SBJ/August 27-September 2, 2012/Colleges

Legends Sales, Ohio create sales ‘incubator’

Legends Sales and Marketing has formed a unique partnership with Ohio University tied to selling tickets for the school’s sports teams.

The three-year deal calls for the Dallas sports marketer to help subsidize a staff of two graduate students and one full-time intern to sell season tickets for Ohio football and basketball and four other sports.

Legends Sales and Marketing will subsidize a staff of students selling tickets to Ohio athletics.
Photo by: OHIO UNIVERSITY
The goal is to develop a strong recruiting pipeline for both, according to officials from Legends and the school.

Ohio can use the Legends connection to attract students for enrollment in its Center for Sports Administration. In turn, those students participating in the Ohio ticket sales program gain experience that could lead to full-time jobs with Legends at other sports properties, said Jim Kahler, the center’s executive director. “It provides a wonderful incubator,” Kahler said.

Legends does not generate revenue at Ohio, compared with its four other college deals, where the company typically hires staff on campus, pays commissions and shares in ticket income.

The primary benefit for Legends is the recruiting connection, said Chad Estis, the company’s president. Estis, an Ohio graduate who played basketball at the school, worked with Kahler when both were employed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Ohio staff consists of two graduate students, David Neumann and Madelyn Robinson. Tanner Bond, assistant director of ticket sales, is the third member of the staff and is a full-time intern hired by the athletic department.

Under terms of the deal, Legends will pay Neumann’s $8,000 stipend, the fee Ohio pays graduate assistants working in athletics. The Center for Sports Administration will pay Robinson’s stipend. Both Neumann and Robinson get free tuition for the coming school year, a $20,000 value.

Bond is paid by Ohio’s athletic department for his 10-month commitment.

Legends has assisted in training the staff with monthly sessions scheduled over the course of the school year, said Drake Bolon, Ohio Athletics’ director of marketing.

All three, under Bolon’s supervision, are making more than 75 phone calls a day and scheduling multiple in-person appointments.

The program kicked off in May. To date, the group exceeded last year’s total revenue of $200,000 in football season-ticket sales. The goal is to bring in $100,000 in new revenue for football and basketball, said Dan Hauser, Ohio’s senior associate athletic director for external relations.

Ohio began researching outsourcing ticket sales about three years ago and explored business models proposed by The Aspire Group, IMG, Mandalay Sports and Collegiate Consulting.

In a small college market in Athens, where 27 percent of the city’s residents lived below the poverty level during the recession, the growth in ticket revenue required to support a partnership with one of those firms did not match up with the school’s expectations, Hauser said.

Athletic officials met with Kahler to brainstorm a new ticket sales model, and Kahler reached out to Estis to form the partnership. The Ohio model is most likely a one-off deal considering the close relationship between the two, Estis said.

The decision to outsource ticket sales coincides with the recent success of Ohio, a member of the Mid-American Conference, in its two revenue sports. The football team won the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and the basketball team reached the Sweet 16 in the 2012 NCAA men’s tournament.

Separately, Legends has announced outsource ticket deals with Stanford for one year and Nevada for three years.

In Palo Alto, Legends has a six-person staff selling tickets for all sports under the supervision of Ted Lopez, its ticket sales and service manager. Lopez previously worked for the San Francisco Giants and the San Jose Sharks.

In Reno, Legends’ general manager Ricardo Ramos heads a seven-person staff. Ramos was most recently director of ticket sales for the Colorado Rapids after stints with the NBA and the Detroit Pistons.

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