February 25, 2015

How To Harness Virality In Event Marketing

It’s increasingly more difficult for marketers to brainstorm new ways to market events. This is particularly evident for sports marketers, who feel the unyielding pressure to be original and fun for every game. One sports marketing department that has stepped up to the helm is the one for University of Maryland Athletics, which just unleashed the third installment on what may become part of Maryland basketball tradition.

Each year, the UMD marketing department comes up with something great (although, being a Terp myself, I may be a little biased). Pressure mounts for them to bring something bigger and better every year, and they seem to deliver. On February 24, 2015, at a home game in College Park, the Terp Marketing group instituted the third rendition of what is starting to become customary: once per year, at an important home basketball game, they organize a student flash mob during a TV timeout.

The original flash mob, in the midst of the popular Harlem Shake videos that were taking over 2013, was a huge hit. This sort of engineering of the spontaneous is hard to pull off, hence the expertise required in leveraging virality in event marketing. The YouTube video of that flash mob garnered over 9 million views, an incredible amount of attention and engagement. The game was against Duke, Maryland’s biggest rival, which meant that students would come to the game and would be waiting in line outside well in advance of the opening tip-off.

This provided Carrie Blankenship, Associate Athletic Director/Marketing, with the perfect opportunity to institute her idea for a flash mob. As the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg wrote,

“It had to be when students were on-campus, and on an appropriate day and time. The Duke game seemed wrong — students would already be crazed, with or without planned antics — but the date and time were perfect. Mob leaders would also need students willing to take their seats hours early to learn the routine, and the Duke game was ideal in that regard, since students would have been lined up outside for hours and would welcome a bit of warmth.”

The same can be said for the Wisconsin game this year. Ranked No. 5 in the country, Wisconsin is a formidable opponent that draws a large crowd. Maryland was ranked No. 14 coming into the game, so the matchup (and the fact that the game would be aired on ESPN) created the perfect situation for Blankenship to organize another flash mob with another sold-out game rift with riled-up students. The idea worked again. And it provided yet another upset win for the Terps. What started as a marketing ploy may have turned into a good luck charm that is here to stay. Check out the images and videos from this year’s flash mob here.