SBJ/July 14-20, 2014/Colleges

Longhorns hire Aspire Group to run ticket sales

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The University of Texas has tabbed The Aspire Group to manage athletic ticket sales and services for the school, which counts more than $40 million in ticket revenue annually.

The deal calls for Aspire to run the sales operations for all ticketed sports at Texas, including football, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, and softball. 

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Aspire will hire 25 full-time employees to work in Austin alongside the school’s current athletic marketing staff. Aspire will be paid an undisclosed management fee to run the ticket operations.

The deal is scheduled to be announced this week.

University of Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson said the school last year had between $5 million and $7 million in unsold ticket inventory.

“In an effort to maximize service and grow our ticket base across all our teams, we decided to work with Aspire,” Patterson said. “They are much further along in development of service and they can provide particular analytics around a customer base.”

The deal marks the first time Texas has hired an outside company to run its ticket operations, but Patterson is familiar with The Aspire Group: He hired the company, which was founded by former NBA executive Bernie Mullin, when he was athletic director at Arizona State University prior to taking the Texas job last year. 

IMG College holds the multimedia rights at Texas, but those rights do not include ticketing. It is not uncommon for schools to separate agencies in running their multimedia rights and ticketing businesses. For example, IMG has multimedia rights at ASU with Aspire running the school’s ticketing business.

“When we worked with them at ASU, we saw dramatic jumps in football [ticket revenue] but also in volleyball and softball,” said Patterson, adding that ticket sales have been flat at Texas over the past few years. “There is more opportunity for growth in basketball, softball and baseball,” he said. “There is some room in football; we are looking at eventually adding more premium seating.”

The deal is a coup for Atlanta-based Aspire, because while it marks its 37th collegiate property, none have the high profile of Texas. In addition to Arizona State, other clients include Rutgers, Kansas and Georgia Tech.

The company has hired Mino Solomon, director of group sales for the Oakland Raiders, to oversee the Texas operation as director of the Longhorn Athletics Fan Relationship Management Center. Solomon, who will begin the week of July 21, will be based in Austin and lead the company’s hiring of 25 full-time employees to work on the Texas account.

Similar to the ASU deal, Aspire will operate separate staffs responsible for season-ticket renewals, season-ticket services, and new full-season, partial-plan and group-ticket sales.

“We will also have a manager of database management and analytics,” Mullin said. “It is the fifth campus where we will have a dedicated person on the Aspire staff doing that.”

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