SBJ/July 25-31, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHRA ramps up ticket sales

The National Hot Rod Association has overhauled its ticket sales operations, opening an outbound sales call center and hiring its first ticket sales manager.

The drag racing governing body manages ticket sales for five of its 22 annual races. It oversees sales at tracks in Indianapolis; Gainesville, Fla.; Atlanta; and Pomona, Calif., which hosts two races a year. The other 17 races are sold by the independently owned and operated tracks that host them.

ICON SMI
The NHRA handles ticket sales for five of its 22 annual races.
Historically, the NHRA ran a ticket management center that processed and fulfilled ticket orders. It was what NHRA chief marketer Gary Darcy described as more of an “inbound” call center than a proactive sales operation.

After the organization last year hired Atlanta-based ticket consultant Bernie Mullin, founder and CEO of The Aspire Group, to speak at a national track operator meeting, it decided to revamp its ticketing division to emphasize retention and upselling.

In early July, it hired Erik Blaisdell as its first ticket sales manager. A former account executive with the ECHL Ontario Reign, Blaisdell will oversee a sales center with two other yet-to-be-hired sales executives. The group will make outbound calls and try to reconnect with fans who attended races in the last five years but haven’t returned in recent years.

Darcy said he expects the new sales division to lift total ticket revenue by 7 percent to 10 percent in 2011. The NHRA reported $43.9 million in admissions revenue in 2009, down 16 percent from $52.2 million in 2008.

“We’re really trying to build a relationship with fans, with the No. 1 job being retention,” Darcy said. “The No. 2 is upselling, and the No. 3 is finding new fans. We’ve modeled it out in terms of warm leads and what revenue we’d get per call, and we’re enthusiastic about this.”

The NHRA also is emphasizing group ticket sales for the first time. At the start of 2011, it adopted best practices for group sales from The Aspire Group and began seeking referrals for groups more aggressively than in the past. Group sales are up 5 percent to 10 percent to date.

Darcy said that if the group sales efforts and outbound call center succeed in lifting ticket revenue, the NHRA will share the best practices that result with its track partners. He added, “Once we get numbers, it might be possible we can work with them directly to help what they’re doing.”

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