Marketing The Panthers, How To Handle Tailgating

Paul SieversAnalyst IAugust 12, 2009

This will be the first instalment of an ongoing series where I discuss what the athletic department should and shouldn't be doing in order to get fans into Heinz Field on Saturdays. Your comments are more than welcome as it will take more than one voice for our athletic department to take notice.

Today I was on the athletic department website when I came across this.

Apparently, before every home game, the Heinz Field parking lot will transform itself into "The Worlds Largest Family Tailgate." The tailgate includes a band, a jumbotron showing ESPN, food (no alcohol) and a bunch of inflatable games to distract the kids.

There's an inherent problem here. The Pitt athletic department is trying to domesticate tailgating which is something that really can't be domesticated.

Who wakes up on an Autumn Saturday and says "Man today is going to be great. I can't wait to eat stadium food, so what if it costs a bunch of money. After that I'm going to cheer on the Panthers."

People say that on their way to baseball games, not football.

When we wake up on gameday, we say "I got my cooler and grill all packed. I'm going to meet up with the boys, crack open a cold one and warm up the grill. Our wives will stand around and talk about god knows what while kids will chase a football around, hopefully they don't get hurt. Once that's out of the way its time to watch Pitt. God bless America because my life is awesome."

I love tailgating, part of the reason I love it is because its a do-it-yourself activity. It's about bonding with friends and family over beers and burgers. Its about the cars to each side of you doing the same. Its about creating a pre-game energy that can be felt as soon as you get out of your car.

It's not about buying overpriced, greasy chicken fingers and watching some no-name band while your kids wait in line 10 minutes to throw a football through an inflatable tire.

I understand part of the reason Pitt does this is to discourage drinking. Fine, why not have something similar to the designated driver kiosks at NFL games. Sign up to be a designated driver and get a Pitt blanket or something like that.

Trust me, drunk people will be too busy laughing at the kiosk to fake being sober for the sake of a free blanket.

I feel that the amount of time, money and energy directed into this little mini-theme park could be used more effectively. The great family tailgate isn't going to increase ticket sales, lets put our effort into something that will.


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