No fans in stands means missed marketing opportunities: Here’s why one big Rutgers supporter is OK with that

RWJBarnabas Health was happy to provide medical assistance for football team’s home opener — even though health restrictions meant branding opportunity was lost

By now, you’ve probably seen the highlight clip of Rutgers’ incredible touchdown.

It doesn’t matter that the play eventually was overturned; the eight laterals the Scarlet Knights used to seemingly score a meaningless touchdown in the closing seconds of a loss to the Indiana Hoosiers will be a play of the year candidate that’s talked about for years.

There’s just one problem if you’re a sponsor of Rutgers football — very few people saw it from inside the stadium.

The game, which likely would have been played before a sellout crowd any other year, was seen live by only a handful of family members of the players. So, the end result — a 37-21 loss — wasn’t just a missed opportunity for the program to improve to 2-0 in the Big Ten, it was a missed opportunity for supporters to have their logo and branding seen by all those in attendance.

Barry Ostrowsky, the CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, appreciates the fact that the company’s broad support of the program and the school was not necessarily evident this weekend. And he’s OK with that. For him, the support the health system offered the players at the game was more important.

“The real motivation behind our relationship with Rutgers is on multiple levels, not the least of which is our medical team serving as the medical advisers to the Department of Athletics as they go through this,” he said. “But the real motivation was a long-term commitment to the university.

“For sure, (the ability) to promote that partnership so that people know about it throughout the state and the opportunities for marketing and the like are there, but we’ll live for a period of time without eyeballs on signs.”

If you looked closely, some sponsors did have their logos on field-level sign boards that were evident at times. And SHI, the multibillion-dollar information technology services company in Somerset, had its logo on the field and on some of the coaches’ headsets.

Ostrowsky, who briefly played football and also participated on the track team when he attended Rutgers years ago, said he was just happy that sports were able to take place at all — and that his organization was playing a role in that.

“I’m really proud of that,” he said. “And, I must say, I received word this week from the administration, both athletically and otherwise, thanking us for what we’re doing for the athletic teams. I’m proud of the university and I’m hopeful that athletic activity doesn’t get disrupted by COVID.”

RWJBarnabas Health has been a big supporter of Rutgers athletics over the years.

The RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center at Rutgers University is at the forefront of that. The center, which opened last fall, signaled a partnership between Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health to create a comprehensive sports medicine program to serve Rutgers athletes, students and communities throughout New Jersey.

RWJBarnabas Health not only becomes the exclusive health care provider for Rutgers Athletics, it is creating a best-in-class sports medicine program that can be expanded across the state. In addition to the sports medicine center, the building will provide a state-of-the-art practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling and gymnastics.

Of course, the chance to see that building was lost last weekend, too.

Ostrowsky gave that a positive spin, too — saying it will only lead to a second reveal.

“Fewer people are seeing what we’ve put together, but it will give us another chance to introduce it when life gets back to normal,” he said. “And will reap the benefits from that perspective.”

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