Few things get college students more excited than March Madness. Feelings of camaraderie, school spirit and competitiveness often run high during the annual event. But, what about schools that don’t have sports teams; who says they have to miss out on the fun?
That’s exactly what Nicole Martinez, textbook manager at Aims College Bookstore, thought. Although the school that her store serves doesn’t have a mascot or a basketball team, she was determined to offer the same entertaining atmosphere to students. So, in March, Martinez and her staff themed their monthly event around basketball by hosting a 3 point shootout!
“There’s a real misnomer that college bookstores are all about the money, but that’s just not the case,” she explained. “We try to host different activities each month that show our store in a different light; we’re here to help our students and give back in any way that we can. Our March Madness event was just another way to reinforce that mission.”
Using a variety of channels, Aims College Bookstore advertised the first-time event heavily, to ensure everyone had a chance to participate.
“We tried everything we could think of from posters to table tents,” Martinez said. “Probably the most effective strategy, however, was word-of-mouth. Our student employees walked around with 3x5 handouts and talked to students about what we had planned; it was a great way to connect with them on a more personal basis.”
Because this was the shootout’s inaugural year, Martinez wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to attendance.
“Honestly, my goal was for us to have at least 10 participants,” she admitted. “I was thrilled when our final count was 37 – that was so exciting!”
To ensure the event ran smoothly, the store also reached out to other departments on campus for volunteers who were willing to “shag” balls as students were shooting. At first, they simply put the request in a daily newsletter sent to all faculty and staff, but Martinez soon found another strategy to be much more effective.
“I only had one response after the newsletter, so I decided to reach out to some individuals on campus, who I work with directly, through email,” she said. “Because it was personal, I think it was easier to grab their attention and everyone was very willing to help.”
Hosted over two days, the March Madness Shootout was a big success. Participating students were invited to come into the gym during an assigned time period that fell within a two hour window each day.
Students then had 3 minutes to shoot as many 3 pointers as they could from a designated line. The person with the most points by the end of the competition was awarded with an 8” tablet and the runners-up received in-store gift cards.
“It was awesome,” Martinez emphasized. “I had one of our student employees, who is on our school’s student government committee, tell me that her friends called it the best event they’d been involved with since they’d been at Aims. I know that was hard for her to admit, since her committee works on planning a lot of events, but it meant so much to hear that!”
Students weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the event however. Martinez heard rave reviews from several volunteers, as well.
“They had so much fun and many of them asked me to put them down as volunteers for next year!” she said.
In the end, the March Madness Shootout was a big win for Aims College Bookstore.
“I really feel like it helped both students and faculty to see us in a new light. We’re shaping a more positive brand identity, and that’s really important.” she said. “We’re all very excited for next year’s event and new ideas are already floating around; I think it will really take off from here!”