I had initially wanted to write a blog on Gopher basketball season ticket sales, however, after seeing the turnout for the Gopher football game against Purdue last weekend, I figured I needed to address the lagging sales for both programs. Some of you may read my previous article on the lack of student tickets sold (www.startribune.com/local/yourvoices/166589686.html), and ideas on how to rectify that situation. Students are incredibly important to a college game, and they are the ones that create the atmosphere, and give you a home field/court advantage. However, it's no secret that public season ticket holders are the ones that pay the bills, making it imperative to sell those tickets.
For those of you who say winning will cure everything, you are right – it will. Jerry Kill said that at his press conference on Tuesday, and he is correct. However, we've had some down years in both football and basketball, and the truth is, you can't always rely on winning because you won't always win (unless your name is Tom Izzo and this is Michigan State basketball). So you need to implement other ideas to sustain and grow your fan base.
In football, we're actually having a decent year, we're 5-3, one game away from being bowl game eligible, and just got our first Big 10 win against Purdue on Saturday. After the past few years, this is a pleasant change. However, if you were at the Purdue game on Saturday, you would have noticed that the glaringly low attendance. TCF Bank sold the fewest tickets in its short history, selling only 41,062. For those of you who are more visual, the stadium looked like this at kickoff:
And this during the last few minutes of the 4th quarter:
As you can see in the graph below, there has also been a decline in the number of basketball season tickets sold over the past several years. The public season tickets are in gold, student season tickets are in maroon, and their coordinating number totals are also color coded. Despite the excitement surrounding Tubby Smith’s initial years at Minnesota, the graph shows the grim reality of ticket sales during his tenure. While I fully expect more student season tickets to be sold (as students are lot more last minute), I don't see the public ticket numbers going up drastically, meaning the ticket office will have to rely on specials and various promotions to fill Williams Arena this coming season.
2007: 9343 Public & 1295 Student
2008: 8926 Public & 2105 Student
2009: 9,147 Public & 2,011 Student
2010: 8,931 Public & 1,456 Student
2011: 8,382 Public & 1,285 Student
2012: 7,411 Public & 810 Student (as of 10/29/12), anticipating more will be sold for the year)
So, what incentive to be a season ticket holder? Obviously supporting your school, getting the seats you want, and sitting by the same group each game. However, if you don't care about those things and just want to attend the game, you would take advantage of specials the U of MN is putting out there. I do not have priority seating for football, I do order a chair back, and my season tickets were a total of $340.00 ($275 for the ticket, $45 for seat cushion, $20 for handling), instead of $50 had I purchased all the games individually through the specials the U offered:
New Hampshire - Groupon for $10
Western Michigan - All alums, and anyone with the link 2 free tickets
Syracuse - $10 special
Northwestern (Homecoming) - $20 tickets to start, went down to $10
Purdue - $10 tickets
Michigan - $10 special for tickets posted on the Gopher Sports Facebook
The ticket office also offered a number of specials last year for basketball as well. Many disagree with me, and like the short term solution of offering a discounted or free ticket, but I would rather think long term and focus marketing efforts on season ticket holders. A long term solution would result in more overall revenue, and less work for the ticket and marketing offices as they struggle to fill the stadium and arena week to week.
Public basketball ticket sales have dropped 20.68% and student season ticket sales are down 37.45% since 2007. This past year was the most significant drop partially due to the fact that the Gophers finished 9th in the Big 10 conference, and decided to go ahead with Gopher Points and reseated Williams Arena resulting in new seat fees for many season ticketholders. Rolling out Gopher Points this past summer was poorly timed, and should have been postponed until there was some demand for basketball tickets, and the team was doing well.
When you even take a look at the first exhibition game against Minnesota State - Mankato, the attendance was 8,907 Last year's lowest attended exhibition game was against Augustana (S.D.) had an announced attendance of 10,644. That's over a 1700 person difference from one year to the next. That’s 1700 fewer tickets sold, but also 1700 fewer people buying concessions, merchandise, game programs, parking spots, as well as 1700 fewer people adding to the game day atmosphere in Williams Arena.
Looking at the raw numbers of the ticket sales over the last few years, it’s clear there is a problem. The more difficult part is coming up with some solutions. Here are a few of mine; some are from posters on GopherHole.com, others are from friends, and many are my own.
Appreciate your current season ticket holders. It's much easier to retain a customer, than find a new one (that’s an entirely different blog). Unfortunately, the U is not able to keep loyal fans happy. How are some ways you can do this:
These are some simple ideas. Is giving someone a media guide going to get them to renew their season tickets? No. But if you can a number of small, and inexpensive thing to make people feel appreciated as season ticket holders, and receive some benefits, they will be a lot less likely to drop them. Bottom line is, stop focusing on giving away or running inexpensive specials to sell one or two games, that's a short term fix. Focus on your season ticket holder, and the thousands you've lost over the past few years is a great place to start.
Twitter: @NadineBabu www.twitter.com/nadinebabu
Nadine Babu is the CEO and Social Media Strategist at Babu Social Networks and completed her undergraduate degree and MBA at the Carlson School of Management. She manages and writes for GopherHole.com