This past weekend, I did something my racquetball-loving husband has been asking me to do for years – I was a tournament groupie. He’s a sponsored and ranked A-level player, and this sport is his (healthy) obsession. Me, I’ve gotten on a court a couple of times, but have never considered cheating on my distance running.
Well, recently Layer Cake helped promote the Mile High Pro / Am Racquetball Tournament, a stop on the women’s pro tour organized by (pro) Debbie Beldring of the Denver Athletic Club. The four-day tournament was a huge draw for amateurs, but the real stars were the ladies of the WPRO (Women’s Professional Racquetball Organization). Insanely talented and fully passionate about their sport, they blew apart my “pro athlete” bias by also being down-to-earth, gracious to everyone from refs to reporters (even the ones who got something wrong), and genuinely appreciative of all their fans. They thanked their sponsors at every opportunity and made an extra effort to spend time with those who attended. As a marketer, I couldn’t help but notice. Perhaps in addition to racquetball skills clinics, they should offer lessons in public relations!
Let me illustrate the effect the WPROs had on me. On Thursday, I stopped by “just to introduce myself.” A couple hours went by real fast, and over the next 3 days, I hung around for hours at a time – Friday night (!), Saturday night (!!), even rearranging my sacred Sunday morning run (!!!) to attend the finals, a killer match between Rhonda Rajsich and Paolo Longoria. I was a junkie, a groupie gleefully experiencing something that heretofore I’d described only in the abstract. I have long told non-profit clients, “Make your supporters come back and bring friends by making them feel special, like they have a backstage pass to a sold-out show.” Now I know just how well – and fast – that works.
We (heart) the WPRO and are crossing fingers that Denver and the DAC will become a regular stop on the tour.
Next time, maybe I’ll even venture back on the court!
Note: A “rollout” is racquetball’s perfect shot, played so low to the ground that it rolls out from the wall. It is virtually impossible to return.