If Steve Forbes full-court press is anything like the marketing press Wake Forest has undergone since Forbes was hired last week, then fans are in for a treat at Joel Coliseum.
Forbes, who was hired to overhaul the struggling men’s basketball program at Wake Forest, has been shown around town and on TV at just about every turn thanks to heavy dose of marketing. He’s also been plastered all over social media, which is exactly what the marketing department at Wake Forest had in mind.
“We put him through what I like to say is the car wash,” said Barry Faircloth, a senior associate athletics director in charge of development and sales about using Forbes over plenty of advertising platforms.
Even though it comes right in the middle of the pandemic when the campus was closed the Wake Forest marketing department has been working overtime to get Forbes’ face front and center.
One of the first social media hits was a video with athletics director John Currie that gave fans an insight as to just how outgoing Forbes can be. In the 47-second video Forbes spikes a face mask at the end and screams “Let’s go Deacon nation, let’s get this done.”
Faircloth said it’s been the most-watched video ever on the wakeforestsports twitter account and currently has nearly 750,000 views.
“When we kind of saw where that was going it told us right away we were onto something,” Faircloth said.
That video was just the beginning of the “car wash” because last Friday after a virtual press conference to introduce Forbes to the media, Forbes started making phone calls to fans. Well, he sort of made the calls.
Forbes recorded a 30-second phone call that went out to 33,000 people, according to Faircloth. The robocall pushed for season tickets with Forbes doing the talking. It was sent out to anybody who had season tickets in the past or even bought single-game tickets in the last several years as well as Deacon Club members and former players.
What was unique about it was the phone calls came about five hours after the press conference was over.
“We did send that out to to a pretty broad list of people, but we also had about 70% of those that we called listened to the entire message,” Faircloth said.
It’s no secret that attendance at Joel Coliseum has hit rock bottom thanks to one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 10 seasons. This past season, the last of six seasons with Danny Manning as coach, the Deacons averaged just 6,903 fans in the 14,665-seat arena. It was the lowest average attendance since Joel Coliseum opened in 1989.
Faircloth said the hiring of Forbes, even though it’s a strange time with the COVID-19 pandemic, has energized the entire athletics department. The hope is to transfer that over to the fan base where Faircloth reports that there have already been commitments of some new season ticket buyers.
“We had been trending down (in attendance) and I thought (Journal reporter) Conor O’Neill’s article https://www.journalnow.com/sports/college/wfu/losing-on-the-court-means-losing-at-the-turnstiles-for-wake-forests-basketball-program/article_e2184f06-e758-5629-baf2-4d1897616afa.html pretty well described what had happened,” Faircloth said. “Now is the perfect time to get people excited and were asking people to get on board.”
Even though the Deacons’ basketball schedule isn’t out yet, Faircloth said that the push to sell season tickets is a priority. This push is also coming during a pandemic where everybody is at home and the audience is a bit more captive.
“When the pandemic hit we did take a pause in our football marketing as well as with our fundraising efforts with the Deacon Club with pushing back deadlines,” Faircloth said.
Faircloth said that the hiring of Forbes, who resurrected East Tennessee State and turned it into a Southern Conference power, is a “movement” because of his outward personality.
“You just felt it and it’s real so we wanted to respond and get our brand out there when it comes to a major sport such as basketball,” Faircloth said.
The marketing of Forbes also hit other areas such as taking out a full page ad in the Winston-Salem Journal. Faircloth said later this month there will also be ads introducing Forbes in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer.
“We wanted to hit here in the Triad area first because that’s our core fans and then reach out to other parts of the state," Faircloth said.
There have also been TV commercials playing at a regular clip showcasing the past Wake Forest stars along with Forbes at the end of the 30-second clip. The ad played during Sunday night on ESPN during “The Last Dance” that is chronicling Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls.
“That ad is part of the campaign to celebrate our tradition and the history of Wake Forest basketball,” Faircloth said. “It also is promoting the program now that Coach Forbes is here, so we think it all ties together to help generate more interest.”
Faircloth admitted that it’s not usually a time of the year to promote basketball season.
“We usually start in August for basketball,” he said, “but when you have a coaching transition like this you want to think bold and create that media blitz where our fans notice. We’re obviously excited about the future, and that’s what we tried to convey.”