Gamecock Success Week: Fan Attendance Among Nation's Best
June 27, 2018
Take a bow Gamecock Nation. More than 1.3 million University of South Carolina fans supported Gamecock student-athletes at events this past year. Gamecock fans also showed tremendous support not only through ticket purchases, but through capital campaign drives to improve facilities and the overall student-athlete experience.
“Our fans are the greatest,” Athletics Director Ray Tanner said. “Their tremendous support of our teams and student-athletes are the reason why our teams are so successful at home. No matter the sport or the venue, our fans are knowledgeable, loud and proud supporting the Gamecocks. And, that support is not just at home. Whenever I travel with our teams on the road, there is always a great crowd supporting the Gamecocks in attendance.”
“Gamecock Club members play a tremendous part in the success of our student athletes,” said Gamecock Club Director Patrick McFarland. “Due to their support and generosity, Gamecock student-athletes are offered the opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in athletic competition. Gamecock Club members support is best shown by the impressive 23rd-consecutive semester in which the student-athletes have combined for a GPA above a 3.0. The donations of Gamecock Club members truly provide the tools necessary to allow our student-athletes every opportunity to `win’ academically and athletically.”
Gamecock fans continue to “bring it” in all sports. South Carolina’s total home attendance for all sports during the 2017-2018 year came in at 1,311,518. Think that doesn’t make a difference? Consider that the cumulative home record for 14 teams that compete in head-to-head competition was 143-49-2 (.742) last year. Women’s soccer went 11-0-1 (.958) at home and softball went 25-2 (.926) at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field this year.
South Carolina’s marketing department was an integral factor in fan engagement on campus and in the community and was one of three finalists for the 2018 NACMA Marketing Team of the Year Award.
“Our athletics marketing team plays a vital role in revenue generation for our athletics department, promotion of our athletics teams, coordination of game operations and analyzing the performance of our game day procedures,” said Tanner. “With creativity, strategy and execution, our marketing team delivers a first-class, enjoyable atmosphere for our fans and for our athletics teams to perform.”
“We attack every sport the same,” said Eric Nichols, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Marketing and Branding. “We start with season tickets, move to group tickets, and try to create single game promotions with the goal of selling out every venue, every game. We have to be strategic for which games we put specific promotions.
“I don’t think there are a lot of schools that have the broad-based success that we have across all sports. Most schools have a sport that they excel in. Whether it is women’s basketball, baseball, women’s soccer, football or something else, South Carolina excels at a high level in a lot of sports. We’re not just resting on wins and losses to help fans support the teams. We’re always pushing different technologies to test the market.”
Nichols noted that it is a team effort for Gamecock programs to have this success between marketing, media communications, the ticket office, the Gamecock Club, the new and creative media department, and digital social media, as well as support from coaches.
The Gamecock social media presence continues to grow and connect fans as the South Carolina’s general Twitter account (@Gamecocksonline) ranked 10th nationally in the number of followers among major college athletics departments. The baseball Twitter account (@GamecockBasebll) ranked second nationally for its sport in the number of followers, while women’s basketball (@GamecockWBB) ranks third, equestrian (@GamecockEQ) ranks fourth, football (@GamecockFB) ranks 11th, and women’s soccer (@GamecockWSoccer) is 13th in the nation. The football Twitter account was also ranked No. 1 in the nation for content by AthlonSports.com. South Carolina’s Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube presences were also each ranked in the top 25 nationally in the last year.
You’re always glad as a coach when you look out at the stands and see all those people there to really support how hard these student-athletes have been working.Beverly Smith, Head Softball Coach
In terms of fans in the seats, South Carolina football ranked 16th nationally last year for home attendance after averaging 78,586 per game at Williams-Brice Stadium. That’s more than a half a million for the season. Ticket demand among students helped create a home field advantage as well with more than 9,000 students per home game.
The South Carolina men’s and women’s soccer teams are not only regularly among the national elite for how they perform on the pitch, but the fan base backs them up with tremendous support. Coach Shelley Smith’s women’s team won its second straight SEC Championship on its way to the program’s first appearance in the College Cup semifinals, and the Gamecocks ranked fourth nationally and second in the SEC in average attendance with more than 2,400 fans per home game.
“We’re very appreciative of the fans,” Smith said. “It definitely helps our team, and the fans can make a difference in a match. In a sport that’s pretty tiring and both teams are exhausted at the end of a game, there is definitely a home field-advantage when you have people cheering for you and lifting you when you’re exhausted. It’s a little easier to give that little extra. It’s a special feeling to know that so many people are following us and cheering us on.”
Coach Mark Berson’s men’s team led Conference USA and ranked third nationally with 2,900 fans per home game.
The Carolina Volleyball Center was jammed with garnet and black as well, ranking fifth in the SEC and 40th nationally with nearly 1,300 fans per home match.
On the hard wood, with South Carolina women’s team coming off a national championship and the men’s team coming off a Final Four appearance during the previous year, basketball tickets were once again in high demand. Coach Dawn Staley’s women’s program led the nation in attendance for the fourth consecutive year with more than 13,200 per home game on the way to its fourth consecutive SEC Tournament title and another trip to the NCAA Elite Eight.
“You can’t put a number on the impact of our fan base on every part of our program,” Staley said. “They lift us up to win tough games, and they’re there to hug us if we don’t. They create an environment that any competitor craves playing in. They keep up with our players after their Gamecock careers are over. They are right there every time we do something to help the broader community. Our Gamecock FAMS are quite simply the best fans in the nation, and we have four attendance banners that prove it!”
Coach Frank Martin’s men’s team averaged more than 12,600 fans per game at Colonial Life Arena, ranking sixth in the SEC and 24th nationally.
There was plenty of excitement for spring sports as first year head coach Mark Kingston guided the Gamecock baseball team to the NCAA Super Regional. Fans filled Founders Park with nearly 6,800 fans per home game, which ranked fourth nationally. Overall, nearly a quarter of a million fans took themselves out to the ball game!
The softball team gave Gamecock fans plenty to cheer about with the best season in coach Beverly Smith’s tenure after going 49-17 and advancing to the NCAA Super Regional for the first time in 11 years. The Gamecocks averaged just under 1,300 fans per home game at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field, which ranked 13th nationally. The Gamecocks also enjoyed nine sellouts in 2018.
“You could feel the energy in the stadium on the field,” Smith said. “That environment that our fans created is what made our players feel so comfortable at home. It’s something that we sell in recruiting. If you become a student-athlete at South Carolina, the fans will know you. They will come to the games, and they will support you. I don’t think that’s true at all places. You’re always glad as a coach when you look out at the stands and see all those people there to really support how hard these student-athletes have been working.”
The student-athletes and coaches will continue to do their part to put a good product in the arenas, and the athletics staff will do its part to keep fans engaged and informed.
“First and foremost, it’s about supporting student-athletes with fans in the stands to help them win home games,” Nichols said. “Through our community programs, we’re exposing the brand at different stages to someone’s `fandom,’ whether they’re starting as a five-year-old, or when we’re reaching retired military veterans. We’re trying to create programs where our brand infiltrates different segments of the community.
“Our attendance numbers are a reflection of our fantastic fans. They want the Gamecocks to be great in everything. The fact that they show up, are loud and support all of our teams, is what really makes this place special.”