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WVU ads will expose school to nation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University officials have been out in full force in Florida this week, trying to capitalize on the publicity that comes with tonight's Orange Bowl game.

The match up between WVU and the Clemson Tigers in Miami, Fla., is the Mountaineers' third appearance in a Bowl Championship Series bowl.

WVU's victories in both the 2006 Sugar Bowl and 2008 Fiesta Bowl were milestone events for the school and helped raise its national profile, which drives both donations and attendance at the land-grant university.

School officials hope this week's game produces the same results. Their plan is to promote more than just the school's athletics.  

"The marketing opportunities that a BCS bowl offers are tremendous in terms of student and faculty recruitment, affinity building among alumni and friends, fundraising and general public awareness about WVU," said Becky Lofstead, assistant vice president for communications.

The game broadcast is the most obvious way to focus attention on the school.

The university's name will be pronounced repeatedly to a nationwide audience for more than three hours — that, historically, has been one of the most successful ways to advertise the school.

Major basketball games have the same effect.

Lofstead said the university's website traffic usually increases around nationally broadcast events featuring the school.

"It is clear, though, that a BCS bowl allows us to take our academic, research, outreach and land-grant message to a broader audience that might not otherwise know us," she said.

The Orange Bowl will be the only football game televised that evening, so it won't be competing with other games as it does on Saturdays in the fall.

An estimated 10.6 million people watched the 2011 Orange Bowl game between Virginia Tech and Stanford University, according to ESPN. A similar audience is expected to tune in for this year's game.

"There's just no way to put a price tag on that type of national attention," Lofstead said.

But you can put a price tag on what others pay to promote their brands during nationally televised games.

According to advertising trade publication AdWeek, a 30-second television ad can cost up to $670,000 during a BCS bowl game. The cost rises to about $1.3 million for the national championship game.

WVU will air four 30-second ads during the game, but won't have to pay the hefty advertising rates. All universities in the BCS bowl games are given four 30-second spots.

WVU officials have decided to run an ad titled, "If you want to see where the world is going, follow WVU."  

The television ad was produced in-house by the video division of the WVU University Relations department and aired throughout the football season.  

But the university also is branching out beyond the television time to promote the school.

The school paid for a full-page ad in the Orange Bowl program, and WVU President Jim Clements has submitted a column to the Miami Herald promoting the school as an evolving land-grant university.

Clements was part of a team of school leaders, including Provost Michele Wheatly and directors of the WVU Alumni Association and Foundation, who have been in the Miami area this week in an effort to promote the school in the days around the game.

There were major fan events were scheduled in the 36 hours leading to the game.

That included a reception for alumni, donors and friends sponsored by the WVU Alumni Association at the Clevelander Hotel on South Beach, which was followed with a pep rally with The Pride of West Virginia marching band and WVU cheerleaders. Country music singer Travis Tritt also performed for fans during the event.

The Alumni Association is also sponsoring a "Chalk Talk" luncheon at the InterContinental Miami hotel at 11 a.m. today.

The $65-per-plate event will allow fans to mingle with former Mountaineer players, including Pat White and Steve Slaton. Former Clemson coach and WVU alumnus Terry Bowden will be the guest speaker at the luncheon.

Lofstead said Clements and other university representatives will attend those events to build relationships with donors, as well as aid in recruiting faculty and students.

Social media specialists on staff at WVU will be updating the university's Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with photos and information from the bowl site all day long.

Lofstead said she couldn't give an exact figure for how much the school planned to spend on marketing activities during the game because university staff members who could compile those figures were on vacation this week.

But she said money for events like this are included in the school's budget each year.

"In our overall marketing budget, we have funds for major events and activities like a BCS bowl that have large, broad, diverse audiences and provide a national forum," she said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-5148.


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