Funeral Home Finds Football Games Are A Solid Marketing Venue

October 04, 2012
By ODU Athletics

Oct. 4, 2012

September 28, 2012 Funeral Home finds football games are a solid marketing venue Football and funeral?

Two words which are typically not associated together. However, Woodlawn Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia has developed a unique marketing campaign that is not only supporting one of their local universities but placing the need to preplan cemetery and funeral services directly in front of Old Dominion University football and basketball supporters and the surrounding community.

"The funeral and cemetery industry is evolving and we needed to think out of the box for a campaign that would get people talking about the importance of preplanning," says Pamela Bowles, Director of Operations at Woodlawn, "we worked for months to create ads and radio spots that would be interesting and eye catching, yet tasteful."

Lisa Burkett is the Director of Marketing and Sales for the Woodlawn Group. A newcomer to the funeral industry, she says she looked at Woodlawn's marketing strategy first as an outsider, i.e., what would be a fresh approach to make people comfortable talking about the inevitability of death?

"I found that people really want to talk about the subject of death and preplanning, they just didn't want to bring it up themselves. When I bring up the subject at my hair salon or little league game, it doesn't take long for lots of people to chime in about their feelings on the subject. As an ODU season ticket holder since 2009, it dawned on me that football and basketball venues would be a great opportunity for exposure for Woodlawn, if we could think of creative ways to present our services."

Several meetings with ODU Sports Properties ensued and Woodlawn decided to join the ranks of Division 1 corporate sponsorship. Woodlawn sponsors the pregame show with host Ted Alexander and Burkett wrote two 30 second radio advertisements which run during the play by play during the game.

One of the radio ads starts with the line: "You know, ODU fans, there's rarely a two minute warning when someone you know and love dies..." "I grew up with a father who was a high school football coach," Burkett chuckles, " it was easy for me to come up with a lot of football and funeral word associations." Intentional grounding, anyone?

Field signage and a large sign board in the Ted Constant Basketball and Concert Arena are also part of the package. ODU has sold out every game since they re-initiated the football program in 2009. That equates to almost 20,000 pairs of eyes on the field sign at every home game. The university sells hundreds of programs each home game, and Woodlawn produced a simple yet powerful full page color ad that asks the reader: "When the game of life is over.....will you be prepared?"

Kristan Sivells, one of Woodlawn's funeral directors, is pleased that the funeral home and cemetery are once again being seen as part of the Tidewater community. "I'm glad we chose ODU as a way to both support our community athletics as well as piggy-back off of ODU's success in football and basketball. People should view our funeral home as a comfortable place to come and get information on a variety of funeral topics before they are faced with an unexpected loss. "

"Preplanning your cemetery and funeral preferences isn't morbid. It's as common sense as buying insurance or making out a will," says Burkett, " It's just part of being prepared for what life will eventually throw your way. At Woodlawn, we want to get the message out there that people need to educate themselves about their choices in our industry. If comparing a non-planned funeral experience to throwing a Hail Mary pass at the end of a football game gives people reason to pause and think, then hopefully more folks will be encouraged to come in and ask our staff some questions and get some important information." What's next for the fans of ODU football from the creative minds of the Woodlawn staff?

"Well, I'm thinking of having cups made that say "Let's Bury....William and Mary (college)" for the last home game on November 10," grins Burkett, "just to give out to a few tailgating fans before the game."

Basketball season will be starting soon as well. Old Dominion University should continue their winning ways with an innovative funeral home and cemetery in their corner.

Woodlawn Funeral Home, Crematory and Memorial Gardens are a family owned and operated combination facility located between East Virginia Beach Boulevard and Newtown Road in Norfolk, Virginia. Woodlawn's funeral home, built in 1997, contains two kitchens, a chapel for 275 people and reception and viewing areas that can seat 100 people for a luncheon or other function. Woodlawn's 75 acre memorial gardens were opened in 1958 and remain the premier memorial gardens for all of Tidewater. Woodlawn is a non-denominational facility. For more information on preplanning, please call 757-455-2838 or email us at

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