SBJ/March 25-31, 2013/Facilities

Arizona State putting gift card packs in area Costco stores

Don Muret
Arizona State University officials are introducing a new program this summer in which consumers can buy gift cards at Costco to use toward single-game tickets for sports events on campus.

The Pac-12 school, in conjunction with its ticketing provider, Paciolan, and Givex, a stored-value technology vendor, will package gift cards sold in pairs with $100 in total value. Under the Costco business model, the gift cards, branded with the Sun Devil pitchfork,will be discounted by roughly 20 percent and sell for about $80, said Steve Hank, Arizona State’s associate athletic director of revenue generation. In turn, Costco receives a percentage of revenue from every gift card sold at its 13 stores in Greater Phoenix.

ASU expects the program to be a success and it should recoup most of the $20 in customer savings back through the additional money that ticket buyers spend over the gift card’s value. Industry research shows gift card buyers across all markets typically spend 13 percent to 18 percent above the card’s value, Hank said.

The cards, packaging $100 of value for $80, can be used toward single-game tickets to ASU sports events.
Photo: ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
All told, ASU expects to generate revenue in the six figures annually by providing Costco members with the flexibility to attend Sun Devils football and basketball games at their convenience. “It’s an opportunity to reach out to fans with an impulse buy,” Hank said.

In addition, the integration of the Paciolan and Givex platforms enables Arizona State to capture data on gift card buyers, which the athletic department’s marketing staff can then use to pitch them with additional offers for its sports programs, he said.

The gift card campaign kicks off in June in time for the 2013 football season. To buy game tickets, gift card buyers can redeem the cards online at thesundevils.com, Arizona State’s official athletics website, and at ticket windows tied to sports facilities on campus.

In the future, the gift cards’ functionality could be expanded to cover food and merchandise concessions. Arizona State will hold off on incorporating that piece of technology until after upgrades are completed at Sun Devil Stadium, Hank said.

Gift cards and stored value are not new in pro sports, but Arizona State is believed to be the first major college to use gift cards for buying tickets to athletic events, said Dave Butler, CEO of Paciolan. The California firm has ticketing deals with more than 100 NCAA Division I schools.

Paciolan officials expect many of the company’s other college partners to start using gift cards after seeing Arizona State’s program.

“I would be shocked if we don’t have 40 clients doing it by this time next year,” Butler said.

> WHISKEY RIVER: Greensboro Coliseum recently signed a five-year deal with the Blue Ridge Distilling Co. to brand a portion of its new Ovations VIP Lounge after Defiant, a new brand of single-malt whiskey.

The whiskey’s name comes from Defiant Marine, a marine salvage company in Bostic, N.C. About 16 months ago, Tim Ferris, owner of the salvage firm, built a distillery in Golden Valley, N.C., in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 140 miles southwest of Greensboro.

In Greensboro, the distillery’s deal carries options that could extend the partnership to 10 years with a total value reaching six figures, said Scott Johnson, the arena’s deputy director.

In return for its investment, Defiant received branding on the mirrored glass wall behind the lounge’s bar and provided free samples of Defiant whiskey during the ACC men’s basketball tournament in mid-March, Johnson said.

It is the coliseum’s first hard liquor sponsor. The facility also added North Carolina microwbrewer Natty Greene’s as its new beer partner, said Matt Brown, the building’s managing director.

The lounge, situated on the arena’s ground floor, one level below the main concourse, opened earlier this month for the ACC women’s tournament. It is part of $24 million in total upgrades to the 54-year-old facility, a multiyear project that will be completed in 2016.

For this year’s ACC basketball tournaments, the arena debuted a new $1.5 million Daktronics center-hung video board and 9,000 new cushioned seats in the lower bowl. Irwin Seating Co. produced the new seats.

The installation of 11,000 new seats in the upper bowl began last week. Wireless upgrades, four new suites and expansion of the upper concourse with larger restrooms are also part of the next phase of improvements.

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

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