User ID: Password:

December 7, 2009

Having fun? - Tech's marketing and promotions staff hopes so

By: Matt Kovatch

Alicia Longworth
Ever wonder who books the entertainment act at halftime of a basketball game, or who decides what music gets played between innings at a baseball game? Most of the time, those decisions, and many more, are made by someone from the sports marketing office. As the assistant director of sports marketing and promotions at Virginia Tech, Alicia Longworth is one of those people. She handles promotional duties for eight different sports and takes care of organizing the HokieBird’s never-ending schedule. Despite all that, she found time to share a little insight on the role of her office as it pertains to Tech athletics.

You name it, we do it.

“We’re in charge of all in-game entertainment, advertising, scheduling and coordinating of the HokieBird, and management of the Kid’s Club. At the event, we’re in charge of PA announcements, the music that is played, and we have to make sure that the right sponsor banners are up. If there is any sort of fan giveaway, promotion or halftime event, we’re in charge of all that. Sometimes, we even have to drive to the airport at 5 a.m., to pick up the halftime entertainment act.”

We also act as disc jockeys.

“Players thrive off of the music that is played, so we have to make sure that we’re pleasing our players and playing the right music. But at the same time, we’re entertaining the fans and we need to find some sort of balance between what an average Hokie fan might want to hear and what type of music we can play to get the players hyped up and ready to play the game that everyone is there for in the first place.”

It’s not all fun and games.

“We get to do some great stuff like interact with the student-athletes and be at all of these fun events, but it’s not always a glamorous job. We do a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff. When we give away trick-or-treat bags to the first 300 people at a game, we have to stuff those bags and get them ready. We have to roll all of the t-shirts that we throw out to the crowd, and we have to distribute schedule cards all throughout the community. We carry boxes, push carts, take the trash out – there’s plenty of grunt work.”

There’s a method to the madness.

“At a game – especially football or basketball – I don’t think people understand how scripted it is. Every week, we have to script out everything from when the cheerleaders go onto the field at a football game to what videos are playing on the video board. Those of us on the sidelines have to make sure that all of that is running smoothly. Even if the band starts playing when it shouldn’t be playing, we’re in charge of making sure that everybody knows what should be happening and when. When Tech scores a touchdown in football, nobody realizes that the Marching Virginians play after one score and the Highty Tighties play after another score. We have to find that happy medium to keep everyone – both bands, the cheerleaders and the fans – happy.”

It’s never too early to start preparing.

“I think our most creative times are during the summer because we have a little more time to sit down and talk about things. We started talking about the women’s basketball season around the first week of June. That’s probably something people don’t realize – how much planning we put into it. We’re asked to come up with different ways to get people in the seats and to make sure that everyone who is there is having a good time. The giveaways don’t just show up and the theme days don’t plan themselves. For example, we did a retro day at baseball last year. Everything from the music that was played to the uniforms that the players wore to the t-shirts that we gave away – all of that had to coordinate, be organized and flow together. It’s a long process and it takes a lot of time.”

Everybody loves the HokieBird.

“I cannot make it through a day without getting at least 5-10 requests for the HokieBird. Virginia Tech fans just assume that the HokieBird can be at any appearance on any day of the week. I think the HokieBird is the most popular person on campus. Recently, I had someone ask to have the HokieBird come to their house on Thanksgiving Day. But the HokieBird has a family, too, and would like to spend Thanksgiving with its family. Another interesting request was the weekend of homecoming, when two alumni were getting married and they desperately wanted the HokieBird to come to their wedding. But it is homecoming at Virginia Tech and the HokieBird has to be at the football game, the spirit walk, the pep rally and all those things. But sometimes, communicating that to people can be difficult.”