Perhaps the biggest community outreach initiative of the year was the move of the mascot program from Student Affairs to our department. In November, our marketing department took over complete operation of the mascot program. This includes eight student mascots, all bookings and appearances, as well as selecting and managing the mascots themselves. Through this program, our goal has been to increase the number of community events the mascot does, as well as the number of appearances he makes at our athletic events. The goal we are working towards is to have Bully at all Mississippi State athletic events.
CENTRAL MS SUMMER EXTRAVAGANZA
A large percentage of our fanbase lives in the Jackson-metro area, so we bring Mississippi State to them whenever possible. We invited all Mississippi State alumni and fans to come to this annual event. Special guests include MSU President Mark E. Keenum, Director of Athletics John Cohen, and the head football coach. The cost is $10 per adult and free for all children and students, including MSU students. Fans can receive autographs from our football coaches and players and take photos with Bully XXI “Jak,” as well as the Egg Bowl and Women’s NCAA Regional Championship trophies. There are also appearances by the MSU cheerleaders and Bully, and vendors will have various items for sale.
Summer orientations are a vital part of each summer here at Mississippi State. Not only for incoming students getting their first look at campus in an official student capacity but also for our athletic department being our first interaction with our incoming fan base. Each summer, we have upwards of ten summer orientation sessions where freshman get a tour of some of our athletic facilities and get their student IDs. The great part about them getting their IDs is that they are now eligible to sign up for Hail State Rewards. We have a large presence at all of these summer sessions to ensure that these students are signing up for Hail State Rewards as soon as they step foot on campus and that they are ready to fully immerse themselves in Mississippi State Athletics come Volleyball and Soccer seasons in August.
STUDENT LEADERS DINNER
In an effort to build stronger relationships with our student leaders on campus, this year we organized a dinner in November, hosted by Athletic Director John Cohen, and attended by both our men’s and women’s basketball coaches, baseball coach, and softball coach, and attended by the leaders of the top 15 student organizations on campus. The evening consisted of speeches by each coach and John Cohen, and a time for the students to get the know these coaches on a more personal level, so that they felt a sense of connection to them as our marketing staff reached out to them to help in driving attendance to events. Following this dinner, we saw a significant increase in communication efforts between us and these student leaders, who began responding back to us and providing both support and eedback much more often.
BLAIR E. BATSON VISITS
Each year our athletic department plans exciting visits to Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS. Our student-athletes look forward to the visits at the hospital each year. Our marketing staff is involved to help provide promotional items for each visit, to make the children’s days even better. These items range from autographed posters, custom MSU coloring books and crayons, to pom poms, stickers and more. Last July, the student-athletes from the MSU football team, cheerleading squad, and Bully all made the trip to visit the kids. In the fall, the baseball team visited the hospital and spent time face painting, participating in activities, and simply spending time with the children.
BASEBALL TICKET DELIVERY
To help show our appreciation to our local fans, we took each player from our Bulldog baseball team to hand deliver their 2018 season tickets to loyal season ticket holders who live in the city of Starkville. The Bulldog Baseball fan base continues to grow each year, and to many, baseball season is just as large as our football season with the amount of people it brings to Starkville. However, our local fans are the loyal ones who continue to support our team right here in Starkville. Being able to hand deliver their tickets adds a personal touch for some of our most dedicated fans, and provides special moments that they will never forget.
It is our second year celebrating the National Girls and Women in Sports Day assembly in the Starkville community. Last year, we created an event to promote our women’s sports teams by partnering with the Starkville Public School District in putting on an assembly at Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School. The assembly consists of demonstrations from several of our student-athletes, spirit squad, Bully, and a few inspirational messages from our coaches. The sports represented are Track & Field and Cross Country, Soccer, Volleyball, Softball, Basketball, Golf, and Tennis. We pick volunteers from the audience to participate in these demonstrations and teach them how to pass a soccer ball, hit a ball on a tennis racket, set up a dig, and putt a golf ball. The spirit squad and Bully teach the children our fight song. Not only do we emphasis women involvement in sports, but we also showcase how important it is to eat a healthy, balanced meal with our female nutritionist. There is also female representation from the academic and administrative side to athletics. We provide each child with a t-shirt donning the National Girls and Women in Sports Day logo. In addition to the t-shirt this year, we handed out tickets to the upcoming women’s basketball game. At the women’s basketball game, we had our student-athletes participate in the t-shirt toss and in shooting the t-shirt cannon.
STUDY BREAK EVENTS
As was mentioned in the basketball section, this year we wanted to continue the efforts we began in previous years of providing a presence by members of our coaching staff in the library during finals week. We purchased enough coffee and donuts to feed hundreds of students, and worked with the library on campus to select a time for Coach Ben Howland of our men’s basketball team, as well as our mascot Bully, and members of our staff to come by and hand out coffee and donuts to the students throughout the library. We set up tables in the lobby, had coach make an announcement over the library-wide speaker system, and off we went. Students came by in large waves, thanking Coach Howland for the gesture, and talking about the upcoming game versus North Georgia.
