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March marketing madness for colleges and universities

With the onset of the NCAA college basketball tournament, dubbed “March Madness,” many colleges and universities are using their teams’ successes as part of their marketing efforts.

A team’s success on the hardwood can have a positive effect on marketing to stu­dents and alumni, said Carissa Newton, marketing director at Vontoo, a permission-based, voice message marketing services provider, which works with institutions of higher learning.

While the campaigns are not all based around athletics, many schools take advan­tage of the interest in college basketball at this time of year for marketing purposes, she explained.

“They use it in a number of different ways ? to build the alumni donor base, engaging the current student and fan base, and to mar­ket to prospective students,” she said.

Some schools have used pre-recorded messages from players and coaches, which can be customized. For example, a coach can record two different messages and send one out during a game’s halftime, depending on whether the team is winning or losing.

Voice-message marketing can have sev­eral types of calls to action, Newton said. A message to an alumni base, for example, could direct them to a Web site where online donations are accepted.

One school working with Vontoo is Cincinnati-based college basketball pow­erhouse Xavier University.

The school has been using voice message campaigns for about a year and will likely do so again once the NCAA tournament begins, said Brian Hicks, Xavier’s assistant athletic director for marketing.

“The thing that really is the beauty of it is the timeliness,” he said. “Once the [tourna­ment] pairings are announced, if we have an alumni event or fan travel package to offer, [Vontoo] is one tool we could most effectively use to communicate to fans.”

This season, Xavier sent out a message asking fans attending a nationally televised game to wear either blue or white, depend­ing on their seating, which drew about a 90% response, Hicks said. Admissions and other university offices had previously used voice message marketing campaigns.

“We recognize that the men’s basketball platform is a great platform for the whole university,” Hicks said. “We can get real-time results, it’s very trackable. It… complements our overall marketing strategy [nicely].”

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