeting those potential advocates that you know are die-hard fans. From the your fans that show up already body-painted with school colors on game day or the alumnus who hasn’t missed a game in 30 years, if anyone is going to join your advocacy marketing program, it’s going to be individuals like these.

To start recruiting top fans:

  • Email your most engaged marketing lists – Remember to include information on the value they’ll get out of being a part of the program and a strong call-to-action to join the program.
  • Alumni newsletters – It might seem a bit odd to market a digital program in a physical medium, but several of the universities we work with have found recruitment success by advertising the program in their monthly or quarterly alumni letters.
  • On-location at the game – Set up a booth during the game that allows advocates to sign up while at the game. Alternatively, have a few volunteers walk through the tailgating section and talk to the pre-game revelers. Whichever you choose, be sure to have tablets on hand to make it easy for an interested advocate to sign up for your program on the spot.

Block And Tackle With The Right Content Mix

If your recruits are your players, then content is the ball, court, field, stadium, and all-important Gatorade bottle of your advocacy sports marketing program. Your program content is what keeps current fans engaged, excites new fans to join, and ultimately helps you accomplish your advocacy goals. Whatever the type of content, be sure it aligns with your goals.

* Fundraising? Publish content that connects the past to the present and future.

If you have a program focused on encouraging alumni donations, produce content that reminds them of what the university was like when they attended it, then share with them what the future of the university looks like with their help. Tap into the awesome power of nostalgia to help rekindle an alumni’s emotional ties to the university. Videos are a key medium for helping to shape this story. Want to build more excitement around your program? Create content that spotlights your athletes. Create content that highlights key athletes and the personal journeys that brought them to play for your school. Use these stories to help forge an emotional connection with your advocates and their friends and family on their social media networks.

* Driving ticket sales? Create content that builds excitement around upcoming games.

Whether it’s produced recaps of knuckle-biting wins or teasers for rivalry week, focusing on the story a future game can turn potential ticket buyers into active game-attending fans.

* Need a content boost? Tap into the creative power of your fans.

Don’t believe you have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to creating content. Push some of the responsibility onto your fans and create opportunities for them to create user-generated content! Hold a contest that encourages your advocates to show you their “game face” or tailgating rig. Then share that content through your advocacy program. UGC posts shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts. Make that two-point conversion by leveraging your advocates to both create content on your behalf and distribute that content to their social connections.

Reward Your Advocates To Encourage High Performance

Almost everyone who plays sports competitively wants to walk away with a trophy, a symbol of the hard work and dedication they’ve put into their craft. Your advocates are no different; if you want to encourage a premium program, be sure to incentivize your advocates to leave nothing on the field. Here are some of the top incentives we see being used:

  • Badges – From Foursquare to Untapped, program participants enjoy collecting badges. Create a plethora of unique badges that your advocates can unlock by completing certain tiers of participation.
  • Downloadable Assets – Unique desktop wallpapers, mobile backgrounds, and even ringtones can be strong digital incentivize for motivating your advocates.
  • Team Gear – Break out those hoodies and pass out those track pants. Let your Superfans show off their team pride by awarding branded swag.
  • Tickets to Games & Exclusive Events – Last and most powerful, give your advocates the opportunity to win tickets to their favorite games or to exclusive advocate-only events (meet-and-greet with coach etc.).

Whatever your goal, an advocacy marketing program can help ensure your university or college’s sports marketing messages are seen by the people that matter most: your fans.

With summer fast approaching, now is the ideal time to get an advocacy program in place so that it’s ready to go for the back-to-school season. Ready to launch your university’s athletic advocacy marketing program? SocialToaster is here to help. Schedule a demo today and learn why so many universities around the U.S. choose SocialToaster as their advocacy marketing platform of choice.

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