The WSU Athletics Department spent $9,800 on 35,000 small flags bearing the Cougar logo for Saturday’s Homecoming football game and $3,700 for larger flags to hang around the city.
The flags represented the Wave the Flag campaign run by the Athletics Marketing Department, said Casey E. Fox, the director of Athletic Marketing. The campaign aims to promote Cougar Athletics throughout the university, Pullman and the country.
“We looked at that game and thought there was a chance maybe College Game Day (the ESPN college football pregame show) could have been there for the game,” Fox said. “While we missed out on making the show, it was still a lot of fun and something to get our fans literally to wave a flag.”
Fox said the money for the flags came out of the $530,000 athletics marketing budget that covers expenditures including those for posters, schedule cards, printing and advertising for events like the Oct. 22 Seattle football game. The budget is divided among the various sports like football and basketball. He said $80,000 is dedicated to promotions, which covered the flags.
“I think the smaller flags went over fantastic with a great reception from the fans,” Fox said. “At one point during the game, Glenn Johnson (the announcer) got the crowd to wave the flags together, and it was pretty cool to see.”
The flags provided a moment for the crowd to feel like they were in a larger stadium with a bigger crowd because of the unified waving, said Austin Kittelson, a junior economics and philosophy major. The idea was neat and a good move to help rebrand the athletics department, he said.
“The only highlight of the flags was the point during a timeout when the camera panned the entire stadium,” he said. "However, in light of the budget crisis, it makes you think about the price tag.”
The athletics marketing department in conjunction with the Pullman Chamber of Commerce also spent $3,700 on a large order of 3-by-5 foot flags that they provided to Pullman businesses, the RV’s that come to tailgate at the football games and to line the streets downtown, Fox said. The Wave the Flag campaign will create awareness for the athletics department during the next three-to-five years, Fox said.
“Ultimately, we are trying to capture our fans in both Eastern and Western Washington, but the idea is to start here and then branch out,” Fox said."We want to make Wave the Flag synonymous, whether that is maybe buying season tickets, donating or just getting a chance to really be part of Cougar athletics.”
Vicki Leeper, the director of tourism and special events in the Pullman City Chamber of Commerce, said the flags for the downtown area arrived late, but when they did volunteers from ASWSU helped put them together. She said this is part of an effort to encourage the city and the university to embrace each other.
“Some of the students never even get downtown, and we want to show them there is a lot here that Pullman has to offer,” Leeper said. “I think that is important when parents are seeing where their kids are going to school to also see the great community that will support them.”
Businesses have asked how they can be involved and overall the flag additions have gone over well, Leeper said. Unfortunately some people stole or damaged flags, but the city will replace them, she said.
Leeper said the city will spend about $500 to $600 on the hardware and poles for the flags and the athletics department covers the rest. The money comes from the First Down Friday event budget that is $5,000 for 2011 and will have an expected $15,000 for 2012, she said. The First Down Fridays encourage visitors to come Friday and stay an extra night.
“This is an investment because a lot of dollars come into the community through university events,” Leeper said. “This year attendance has doubled and the timing is absolutely perfect with the Wave the Flag campaign. It is all inclusive, both with the students and the university, and makes Pullman a better community.”