SBJ/May 28-June 3, 2012/Facilities

Post-Manning Colts get some help selling season tickets

Don Muret
The Indianapolis Colts have outsourced ticket sales after finding themselves entering the post-Peyton Manning era with 3,000 season tickets to sell at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Get Real Sports Sales, an Indianapolis firm, has signed a one-year deal with the Colts to sell season tickets to the local corporate community, said Greg Hylton, the team’s vice president of premium seating and ticket sales.

In addition, for the first time in 10 years, the Colts have hired summer interns to target new prospects and those who previously bought single-game tickets. The six interns will also go back to a waiting list already picked through for return calls, Hylton said.

The Colts were a perennial Super Bowl contender under Manning’s leadership at quarterback. With a season ticket renewal rate of about 95 percent, the team’s ticket sales staff consisted of Kip Brownfield, director of ticket sales, and Kevin Kirkhoff, a ticket sales account manager.

Those two remain with the Colts, but otherwise things have changed dramatically in the offseason after the departure of Manning and other key players, plus a new coaching staff and general manager.

The Colts have seen a 7 percent reduction in season-ticket holder renewals as the club embarks on a rebuilding process with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the first pick of the NFL draft.

As it stands now, the renewal rate is 87 percent, which is near the league average, Hylton said.

Get Real Sports Sales will try to help the team climb back over 90 percent in season-ticket renewals by assigning four people to make outbound calls from its office in downtown Indy.

Jake Vernon, the company’s president, is former vice president of ticket sales for the Indiana Pacers. “Jake and I have known each other for quite a while, and there was a standing invitation if we ever needed help,” Hylton said. “This year we decided to talk.” The terms of their agreement are confidential.

The Colts are Get Real Sports Sales’ first NFL account. The company has worked for the Charlotte Bobcats, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cincinnati Reds, San Jose Earthquakes and a few other sports properties to boost season-ticket sales.
For the Colts, 80 percent of the available inventory at Lucas Oil Stadium is along the sidelines in the upper deck with a lesser number of midlevel seats in the corners for sale. Ticket prices are $690 a season ticket in the upper deck and $990 for the midlevel seats.

“Now that the Colts have the No. 1 pick in Andrew Luck, it’s like when Peyton first arrived,” Vernon said. “We can tell a story [to prospective buyers] that they have already heard with an opportunity to get in now. It’s a good wave to ride.”

Fourteen months after it was formed in March 2011, Get Real Sports Sales has expanded to 16 full-time employees and recently moved to a bigger office. In the next few months, Vernon expects his company to grow to 24 full-timers.

The Florida Panthers are getting some outside help as well, hiring Legends Sales & Marketing to market their new center ice club, Club Red.
Get Real Sports Sales recently signed Iowa State football and has deals pending with three NCAA Division I college basketball programs that Vernon would not identify until those contracts are signed.

CLUB RED: The Florida Panthers, meanwhile, have turned to Legends Sales & Marketing to help market their new center ice club and consult on premium-seat sales at BankAtlantic Center.

Club Red, the name of the arena’s newest premium space, is an all-inclusive product tied to about 700 sideline seats on the southeast side of the lower bowl.

Over the past three months, the Panthers have sold 45 percent of the memberships available for Club Red; most of those sales covering all events in the facility. To sell the remaining seats, the team signed a one-year deal with Legends, a firm co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees.

Legends will hire one sales executive to sell Club Red and work with 10 people now employed with 360 Premium, a new company the Panthers formed to sell the arena’s 2,200 club seats and 74 suites. Legends will also be involved in hiring three to six more 360 Premium sales staff.

For Club Red, memberships are $12,500 annually for hockey only and concerts only, and $22,500 for all events, said Michael Yormark, president and chief operating officer for Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the NHL team and operates the arena.

The cost covers tickets, food, beer, wine, soda and valet parking, among other amenities. The arena typically books between 150 and 200 events every year, Yormark said.

Yormark and Chad Estis, president of Legends Sales & Marketing, worked together at the Tampa Bay Lightning for about three seasons in the late 1990s, and they both recognize the challenges of selling hockey in Florida.

Estis and Mike Ondrejko, Legends chief operating officer, will oversee the Club Red marketing effort and make occasional visits to South Florida.

“We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t like the product,” Estis said. “It is newly created for the very best seats in the arena and has all the elements to be successful.”

The Panthers spent $5.5 million to develop Club Red with a 12,000-square-foot lounge supporting seats 15 rows from the ice for hockey and at stage right for concerts and other events.

With its contemporary look, heavy on red as part of the Panthers’ rebrand last season, it is the nicest of the arena’s three clubs, according to Yormark.

Club Red is similar to sideline clubs at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Prudential Center in Newark, the two newest NHL arenas, said George Heinlein, a principal with 360 Architecture and one of the firm’s designers for Club Red. The architecture firm is not related to 360 Premium.

“It is intended to be an upscale club environment unlike anything else they have in the building … to capitalize on the best seats in the house,” Heinlein said. “It should be one of the best out there.”

Club Red is set to open Aug. 4 for the Rod Stewart-Stevie Nicks concert.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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