Katherine E. Hart and Emily Downing
(Professor Lee Bush) School of Communications

A key aspect of corporate communications is applied research. Applied research is absolutely necessary to help pinpoint a target audience and solve a communication problem. The purpose of this study was to determine how to increase attendance at Elon volleyball matches and to define a target audience. The study was geared toward volleyball because attendance at this sport is particularly low. The team is competitive, and the sport is fast paced, but attendance often falls below 100 fans. In formulating our research questions, we wanted to find out how volleyball attendance ranked in comparison to other sports at Elon, and what factors would most influence student attendance.

Our study methodology involved a quantitative online survey of 70 male and 139 female students for a total study population of 200 Elon students. All students ranged in classes from freshman to senior. Students were invited to participate in the survey through several web based postings on Elon University’s E-net and through university e-mail notifications. The sampling frame was Professor Lee Bush’s Communications Research class roster, the complete student body roster, and friends of the researchers who agreed to participate in the study. The procedure used for drawing the sample was non-probability. We found that 46 percent of students would rather study than attend a volleyball match. A total of 61 percent of all participants ranked attending a volleyball match last in terms of significance in their schedule. Thirty-eight percent of males and 41 percent of females expressed they had no interest in watching volleyball as a sport. Results show that social connection plays a significant role in attendance. A communications plan should focus on making a personal connection between athletes and students, as well as creating a social atmosphere for students and their friends at the matches. This information is important to aid in the generation of a new public relations plan to increase attendance at Elon sports other than football and men’s basketball.

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