As mom to a high-level, competitive gymnast, I often feel like the sport is as much mine as it is hers. You won’t find me on a balance beam anytime soon, but the sheer will and dedication that it takes to be a great gymnast has a way of sucking you in. Gymnastics is as exciting and nerve-racking as is gets. When it comes to death-defying feats, the circus has nothing on this sport. The skills these young women compete take your breath away — especially if you happen to be one of their parents.
This morning I was scrolling through the headlines in The New York Times and saw a story in the sports section by John Branch titled, “At Their Meets, the Audience Flips, Too.” It caught my eye as the article showcased the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics program and its success at both building a world-class team, and filling 15,000 seats for almost every home meet. A whopping 7,500 of those are for season ticket holders.
What keeps them coming back? What else? Well-executed, compelling, exciting, relevant content. The University gives its audience what they want: two hours in awe of some of the strongest, most disciplined, tear-out-your-heart courageous athletes they may ever see. Now that’s what I call content marketing.
All too often, people think of content as something that comes in written form, but it’s so much more than that. Of course, written content plays a role, but so do special events, in-person meetings, e-mail messages, ads, direct mail, video, PR, social media, and every other way we reach out and touch our customers. The mix of content will differ by business and brand as determined by the needs, wants and preferences of our customers. And like all good things, it doesn’t happen overnight.
In the case of the University of Utah, Head Coach, Greg Marsden starting working on his “content” when he helped form the women’s gymnastics team there 40 years ago. When faced with the business challenge of filling seats, he gave the sports enthusiasts of the Salt Lake City area a new reason to come out. They wanted a winning team that they could be proud of — and they wanted a good time too.
That’s what they got. Attendance grew each year as did Marsden’s efforts to keep the crowd captivated. For example, if you’ve ever been to a gymnastics meet, you know that there can be lots of lag time between events as the girls are warming up. That’s not the case at the University of Utah’s meets as they fill that time with entertainment – cheerleaders, school pep band, fun with the crowd, and more. There’s never a dull moment, and it works.
At this particular meet (featured in The New York Times story by Branch), the University’s content marketing efforts got an unexpected boost. During the uneven bars competition, Utah gymnast Georgia Dabritz scored a perfect 10. (By the way, for you gymnastics enthusiasts out there, I’m told she did this without grips…ouch!) In my opinion, she wasn’t alone. It may not have flashed on the big board, but Marsden’s content marketing score was nothing less than perfect. Salute!