You might have come across his name as you ogled the T-shirt featuring three Jack the Bulldog faces howling at the moon. You might have even passed by him on campus without realizing he was the man who made the Skater Jack bobblehead a reality — a collector’s item so valuable it sells for as much as $85 on eBay. Or perhaps you have never heard of him, but you did stop by a lacrosse game last year to trade in old Villanova gear for a couple of Georgetown T-shirts.
Chris Grosse might blend in on the Hilltop, but don’t let his unassuming Georgetown apparel fool you. Grosse is the mastermind driving Georgetown athletics’ often wacky, hotly debated and nationally covered marketing plans, and he is not stopping anytime soon.
Since Grosse’s arrival on the Hilltop as assistant athletics director of marketing in May 2014, he has exemplified creativity when it comes to athletic promotions — and this year will prove no different.
“We’re always kind of toeing the line a bit,” Grosse said. “We want to make sure we represent Georgetown the right way, but we also want to make sure that we do some fun stuff that will get people engaged a little bit.”
And it begins tomorrow. Hoya fans who attend the Georgetown men’s soccer match against UConn on Saturday afternoon will also to get to participate in Grosse’s latest conception: “The Celebration of the Hot Dog … Sandwich?!” The event circles around the question of whether a hot dog can be considered a sandwich.
It even spurred one Georgetown alumnus on Twitter to offer his opinion on the matter then promptly announce that he would withhold donations to his alma mater.
The promotion, which is joined by a fun online video well-worth a play, offers free admission to fans named Frank, Nathan, Oscar or Meyer, and features a debate about the classification of hot dogs, among other things.
“On Hot Dog Day on Saturday, I’m going to shoot hot dogs out of a T-shirt gun at midfield at halftime,” Grosse said.
That is just the beginning. The first 500 students who arrive for the men’s basketball team’s opening game can look forward to receiving-limited edition Allen Iverson bobbleheads. Currently, Grosse is designing a promotional package that would encourage fans to propose to their significant others at a game and give them a refund if they’re turned down — a promotion that is yet to be approved. When basketball season kicks into high gear, expect to hear from the marketing department, especially surrounding high-profile games against Maryland and the team’s sole game hosted in McDonough Arena against Arkansas State.
Moreover, Grosse anticipates that each sport will get at least one out-of-the-box promotion for its season.
“We throw around a lot of ideas and a lot of the things that I’ve come up with, no one ever sees because they’re too ridiculous,” Grosse said. “But really, we’ve kind of looked for stuff that will get people talking about.”
Though Georgetown has largely been the beneficiary of Grosse’s most innovative work, the marketing director’s creative marketing began in earnest during his days working as the associate director for marketing at the United States Naval Academy.
It was at Navy that Grosse launched a simple promotion that first earned him widespread national attention.
“You come to the game, you play the mascot in rock, paper, scissors and if you win, you get in for free. That was it,” Grosse said.
“It wasn’t really a big thing that we had to do; we just had to have a mascot there. And all of a sudden, all these websites — ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo — picked up the story like it was the most amazing thing they’ve ever heard of.”
Since Grosse’s arrival on the Hilltop, Georgetown athletics has enjoyed its fair share of coverage. Whether it was fascination surrounding the “Elimination of the Dad Bod” day or the successful “Student for a Day” package that allowed non-GU students to watch a game from the student section in Verizon Center, Grosse has brought attention to Georgetown sports and, most importantly, more fans in seats.
But if he has to pick a favorite, Grosse picks the most infamous and — in his words — polarizing one of them all: “Hail to the Kale” night.
The event, which helped lighten what was otherwise a rough year for the women’s basketball team that entered “Hail to the Kale” night on a nine-game losing streak, attracted the attention of news outlets and political figures across the country with its promise of free kale to early attendees.
“It was just so crazy how quickly everything happened with it,” Grosse said. “We were on the front page of USA Today’s sports section. Michelle Obama mentioned it.”
Grosse teases that he has more ideas in the pipeline, but fans will have to wait to hear more. If any of his previous work is any indication, though, Hoya fans will surely have much to look forward to this fall season.
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