Basketball has always been and will always be one of the most popular sports amongst children throughout grade school. Many children decide to participate in basketball in middle and high school and may never see the court due to large participation numbers, small on-court limits, not being good enough to play, not having the ideal size, etc. Throughout my grade school experience the wrestling team always had a significantly smaller number of athletes who went out for the team. In fact our coach, my teammates, and myself included took it upon ourselves to attempt to get people to go out for wrestling so we could field as deep of a team as we possibly could. Many times this included attempting to recruit throughout the entire basketball roster and especially to those kids who were not seeing a lot of playing time or lacked the desired physical characteristics sought as a basketball player.
In this case, it is obvious that our persuasive techniques were different depending on the crowd or athlete that my coaches, teammates, or myself were targeting. I am going to make the argument that we subconsciously used some of Cialdini’s six tendencies in persuasion to lure kids out for wrestling. I am going to demonstrate this by defining which three strategies were used most often, examples of ways the other three strategies could have been used within the same context, and how we used our persuasion in the most effective means possible to deliver our message.
One of Cialdini’s six persuasive tendencies includes reciprocation which is the expectation that there will be a repay if you do something nice for someone else. Consistency is the stage which is defined as likely to remain consistent in beliefs, values, and actions. Scarcity is the idea that the less available something is, the greater the desire there is for that object. Social proof is the premises that states in a time of uncertainty, someone tends to lean toward doing what everyone else does rather than making a unique decision for themselves. Liking is the idea that people gravitate towards events or people they tend to like. Authority is the belief that people are more likely to pay attention to those with power and prestige.
I specifically used many forms of persuasion during the recruiting process, but social proof, liking, and authority were the most prominent. In the 2014-2015 basketball season, approximately 656,400 athletes went out for their local high school basketball teams while about 189,075 went out for wrestling (NFHS, 2015, p. 1). Women’s wrestling in general is also “the fastest-growing sport for high school girls” in terms of percentage growth (Santoliquito, 2012, p. 6). My wrestling teammates, coaches, and I knew depending on who we were marketing our sport to, we needed to change our “sales pitch.” We used Cialdini’s social proof strategy to persuade kids who were not enrolled in a sport at a time to join wrestling simply by explaining the benefits of our sport while showing them how many of their friends and how many overall kids in high school play a winter sport. Liking was another strategy that was used very often by my coaches. My high school wrestling coach was definitely viewed as a leader throughout the school and community, often having hosting fundraising and charity events helping local causes. When he would stop kids in the hallway, regardless of their sports orientation, they listened. I know there were many instances on our team that kids simply participated in wrestling because Coach Hemauer was openly respected. Our school principal was a very good wrestler back in high school, as well. He would come to every one of our meets and manage pep rallies at school when we had big matches upcoming. Because the principal is looked at as an authoritative figure, when he would recommend to kids on the basketball roster or just students in general to try out for the wrestling team, some joined just because he had such a prestigious title within our school. While not every case of persuasion used these three methods, there were very many occurrences where we got key athletes to join our sport simply by using Cialdini’s social proof, liking, and authority strategies.
Cialdini’s other three strategies being reciprocation, consistency, and scarcity still carry a persuasive sense even though we did not necessarily default to them. Reciprocation could be used if a wrestler was trying to talk another athlete into going out for the sport. One way to do this would be to strike a deal which would say if you go out for wrestling, then I would go out for football, or help you with your studies, etc. Consistency could be the stage where athletes are writing out their individual and team goals while displaying them in the locker room. Doing this, it holds the athletes accountable as a sense of drive and enthusiasm surrounds the program. Scarcity comes into play when a pitch to the potential athlete is focused around the varsity lineup in wrestling. Since there is only one varsity wrestler at each weight, explaining how unique of an opportunity they will be faced with to physically wrestle someone in front of a crowd of people could be all it would take to persuade an athlete. These three strategies were not used by us, but that does not mean they are not just as effective as any of the ones we used.
With so many persuasive strategies out there it is difficult to speak with confidence which one is the best one to use at all times. Knowing this, my teammates, coaches, and I used many different strategies in order to persuade our targets. If our target was one of my friends, I would play off the “liking” strategy and because they would trust me more than someone who did not really know me all too well. If that strategy did not seal the deal, I would have my coach or principal come in with an authoritative outlook and list the pros of being involved in the sport. Giving that a few days and using the liking strategy throughout, I would in the meantime be recruiting all of the original target’s other friends in order to capitalize on the social proof strategy, because by controlling their peers I could be subconsciously controlling their future decisions (Polanski, 2012, p. 3). Knowing everyone does not respond to the same motivations, it was critical our entire recruiting team knew this and would use multiple, potent approaches tailored to each individual case.
Three of Cialdini’s six persuasive tendencies were subconsciously used throughout our promotional scheme, but that obviously does not mean that all of them are not applicable in some capacity. It is important to remember that the most effective form of persuasion may often use more than one tendency at a time. The ability to modify and adjust persuasive methods in a situation can be the difference between the target denying the message or accepting it. Throughout high school, we did very well not only athletically on the mat, but also in persuading my classmates and fellow basketball players to join the wrestling. Without using Cialdini’s tendencies of persuasion perhaps our championships and accolades would not have existed.
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