Texas State Bobcats football certainly isn't Texas, Texas A&M, or even Baylor--it's not a casual follow. Media coverage is minimal, and the overall Bobcat brand has struggled to gain a foothold in major Texas cities.
While it's true that Texas State is on a media coverage island due to courtesy coverage at best from the Austin and San Antonio markets, there's one entity in particular that often takes the blame for the overall lack of buzz around the program.
That would be the people at ground zero: the Texas State athletic department, athletic director Larry Teis, donor organizations such as the Alumni Association and Bobcat Club, and the sports information and marketing wings. There's already been plenty of discussion of this at message boards (BobcatFans, the Rivals and Scout affiliates), but at least one prominent player has also taken notice.
Agreed. Anybody that knows me know I luv my school, but I would like to see the Marketing dept for Athletics improve.— Mike Orakpo (@Raknation) April 1, 2015
& that goes for all sports. I'm not sure who's in charge of our Sports Information/Marketing dept but they need to step it up.— Mike Orakpo (@Raknation) April 1, 2015
There's also certainly not a lack of interest by dedicated Bobcats out there.
@THETXSTUniv guys I want the job. I love Bobcat athletics and I will work tirelessly. I love marketing and have a touch for it.— Ulises Gonzalez (@TrulyUli) March 31, 2015
Inconsistent Product Quality
There are many good people in the administration who work long hours for awful pay, yet are highly dedicated to improving Texas State Athletics. Their efforts and hard work towards getting Texas State into the FBS are more than appreciated.
But when it comes to promoting the Bobcat brand and drumming up excitement around Texas State sports, the overall results often have been inconsistent at best.
Campiness and a lack of identity
For the first few years in the Drive to FBS, any promotional materials that Texas State put out often ranged from mostly generic and low budget to downright embarrassing to "good god what is this did I stumble into Weird Wednesday at Alamo Drafthouse again?"
Luckily, most of the really embarrassing material seems to have cycled out. But Texas State is often still putting out the same generic formula of video on their commercials, hype videos, team introductions, and so on. Every video essentially involves some sort of combination of the band, football players running around, cheerleaders, the mascot bouncing around, and some fans doing their best to seem excited.
That's not to disrespect the efforts of each of those groups, or that there isn't a place for them in promotional materials, because there is. But every single school in FBS and FCS has those things. What marketing doesn't ever emphasize is what makes Texas State unique. There are never any mentions about what makes Texas State special as a university, or any crucial moments in Bobcat sports history, or exactly what the hell should inspire a fan to show up if they're not already addicted to sports to an unhealthy degree (points at self).
Getting supporters to connect emotionally is especially important when instilling loyalty into a fanbase, because emotions are irrational and hard to argue with. Yet Texas State has seemingly never understood this concept.
A classic example of this is the 2015 season ticket ad.
The visual improvement from past ads is definitely noticeable, the music choice is better, the full stadium shots are nice, and the production value in general is miles better than even 2-3 years ago. They also added all the information you need to get your tickets this time (believe it or not that has been a problem in the past). And to be fair, a number of 30 second spots for college football season tickets follow the same formula. But something's missing.
Let's compare the ad with examples from other schools: Kansas State. Missouri. Texas Tech. Central Florida. Louisiana Lafayette. SMU. MTSU. UTSA. Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern again. Arkansas State. Appalachian State (FCS edition). North Dakota State. Stephen F Austin. Their methods range from poignant to intense to cinematic to a shared call to action to highlighting star players to shots of campus to being intentionally campy. They range from high budget to clips of Southland Conference TV footage. But they all are memorable in some way or another as they have a distinct personality.
Texas State's ad, by contrast, could be interchanged with any other school in the country and nobody would notice. Now take that ad and extrapolate it to almost everything that the athletic department has put out in the past, and you might see an identity crisis.
Not going the extra mile
A commonly leveled charge at the athletic department is that they do the bare minimum in promoting Bobcat athletics, and they're often right. In the past, the athletic department hasn't done much more to promote an upcoming season than throw up a couple of billboards in and around San Marcos, put out a low budget TV commercial that they throw up on youtube, and perhaps an e-mail and a phone call or two about season tickets sometime around June.
For the first game in FBS that featured a home opener against Big 12 foe Texas Tech, the athletic department did essentially one extra promotion above their normal rate: They put yard signs in certain spots around San Marcos.
Luckily for them, Bobcat Stadium sold out anyway. The rest of the year, though? Not so much.
During the season, things are a little more active, with coaches' shows and game recaps being new and welcome additions with the jump to FBS, for example. But that mail-it-in attitude can still be seen if you look a little closer.
One minute they're putting out a commercial that religiously follows the generic formula previously mentioned, with ill-fitting music to boot.
(Yes, Explosions in the Sky is used in the Friday Night Lights series, but an ad promoting a big upcoming game on ESPN2 and Explosions in the Sky go about as well together as peas in guacamole.)
The next minute, they're not bombarding you with e-mails thanking you for attending the game, asking for feedback on how your experience was, or when you can renew your season tickets for next year. In fact, they usually don't get around to letting you renew until around March or April, when few are going to be thinking about football.
The frequency and quality of e-mails from Texas State has increased during this offseason, which is welcome, but much more can be done. I personally get a flood of e-mails on an almost daily basis from my other alma mater Kansas State badgering me to buy season tickets, individual game tickets, or K-State merchandise when I haven't even gone to a game in Manhattan since 2012. I had to unsubscribe from Texas Tech because they kept e-mailing me non-stop after I went to one game in Lubbock in 2007. Bobcat fans have reported that they still get a barrage of e-mails from UTSA when they attended the road game in the Alamodome two years ago.
Texas State has historically sent out a trickle of e-mails by comparison, yet upping their outreach rate via e-mail shouldn't take a massive shift in time or resources. Taken by itself, this isn't a huge issue. However, all these little issues eventually add up into a general lack of fan engagement.
A slow rate of improvement
Texas State's promotional efforts do need to be taken in context: their marketing apparatus and Alumni Association were essentially built up from next to nothing within the last decade. Before 2004 when Larry Teis came to Texas State, there essentially was no marketing whatsoever. So it's natural that the school would have some growing pains.
As already mentioned, there have been improvements, but many of them have come from partnerships with external sources. Texas State's partnership with Learfield Sports spurred the production of higher quality productions such as the "All In" weekly series that highlights the Texas State football program.
The media company Cyantist Agency also did a one-off for a Bobcat Club promotional video, and it's miles better than anything the athletic department has ever produced.
The same person who produces the All In show did the intros for Men's Basketball, Baseball, and Softball, and, well, let's compare his material:
With the athletic department's:
The first video shows an attempt at establishing an identity. The second video--which is indicative of most of the athletic department's content--only shows generic highlights.
But lo, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Two recent videos show that they might just be starting to get it.
Behold: Videos that put a human face on athletics and highlight each coach or player's accomplishments. They're well made. They're interesting. And Texas State needed about a hundred more of them by now.
So yes, things have gotten slowly better. But one can easily argue that many of these improvements should've already been in place back in 2011 before the jump to FBS. And the athletic department has missed a lot of opportunities to promote themselves to the fans since then.