At a glance
Matchups of schools competing in the Real World Marketing Challenge
• Amsterdam vs. Schenectady
• Duanesburg vs. Middleburgh
• Chatham vs. Taconic Hills
• Galway vs. Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville
• Jamestown vs. Sewanahaka
• North Rose-Wolcott vs. Red Creek
• Scotia-Glenville vs. Coxsackie-Athens
Area high school students are finding out what it takes to get people out to the ball game.
While the excitement and competition of varsity football and basketball often attracts big crowds, baseball and softball don’t have the same draw.
Seven local schools are working to change that, joining a statewide challenge to fill the bleachers and learning something about the art of promotion at the same time. As part of the Real World Marketing Challenge, students are offering more than peanuts and Cracker Jack to get people out to the ballgame.
“It’s a very good project because normally, with baseball and softball games, you don’t get a lot of fans to those games — it’s basically the parents of the kids who are playing,” said Mike Parks, whose Scotia-Glenville High School sports management class is promoting the May 7 varsity baseball game against Gloversville. “With basketball and football games, you get a lot of students who go.”
Students from Scotia-Glenville, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Duanesburg, Galway, Middleburgh and Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville are among 14 teams across the state competing in the challenge, sponsored by Genium Publishing Corp. in Amsterdam.
Genium President Michael Cinquanti said a class at a small rural school was successful in getting 210 people to come to a varsity baseball game last month, when usually only 20 to 25 people attend. He wouldn’t disclose the name of the school so as not to give the competing school, which is still promoting a game, an unfair advantage.
“We’re hoping this is going to be the norm,” he said. “There’s really not going to be any losers.”
If you build it …
After going to a few varsity baseball games and seeing about 60 people attend on average, Parks’ students are aiming to have 150 to 200 people at the home game.
In order to advance in the competition and become eligible for a $1,000 prize, the Scotia-Glenville students must get more people to the May 7 game than a Coxsackie-Athens High School e-commerce class can bring to its own varsity baseball game on May 12.
The Scotia-Glenville students have been working since the beginning of April to create and execute a marketing plan — starting and managing Twitter and Instagram accounts, handing out fliers, running morning announcements and turning the baseball game into an event.
The game starts at 4 p.m. at the high school and will feature face painting for the kids, free popcorn, cupcakes for the first 100 fans and in-game competitions. While the game is free, students are selling $1 tickets outside the school cafeteria for a game in which throwing a baseball through a hole in a board from 30 feet away comes with a $100 prize. Between innings, fans can win $200 by standing at second base and throwing a baseball into a garbage can at home plate.
The popular Scotia-Glenville Perfect Pitch Precision Pep Band also will be there to perform.
“I’m going to school for business, so it’s actually really helpful that I’m witnessing this whole marketing structure my senior year,” said Emma Hyland, 18, who is taking the class and plans to major in business administration at Ithaca College next year. “It’s a fun project that we get to get a whole class together to get the whole community out to this one baseball game and have fun. It’s a lot of fun.”
Peter Siciliano, who teaches the e-commerce class of 18 students at Coxsackie-Athens, said his students are excited about the challenge. As one of many marketing strategies, they’ve reached out to business owners, seeking donations of gift certificates to be raffled at the game. A local lumber company even donated wood for a giant sign the students are making to promote the 4 p.m. May 12 game against the school’s rival, Catskill.
“We’re hoping to get 200 to 300 people, which would be a large crowd for our baseball games,” he said.
At Amsterdam High School, the stakes are a little higher for Brian Spagnola, whose marketing class is promoting the May 14 home game against Schenectady: Spagnola also coaches the baseball team, and his students are aiming to bring 300 to 500 people to the game, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Shuttleworth Park.
“Having a crowd full of people I assume will get the best out of the guys and get them ready to play and amped up to play,” Spagnola said.
To attract more than the typical crowd of 40 or so people, the class of 19 students is targeting various groups — rather than individuals — such as sports teams, elementary school classes and Wishful Thinking, a nonprofit program for at-risk teens. The high school chorus will sing the national anthem — that alone should add more than 50 students who wouldn’t normally be there.
The students are also taking to social media and creating a video they hope will go viral.
“This is perfect, because there’s no better way to learn than by doing, and it’s not fictitious,” Spagnola said. “Actually seeing the results of the work and their actions in a real life setting is the best way to learn.”
Jesse Guyer’s marketing and management class at Schenectady High School has a marketing plan in place to promote the May 16 varsity baseball game, when Amsterdam plays on Schenectady’s turf. That games starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Central Park B Diamond.
Guyer’s 85 students — the class has three sections — are leaning heavily on social media, creating Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts to promote the game.
“They’re telling me that the way to do it is through social media,” he said. “They insist on social media. The kids are on it all day long.”
The students are also reaching out to owners of restaurants they frequent for lunch, inviting them to attend the game and offer food samples.
Even if the students don’t win the competition, they will have learned a valuable lesson, Guyer said.
“If we fail at this, which I hope we don’t, they’re going to learn about how hard it is,” he said.
Cinquanti said he’s seen some of the marketing plans, and he’s impressed. Cinquanti’s company publishes information products such as the eCommEd Curriculum package, which helps students to run an e-business from inside the classroom. The package’s ScoresUp website was made available to the competing schools.
“They just boggle my mind what these kids are able to come up with,” Cinquanti said. “They’re doing everything a real business would do to get people to come to a baseball game, and it’s really working out well.”
The seven teams that win the head-to-head competition will be judged by representatives from Genium and the Pinckney Hugo ad agency of Syracuse and a professor of marketing and finance at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The class with the marketing plan deemed the most professional will win the $1,000 grant for their school’s business department.