GWsports.com Staff Spotlight: Nicole Early
Assistant Athletics Director Discusses the Marketing of All 23 GW Varsity Sports
Dec. 7, 2012
GWsports.com is debuting a new series which will periodically spotlight a different member of the George Washington University Department of Athletics and Recreation team. In today's feature, GW softball senior and Athletics Communications student intern Kristi Saporito sat down with Nicole Early, Assistant Athletics Director/Marketing and Tickets.
GWsports.com: How has the marketing arm of GW Athletics improved since you first came to GW?
NE: When I first came to GW, the marketing staff consisted of an Associate Athletics Director for Marketing and Promotions and their primary function was to promote men's and women's basketball. Now we have a marketing staff that is promoting all 23 sports, which is really exciting. We divide our staff so that each individual is working with a couple of different sports. It's their responsibility to work with the coaching staff to develop promotional calendars, fan outreach and fan communication. From that end our marketing arm has grown quite a bit.
GWsports.com: How large is your staff?
NE: There are five of us total in the marketing office. We have two Marketing and Promotions Coordinators, an Assistant Director for New Media and Fan Engagement, and a Senior Assistant Director for Sports Marketing.
GWsports.com: How many people typically work on a given project?
NE: For events like Colonials Invasion, which is the tip-off event for the men's and women's basketball seasons, while there may be one person who runs point on that event, on the day of the actual event or the week leading up to it, everybody plays a role. We were fortunate last year to be a part of the inaugural Georgey Awards, which recognized the accomplishments of our great student-athletes. That's another type of event where everyone plays a role. Everybody has strengths. Typically, people aren't doing the same thing, but they are taking a certain section of whatever event it is that we're working on and putting their best strengths to it. There are times when our staff is required to work independently, but it is really fun when we have those big events to bring everybody together and to really work on something as a team.
GWsports.com: How do you get the word out about sporting events?
NE: There are a variety of different ways. We will do everything from hanging posters and banners around campus, to utilizing social media, to external advertising; it really depends. Last year we branded an entire Metro bus to draw awareness to GW Athletics. We've also done microsites online. We do our best to stay on top of the trends, especially on campus, that will get our students' attention. Then some of the more traditional means, whether it's radio, TV, print ads, are what we typically use for our season ticket holders and the greater DC area.
GWsports.com: How are you taking advantage of social media to reach out to fans?
NE: We have our Assistant Director for New Media and Fan Engagement, David Earl, who does a great job working with social media. He runs our @GWGeorge Twitter account and does a lot of work on our Facebook page. We have also just launched RaiseHighRewards.com. It's actually more than just a social media rewards program, but it's heavily based on rewarding fans for engaging with us through social media, whether it's checking into games on FourSquare, liking and sharing posts on Facebook, or even retweeting different things. So far it's been really successful, and we're excited to see it grow.
GWsports.com: How important is social media engagement?
NE: For us, social media is extremely important because it's the way that students and fans communicate. While we are still committed to sending emails through different distribution lists, we know our students are going to find out about the games or get excited about different promotions far faster from seeing a post on Facebook and Twitter than from sifting through their emails.
GWsports.com: What audience are you most looking to engage with in your marketing plan?
NE: There's a portion of the marketing plan in which we talk about ways that we can reach out to different alumni: young alumni, athletic alumni, alumni in the DC area. There's a part of the marketing plan that talks about outreach to students. What we're doing in each of these areas is different. We're not marketing to alumni the same way we're marketing to students. We talk a lot about how to get the local community involved, whether it's youth groups or different community groups. We have so many student organizations that are affiliated with different groups on campus, and we try to make those connections.
GWsports.com: Which events are you most looking forward to working with?
NE: Last year was the first time we were really involved in the GW Invitational, which is the rowing regatta that takes place right on Washington Harbor. That was a really fantastic event and is something we are looking forward to in the spring. Also, we are opening a refurbished Barcroft Park for our baseball program this spring, and we are really excited for Opening Day. One thing that's really nice about evolving into marketing and promoting 23 sports is that each sport is so unique and there are events that we look forward to with each of them.
GWsports.com: What does "Raise High" mean to you?
NE: "Raise High" is a standard that we set. It is `aspirational'; it is what we aspire to. "Raise High the Buff and Blue," was pulled directly from our fight song, and now the phrase "Raise High," has probably been hash-tagged millions of times at this point. That was organically started through social media by our fans and started to infiltrate different areas of the university, and to us it means setting a standard above those that are even expected - exceeding expectations. "Raising High" in academics, "Raising High" in your involvement in the community, "Raising High" and holding yourself to a higher standard, to be the best that you can be and not compromise what you believe to get there but striving to raise higher than most. It's something that our student body has rallied around, that our alumni have rallied around and that our department has rallied around.
GWsports.com: What has been an "only at GW" moment you have experienced?
NE: About four years ago now, we received a call - I think it was two days before one of our men's basketball games - that President Obama was coming to the game. It was over Thanksgiving break and we couldn't wait to get back on campus to have the President and his family in the building and to see the reaction of the students and our fans. It was really special. I think GW is a unique place in that regard. For us to have him on campus, sitting up there eating popcorn - at the Smith Center, which is such a great arena because it's so intimate - and to see him shake hands with the players at the end of the game was great. You were literally right across from him just about anywhere you went, so that was a really special moment.
GWsports.com: What is your favorite GW memory?
NE: The 2005-06 men's basketball season. GW was going into its last conference game at the Smith Center against Charlotte. The team was going for an undefeated record in the conference for the first time in school history, and the game went into overtime. GW won at the buzzer and when that basket went in, the entire Smith Center erupted. Students rushed the court, and I felt like everyone was hugging. It was such a special experience. It was not just a special experience because it was the first time it had happened, but because of the buildup leading to that point, the momentum we had with a really special group of senior players at the time. It was just something that for every fan that was there that day it would be really hard to say that game wasn't one of their most special memories in the Smith Center.