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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

W-Hoops needs to step up marketing

The women’s basketball team held a “White Out” for its game against Colorado on Sunday. The purpose of which, presumably, was to get some fans in the stands and capitalize on the fact that the Wildcats would be playing in front of a national TV audience.

It works with the men’s basketball team, so why not the women’s?
The answer is in the question — women.

Now, before letters are written and comments are posted calling me a sexist, just hear me out.

In athletics, especially at the collegiate level and in basketball, women’s teams are simply not as popular as the men’s team. That’s built into the system, especially at the University of Arizona.

The men’s basketball team has been the main focus of sports fans, and the athletic department, in the city of Tucson for years. That’s never going to change, whether it is fair or not.

How can the gap be narrowed? What needs to change is actually pretty simple — marketing.

The men’s team gets all the marketing it could possibly need, but even without it, attendance would never be an issue.

The announced attendance at Sunday’s women’s game was 1,861. Against North Texas in November, the Wildcats held a “Field Trip day,” where elementary students from the Tucson area came to watch Arizona play. Because of that special promotion, the team welcomed 4,327 fans, which ranks as the eighth highest total in program history.

By comparison, when the men’s team held a white out last year against Washington, 14,619 fans attended an Arizona win. Even in an exhibition game against lowly Humboldt State earlier this season, the Wildcats still welcomed nearly 12,000 fans.

So by the simple force of an elementary school promotion, women’s hoops had its eighth-best showing of all time. Simply put, Arizona needs to market its women’s basketball team better. The fact that the team is in the middle of a winning season is just icing on the cake.

I’m not a marketing expert, nor am I even a marketing major, but it’s pretty clear what needs to be done. The stands might never be completely filled, but if, at the very least, the atmosphere and popularity of the women’s basketball program can increase incrementally, that would be a boon not only for recruiting but also for team confidence.

Arizona needs to start some sort of clever advertising campaign, and head coach Niya Butts needs to be at the center of it. Butts is charismatic, funny and willing to do what it takes to get fans in the stands. She also happens to be a good basketball coach.

Take a page out of Jackie Moon’s playbook. In “Semi-Pro”, the singer-owner-coach-player and marketing extraordinaire went to extremes to get fans in the stands. He wrestled a bear at halftime of a game.

Who wouldn’t pay to see Niya Butts, or anyone really, fight a bear at halftime of a women’s basketball game?

Obviously, that’s not going to happen. But if the athletic department wants to help out one of its top female athletic programs, then it needs to start getting creative.

If not, the athletic department might just have to find a way to bus the elementary school students to McKale for every game. And that’s an idea even Jackie Moon might find unreasonable.

Dick Young, a hall-of-fame sportswriter, once said, “Fans are the only ones who really care.”

Everyone might not be an avid follower of the women’s basketball program, and that’s fine. But if the athletic department wants to maintain a competitive program, it’s time to make the fans care.

— Zack Rosenblatt is the assistant sports editor. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatSports.

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