To drum up ticket sales for their appearance in the Military Bowl Dec. 29, the Maryland Terrapins have become . . . the compuTerps.
As of Wednesday, Maryland had peddled 7,000 of its allotted 10,000 tickets for the football game against East Carolina. To boost sales the Terps have reached out to the public via Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Both athletics director Kevin Anderson and coach Ralph Friedgen posted bowl-game sales pitches on YouTube, imploring Maryland fans to attend the midweek game at RFK Stadium on the east side of DC.
"One of our primary objectives was to deliver our impressions in a more personal, meaningful and engaging manner," said Nick Lofaro, assistant athletics director of marketing and sponsor services at Maryland. "Adding social media to our marketing mix has certainly had a positive impact in that regard."
Meanwhile, the Terps are flooding the market with standard advertising ploys, including newspaper, TV and radio ads. They've also enlisted the aid of freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien, the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year. O'Brien's recorded voicemail message was sent to season ticket-holders to help corral fans upset that Maryland (8-4) was snubbed by better-known bowls in warmer climates.
Result: The Terps have sold all of their cheap ($25) seats but still have a stack of mid-priced ($55) and expensive ($90) ones. The school is saving about 1,000 tickets as complimentary passes for the Maryland band, team sponsors and families of players. Maryland will be on the hook for the cost of any tickets it cannot sell.
"Initially, we had hoped to be sold out by now," said Chris Boyer, Maryland's senior associate athletics director for administration. "But, based on the fact that we started slowly, I'm pleasantly surprised where we are.
"Our most ardent supporters like to travel out of the area, and to make (a Maryland bowl appearance) a mini-vacation. So they had to regroup and decide if they would invest in taking a day off from work, in midweek.
"Psychologically, those (alternatives) are very different."
Selling its prescribed tickets for the Military Bowl is critical, Boyer said, given that Maryland's home attendance has slipped in recent years — a fact not lost on either high school all-Americans or bowl committees who seemed to question the strength of the Terps' fan base.
"Recruits notice (empty seats), and coaches sell recruits on fan support," he said. "If we showed up at RFK, and there was more (East Carolina) purple than red in the stands, that would be damaging to us."
Both Friedgen's online video and O'Brien's telemarketing pitch stress those points.
"A strong showing of Maryland fans at RFK Stadium is . . . the best way to support our recruiting efforts — and future bowl selections," the Maryland coach declared. "We need you now more than ever."
O'Brien's recording said much the same.
"Let's make a strong statement about Terrapin nation and create a sea of red to greet the Pirates," the quarterback said.
A Military Bowl spokesperson said that they expect between 30,000 and 35,000 tickets to be sold to the game. RFK stadium, which has been reconfigured to be the home of the DC United MLS team, seats about 45,000.
That Maryland is scrambling to reach its goal is no surprise, said Bob Leffler, whose Baltimore-based sports advertising agency represents 25 college teams in the East and Midwest.
"Unless you are one of the eight to ten schools that go to glamour bowls all of the time, you've got to hustle bowl tickets," Leffler said. "And it's a bit harder to sell when the game is at home. There's no glamour in it. People like going to a warm-weather climate. That's the negative.
"The positive? Maryland fulfilled its campaign promise and O'Brien is its key to the future. It seems a natural to want to see them one more time."