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Volume 24 No. 156
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Intercollegiate Athletic Forum: Programs Need To Connect To Fans Better

With an eye on survey reports showing that many college sports fans are not satisfied with their game-day experience, ticketing execs talked about how athletic programs can do a better job of connecting with fans. During a panel on Day One of the '13 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, Paciolan CEO Dave Butler said, "It's really about the relationship. In our world, we need to be touching the fan. They want connection to something beyond buying something. I've had NFL season tickets for three years to the same team … in Southern California. I have four seats, field level, $4,000 a year, and I've never had a phone call from anybody. I don't know who to call. I like the sport and I like the game so I'm putting up with it. But really, what we have unique here (in college sports) is, our fans are personally invested." Veritix CEO Sam Gerace added, "Fans are forgiving of the fact that stadiums are mass venues, and there are going to be lines and things that are not optimal, but what they are asking is to enhance their experience. And so if you if you give them enough information to do that -- 'The lines at this concession are long, this is short, here's the pizza vs. the barbecue' -- they have an enhanced experience even if they have to do the work."

HOW MUCH DOES WINNING HELP? Univ. of Pittsburgh Associate AD/External Relations Chris Ferris talked about the Steelers’ record can affect ticket sales: “People will often suggest to us, 'If the Steelers had a down year, that's an opportunity for the university.’ The reality is, that couldn't be further from the truth. The culture of Pittsburgh is, if they're having a troubling year, people are cranky -- it's a cranky atmosphere. And when they're doing great, it's more open to sports and participation. ... The key for us is to make sure we modernize our processes. At institutions, we're very traditional in our approach ... but we are becoming more modern, and we are addressing the need, not only from a customer service standpoint but from a product standpoint to the customer. One of our biggest focuses in Pittsburgh when you have professional sports and a thriving cultural district is people's time. You're not only selling them a product, but they have to allocate their time to you and your activity, and so we have to deliver that product efficiently and timely."

Puri said organizations are reactive to the use of
technology in customer service
HOW TECHNOLOGY AND DATA CAN HELP: Cal Associate AD/Revenue & Business Development Ashwin Puri talked about using technology to improve customer service: “The scary part is a lot of organizations are just reactive right now. It's incumbent upon all of us to (change). We went from just taking an inbound call and reacting to a complaint to being proactive, building relationships and learning about people -- what they want, like and dislike. Through technology -- whatever ticketing platform you want to implement -- [you can create] a system to track all that stuff so you can learn and then make analytical decisions rather than just create products or solutions that you think will work. You're making decisions based on data.” IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions VP Matt DiFebo added, “One area we need to grow and grow quickly in college athletics is the data. So many schools have these large alumni databases. ... But a lot of these times these databases aren't as quality as these schools may think they are. That's an area where we can all tie it together. Increase the quality of the database and use that information to implement sales strategy and marketing campaigns that are going to generate more revenue and a better fan experience.”

For more from the Intercollegiate Athletic Forum, please see our On The Ground blog.