NEWS, NOTES & COMMENTARY
The Bradsher Beat
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
By Bethany Bradsher
P.R. Machine running fast
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Myatt's Inside Game Day: ECU
zone slows Greyhounds
Post-game audio: ECU coach Jeff
Post-game audio: Loyola coach
Post-game audio: ECU players
Maurice Kemp & Robert Sampson...
Scoreboard & Schedule
View box score and stats on ecupirates.com
GREENVILLE — Every Tuesday
night in Mendenhall Student Center, quite a number of East Carolina students
gather for a group called College Life. But last night College Life's
regular meeting room was empty, its members displaced to the student section
at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirate basketball team has
played on several other Tuesdays this season, and this is the first time
College Life has changed its plans in deference to a game. That development,
says ECU director of marketing Scott Wetherbee, represents the kind of
culture shift coming out of the Pirates’ involvement with a tournament known
as the CIT.
With a resounding 70-58
victory over Loyola (MD) on Tuesday night, the Pirates found themselves in
unknown territory — competitive basketball with April just around the
corner. And with another home game on Saturday, the Pirate Nation is
squeezing every drop out of the experience.
Naysayers will dismiss the
Collegeinsiders.com Tournament as too obscure to deserve notice, but
Wetherbee and his staff have taken the opposite approach. Shortly after ECU
accepted a CIT bid and offered to host the first-round game, Wetherbee
visited head coach Jeff Lebo in his office and warned him about what was
coming: Marketing’s version of the full-court press.
“We’ve done just as much
marketing over the last 10 days as we did all year,” Wetherbee said. “We’re
trying to get people here and trying to get people excited and get them on
board. Our biggest thing is, these are the small building blocks to building
Their efforts have taken many
forms: Ticket promotions, robocalls to Pirate Club members with a message
from Lebo, videos, tweets and game time activities to keep the crowds
engaged. Wetherbee overheard some fans at Saturday’s Rider game commenting
on the band holding up giant copies of Lebo and Heather Macy’s heads to
distract opposing free-throw shooters. The band has been doing that all
year, and it confirmed his hope that this postseason run is reeling in new
“This is giving us the chance
to kind of showcase the program and get ready for next year,” he said.
The marketing and event staff
at ECU certainly deserves plenty of credit for turning the CIT into a
marquee happening, but they are riding the coattails of Lebo and his players
as they churn out victories. Each win, as Wetherbee sees it, is another
opportunity to propel the Pirate Nation forward.
continues after the following picture.
Seniors Miguel Paul (0) and Maurice Kemp fire
up the fans during ECU's CIT
quarterfinal win over Loyola (MD) Tuesday night. Students accounted for
a considerable share of the energetic crowd of 4,512. (W.A. Myatt photo)
And then there’s the lightning
bolt of fate thrown down in the form of an aeronautic one-handed Maurice
Kemp dunk during Saturday’s victory. The dunk electrified the crowd and
became must-see YouTube material, but it didn’t stop there. The play made
ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Week on Monday’s Sportscenter, getting screen
time usually reserved only for the darlings of the NCAA tourney.
Wetherbee and his colleagues
were thrilled by the ascendancy of Kemp’s clip, but their favorite part of
the phenomenon is something only a marketing-minded person would hone in on
— the size of the crowd as captured by the camera.
“Several people have said, “It
looks like the place was sold out in that video,” he said.
It has been well-documented
that East Carolina has to pay upwards of $30,000 per game to host, but
ticket sales have been brisk enough to counter that expense, and Wetherbee
and other ECU officials are convinced that the upside is considerable. And
with at least one more game to host, they plan to roll out the big marketing
“We already have a plan for
Saturday,” he said. “We know what we will roll out and we’ll be ready to go
— e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, videos. It’s going to be an uphill battle
because of the Easter break, but we’re hoping to get the students to stick
around for one more day.”
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03/27/2013 06:22 AM