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Colleges try mobile delivery for student tickets

Close to 10 percent of colleges are delivering football and basketball tickets to their students through mobile, but that number is expected to increase significantly in the coming years.

A study by Paciolan, a ticketing software company that counts 110 colleges as clients, showed that the adoption of mobile delivery among students, while sporadic, is growing (see charts below).

Half of the students who reserved Maryland football tickets last year asked for mobile delivery.
Photo by: Getty Images
In most cases, students go online to reserve their tickets and a bar code is sent to their phone. The bar code is then scanned as they enter the football stadium or basketball arena.

Maryland adopted mobile delivery for the 2013 football season and found that half of all its students who reserved tickets requested mobile delivery as opposed to print-at-home options or other pickup methods.

“We looked at how we could use technology to make it easier for students and drive them to games,” said Matt Monroe, Maryland’s assistant athletic director for ticket services. “They might lose a paper ticket, but they’re not going to forget to take their phone to the game.”

Mobile delivery is considered an important tool in getting students to the games, according to Craig Ricks, Paciolan’s vice president of marketing. Many schools have expressed frustration over dwindling student attendance at football and basketball games, Ricks said, especially because seats in the student section often are some of the best in the stadium or arena.

Virginia Commonwealth, for example, has one of the nation’s strongest basketball programs, but even a trip to the
2011 Final Four hasn’t curtailed declines in student attendance for games on VCU’s Richmond campus. The Rams set aside 1,700 seats in their student section for a school with a student body of nearly 28,000. It’s a common problem, administrators say.

“Student seating is a difficult piece of the puzzle,” said Meghan Millar, VCU’s assistant athletic director for ticketing.

The Rams have offered students a print-at-home option in the past, but they’ll likely move to mobile delivery next season.

During the 2013 football season, Maryland and Rutgers were among the leaders in mobile delivery. Maryland saw a 50 percent adoption rate among its students for mobile tickets, while Rutgers was at 40 percent.

By comparison, students are well ahead of the general ticket buyer. Paciolan said Utah State was among the leaders in mobile delivery for football single-ticket sales at 15 percent, while 9 percent of overall ticket buyers at West Virginia opted for mobile delivery.

“Student adoption is higher, but we think both segments will continue to trend up,” Ricks said. “Students are highly focused on their mobile phones and it is ingrained in their lifestyle, so mobile delivery is a natural fit for student ticketing.”

While mobile is considered an important tool in driving student attendance, schools are looking at a variety of options. Some have decided to reduce the number of seats set aside for students.

Others, like Boston College, have implemented a loyalty program that rewards students for attending games. BC calls it the Gold Pass, which is loaded onto student identification cards.

Points are accrued for each game a student attends and they are rewarded with guaranteed seats for high-demand games, like Syracuse in basketball or Boston University in men’s hockey.

“We’ve seen some increases in attendance, even for a lot of the Olympic sports,” said Jim O’Neill, BC’s associate AD for ticket operations. “The incentives are making a difference.”

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