SBJ/July 30-August 5, 2012/Colleges

Cal joins South Florida in dynamic ticket pricing as more colleges consider wading in

Dynamic pricing, the increasingly popular way of selling tickets among pro teams, is seeping into the college space.

The University of California last week struck a deal with software company Qcue to begin using dynamic pricing on single-game football tickets this season. Cal is Qcue’s first college client.

South Florida is the only other school known to use dynamic pricing. The Bulls did a deal with Qcue competitor Digonex midway through last football season to give dynamic pricing a trial run. After seeing sales trends improve, USF decided to renew with Digonex for this season.

The Bulls are Digonex’s first and only college client. Both USF and Cal intend to use dynamic pricing for basketball as well.

Dynamic pricing enables ticket prices to rise or fall from face value based on demand, although USF and Cal have the ability to manage the pricing if it spikes too high or too low. The dynamic pricing goes into effect on single-game tickets that are sold to the general public.

“This allows us to take advantage of high-demand games and price them at fair market value,” said Ashwin Puri, Cal’s associate athletic director for sales, marketing and service. Puri, a former executive with the NBA and the New York Jets, has brought many of the ticket sales trends he saw in the pros to Cal upon his hiring earlier this year.

Qcue works with more than half of the teams in Major League Baseball, including the San Diego Padres, who served as a consultant to Cal while the school restructured its ticket sales and marketing operation. The Bears this year have developed an outbound sales and service component within their ticketing department, whereas most schools have started outsourcing sales and marketing to companies like The Aspire Group and IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions.

IMG Learfield handles USF’s sales and marketing.

Ayo Taylor-Dixon, USF’s associate AD for marketing and revenue, said the school’s ability to control how much the price fluctuated up or down was part of the attraction.

“You use the market data you’re given, and it’s up to you to make the change in pricing,” Taylor-Dixon said. “But the system is usually right.”

Paciolan, whose software helps schools manage ticketing sales and inventory, has relationships with 105 NCAA Division I schools and sees dynamic pricing as a wave of the future. The company recently surveyed its clients, and 19 percent of them said they were at least moderately likely to adopt dynamic pricing in the next year.

Not everyone in the college space, however, is sold. Some college ticket managers are concerned about prices dipping below face value. Also, the base of season-ticket holders also represents schools’ most prolific donors, so schools want to make sure they don’t agitate their best boosters by undercutting them on price.

“We’re not there yet,” said Michael Espada, Florida State’s director of ticket sales, about dynamic pricing. “I haven’t seen enough of it to gauge how it would work. The last thing we’d want to do is upset our season-ticket holders. … I think if you price your tickets right from the beginning, you should be OK.”

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