BOWL TICKET DONATIONS
Playing in a Bowl Game in South Florida in the first of January causes quite a challenge for fans wanting to travel down from Mississippi, yet still spend time with their families on Christmas and New Year’s. However, many of our fans wanted to support our program and find a way to still purchase tickets. For that reason, this year we coordinated the opportunity for fans to purchase tickets and donate them back to a pool which would then be distributed to two local Jacksonville charities: Send A Child to the Game and Honoring our Heroes.
430 STRAIGHT GAMES
Any time we receive a call or an email about a special moment for a fan, we want to try our best to honor that moment. This December, we received notice of a fan who had attended 430 straight Mississippi State football games — over 40 years of games. This gentleman and his wife were set to move from Starkville, to be closer to their grandkids, which would end his streak. We took this opportunity to surprise him with a special on-court recognition at basketball honoring his commitment and support, prior to them moving in March.
EVENING IN MAROON
As we continue to look at ways to partner with our Alumni Association to reach out to Bulldogs across the state, this year we worked with them to attend a large gathering of fans in Jackson for an “Evening in Maroon”. This event featured Coach Joe Moorhead and Coach Vic Schaefer speaking, while we also set up a photo station with the newly-won women’s basketball SEC Championship trophy, a collateral station for spring sports posters and tickets, and a few silent and live auction items, like a guest coach opportunity at basketball, and signed posters from our coaches. This event supported scholarships for students in Central Mississippi.
A community outreach initiative that we started a few years ago has gotten a new twist. In previous years, we have had the opportunity to use student-athletes in the community to not only promote their upcoming games, but also to greet students and assist the teachers in helping with morning carpool. Covering several public and private schools across Starkville, we have now added Bully to the carpool fun! When the students arrive, they are greeted by student-athletes with their promotional flyers and banners. In addition, we have Bully handing out stickers specific to the sport and taking pictures with students and parents. The promotion of sports is not the only reason we like to participate in carpool across the city. This promotion helps strengthen the partnership between Mississippi State and the Starkville Oktibbeha School District. We recently promoted several women’s basketball games using Bully and attendance from younger students has skyrocketed. The increase in attendance is always appreciated, but more importantly, by doing morning carpool, we have seen an increase in the love for Mississippi State University.
In an effort to get our teams, coaches, and staffs out in the community around the Holidays, we work with the local Salvation Army to set up Bell Ringing opportunities in Starkville. This year our staff took over an hour slot at Walmart, where we even upgraded the bell a bit — to a cowbell!
HURRICANE HARVEY & IRMA OUTREACH
After Hurricane Irma struck the state of Florida, the Mississippi State Men’s Basketball team hosted Big Ten foe Nebraska in an exhibition game to benefit Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Representatives from the MSU Student Relief Fund and Salvation Army collected monetary donations at the door as fans entered the arena, and commemorative, “Stronger Than Storms” shirts were made for fans to pick up as they entered. All proceeds for the shirts and donations at the doro went back to Irma relief efforts.
“This is a great opportunity to help so many people in need who were affected by the hurricane,” third-year MSU coachBen Howland said. “Hurricane Irma was devastating, and our hearts and prayers have been with everyone as they have dealt with horrific and tragic loss. This is a chance for us to do our part in helping those in need.”
On top of the benefit game, women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer coordinated a canned food drive where members of the team were posted at every home event during a two week period to collect canned goods that were then packed into an 18 wheeler and driven to Houston accompanied by Coach Schaefer. During the two weeks, the girls collected cans at soccer, volleyball, football and the men’s basketball exhibition game.
TEAMS TAKE THE FIELD
Each season, we invite local teams, groups, and organizations to participate in Teams Take the Field with our baseball team. We provide free admission to the game for all participating children and three coaches/chaperones. Teams meet an hour before first pitch, and we take them on the field when the players finish batting practice and warmups. They take a group photo on the field, and then line up on the sidelines. Players and coaches come by to high-five the kids, and our head coach comes to visit the team, taking a few minutes to get to know the kids and give them advice for how to be successful in their sports and in school. When the team lines up for the National Anthem, we escort them to stand in front of the players.
GUEST WAIT NIGHT
Almost every member of our Marketing staff including our Senior Associate AD for External has a dog or is an avid animal lover. This year, members of our team were invited to participate in a charity awareness event at a local restaurant where half of everyone’s bill went to the Starkville Humane Society. Two of our Marketing staff members were guest wait staff for the night and the rest of our team went and ate at their table to help raise money and awareness for our local humane society.
ROAD DAWGS TOUR
At MSU, we strive to give our fans the best experience possible, and with that, we try to create different events that are catered to our fans. One of those events is our “Road Dawgs Tour” which provides our fans who do not live in Starkville access to our coaches and student-athletes. Our brand has expanded exponentially over the last few years and our “True Maroon” fans deserve this type of community outreach and exclusive access to our coaches and student-athletes. The purpose of our summer Road Dawgs Tour is to thank our fans and travel to our supporters instead of them always having to pack up and travel to us. The marketing department has partnered with our alumni association to determine key tour stops with a high-concentration of alumni and MSU fans—areas include several stops all over Mississippi as well as bigger hubs in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and now, Dallas, Texas. This tour in Summer 2017 included Coach Dan Mullen, Coach Ben Howland, Coach Vic Schaefer and AD John Cohen. Our marketing staff travels ahead of the guest speakers to set up the venues with photo booths, collateral stations, information tables for ticket purchasing, and more.