SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Visionary plan, solid strategy pay off in ticket sales, sponsorships

NACMA/Host Communications Marketer of the Year: NCAA Division I-AA/I-AAA


CURT KROUSE, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE


Curt Krouse
University of Delaware
Title: Director of sports marketing
Age: 34
Education: Bachelor’s of science in accounting from Villanova University, 1989; master’s degree in physical education from Kent State University, 1992
University of Delaware sponsors: Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Wilmington Trust, Grotto Pizza, Yellow Book, Embassy Suites, Metro Call, New Car Dealerships and Zerowai

A shrewd combination of strategy and vision has helped Curt Krouse, 34, significantly raise the awareness of athletics at the University of Delaware among its potential fan base in Newark, Del. Krouse, director of sports marketing and promotions, took the university from a state of dormancy to the top of the charts in attendance.

"He's worked to get different groups involved to improve student attendance at games," said Scott Eatough, associate director of athletics at the Division I-AA school. "He's greatly increased the amount of community awareness of Delaware athletics, and he's also significantly increased the amount of revenue we've brought in through corporate sponsorship."

Krouse's handiwork has been reflected in both season-ticket sales and attendance figures since his arrival in 1998. Initially focusing on Delaware's season-ticket population, which had grown somewhat old in recent years, Krouse's master plan targeted a younger audience.

During the 2000-01 school year, the Blue Hens set attendance records in football, averaging 21,154 in a 22,000-seat stadium. In addition, the women's basketball team set all-time highs for average attendance at 1,164 and a single-game record of 2,400 fans at the Bob Carpenter Center, a 5,000-seat facility.

The resulting windfall of funds is one of the reasons Krouse has been named the NACMA/Host Communications Marketer of the Year for Division I-AA/I-AAA.

"Our goal was to make each game an event, make it fun, turn it into something that allows the fans to have an effect on what is going on," Krouse said. "Looking at football, in particular, we've always had a very successful team. But our attendance was stagnant. So by targeting whole families and by making it more of an event, making it more entertaining, we were able to take it to the next level."

Krouse helped implement the Blue Hen tents that offer pregame festivities, ranging from games for the kids to group activities for students and adult fans. He also developed Blue Hen Fever, a student spirit group designed to support the school's broad-based athletic program.

After earning a degree in accounting from Villanova University in 1989, Krouse went on to get his master's degree in physical education from Kent State three years later. He began developing his marketing skills during stints at the U.S. Military Academy and Princeton University.

Two years ago, Krouse was a key figure in negotiating a seven-figure radio rights fee package that secured a first-time FM broadcasting deal for Blue Hens football. He also helped formalize a corporate partnership program that broadened inventory opportunities and led to increased revenues.

"It's a much-deserved award," Eatough said. "I think it's the relationships Curt has been able to develop with his clients and with the students. He's very friendly, very outgoing. Once he gets the door open and establishes that connection, there is a pretty good chance for success for him."

Jay C. Upchurch is a writer in Oklahoma.

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