SBJ/May 21-27, 2012/Colleges

IMG Learfield secures ticket sales and marketing rights for South Florida, Appalachian State football, basketball

South Florida fills about two-thirds of Raymond James Stadium for its home football games. Appalachian State, on the other hand, draws an average of 4,000 fans more than its seating capacity.

But both schools are signing deals with IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions to outsource their sales and marketing, primarily for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

The University of South Florida is hoping to fill more seats inside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
USF’s rapid rise in football has elevated the program to one of the Big East’s best, and now it’s trying to get its attendance to follow. The Bulls averaged 44,550 last season at Raymond James Stadium, which holds just under 66,000. Bill McGillis, USF’s executive associate athletic director, said the school would work with IMG Learfield to launch “an aggressive new ticket sales initiative. This partnership will enable an infusion of resources that will fuel our effort to expand our ticket base and grow attendance.”

IMG College also has USF’s multimedia rights. Robert Miller, who worked in ticketing with the New Orleans Hornets and Florida Panthers, will serve as general manager of USF’s ticketing operation.

Appalachian State, which has led the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision in attendance for four of the last five years, is attempting to grow its fan base as the school looks to move up from FCS (formerly I-AA) to the FBS level. The Mountaineers averaged 26,211 fans in 21,650-seat Kidd Brewer Stadium last season.

But Matt DiFebo, vice president and managing partner for IMG Learfield, said, “There’s a strong opportunity to continue growing the school’s fan base and generate additional revenue through ticket sales and building relationships with their fans.”

IMG Learfield will run Appalachian State’s ticketing from its national sales center in Winston-Salem, N.C., where IMG College is based. IMG Learfield runs the University of Richmond’s account from there. Other clients, such as Tennessee and Penn State, have their own sales team embedded in the athletic department, the model being employed at USF.

These ticketing outsource deals typically involve a share of revenue between the school and the company based on new tickets sold.

“We’ve had a great relationship with IMG from the corporate marketing side, and this became an opportunity to be more aggressive on the ticket sales side,” said Charlie Cobb, Appalachian State’s athletic director. “We still have some holes to fill with season tickets, renewals and also some group tickets where they can help.”

Appalachian State and USF represent the second and third new school clients since IMG and Learfield created this ticketing joint venture. Georgia State came on board last month.
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