Three things I’ve learned in starting a new collegiate ticket sales center

Three things I’ve learned in starting a new collegiate ticket sales center
by Chase Jolesch – August 2014

In the last five years, colleges have started outbound ticket sales centers modeled after professional sports. After spending nearly three and a half  years working with the San Francisco 49ers and Legends Premium Sales, I received the opportunity to go back to my alma mater and start an outbound ticket sales center at Baylor University.

I’ve been working the past eight months to develop Baylor’s program. The three important things I have learned so far are (1) create a positive relationship with the ticket office, athletics foundation and marketing department, (2) implement a CRM system to help manage fans more efficiently and (3) hire and lead the right employees.

Create Positive Relationships with Other Departments

The ticket office, athletics foundation and marketing department all work with tickets in a variety of supporting roles. I connected with each department to learn how they work and be able to implement productive changes.

Matt Rousso
Matt Rousso

Creating these positive relationships between departments is built on communication. As Matt Rousso, Director of Ticket Sales & Service at the University of Southern California, shares,

“At USC we work closely with our ticket office on all ticketed athletic events leaning on their expertise to help improve overall processes as well as the fan experience.  There is no doubt that we will continue to improve our synergies in this respect as our tenure together increases.”

Each department has a variety of objectives, but the overlapping goal is to provide a great customer experience to each fan.

Implement an Effective CRM System

We recently implemented a CRM system that our ticket sales center, ticket office and athletics foundation all access. This helps internal communication so we know what is going on with our fans as we document calls, sync e-mail lists and make notes in the system. The ticket sales center uses CRM to prospect leads and turn them into specific sales opportunities.

Rich Wang, Associate Director of Analytics & Fan Engagement at the Minnesota Vikings, has over eight years of experience in the database world, believes

“having the right information is key in today’s world. CRM provides the level of detail and insights a sales center can act on in real time.  Further, CRM can provide data that allows an sales organization to form tangible relationships between existing clients and prospective targets.”

For a CRM system to be a productive tool, every department needs to be involved, and for that to happen you need the right employees.

Build the Right Team

We have taken a methodical approach to building the Baylor ticket sales center. The culture we want to create is one that cultivates talent, but also challenges and pushes. Finding the right candidate can be difficult, so we look for candidates eager to learn, work well in teams and want to be challenged.

Jared Kozinn
Jared Kozinn

Jared Kozinn, Director of Business Development-Premium Seating at the Detroit Lions, has experience building sales teams in the NHL, MLB, & NFL. Jared says he likes to, “look to hire passionate candidates with positive attitudes that want to learn and are open to constructive criticism.”

While finding talent through a variety of sports networks, including the Baylor S3 program and referrals, our sales center is beginning to take shape.

It has and will continue to take some patience to get things where they need to be to make it an overall success. Through positive internal relationships, CRM collaborations with fan experiences, and training the right employees the Baylor Ticket Sales Center is well on its way.

 

The Two Keys to Building a Successful Loyalty Program

The Two Keys to Building a Successful Loyalty Program
by Kelly Cheeseman – August 2014

Everywhere we turn these days we are constantly reminded about loyalty. Every business seems to have a rewards program or a loyalty program. Case in point, on a recent shopping trip to the mall I made transactions at four stores and bought lunch. Four out of the five stops asked me to sign up for their loyalty program including the pizza place! All of the locations were offering perks in exchange for my information. As sports teams evolve and start entering in to this very crowded “loyalty” area of the business, we must not lose sight of what makes our industry unique:  We already have loyalty with our fans.

Loyalty and pride of our teams is what our customer base is built upon. The connection with our teams and the memories that come from it is the foundation of the wheel that drives us. Our great fans are with us through thick and thin. Realizing this and leveraging this is an important step as we develop our loyalty platforms.

With the LA Kings and LA Galaxy we have started to establish new loyalty programs, and we strive to drive these programs with two key principles.

#1 Be transparent and authentic with goals and message

There is no doubt that the goal of every loyalty program is to gather more information about customers. Learning their habits and info in order to allow us to reach our business goals is an important part of how we can have success. Our mission is to make sure we are open with our fans that our goal is to gather this information to help make their experience better. If we simply just tell them that they will be rewarded if they attend games or buy tickets, we may not see the results we are looking for in this busy “Loyalty” marketplace.

#2 Return the favor to the fans

Through thick and thin our fans are with us and they expect us to be loyal to them. So asking them for their “loyalty” is a slippery slope that can be insulting if framed in the wrong light.

We need to return the favor with great service and experiences. Our goal with our loyalty program is to build upon this fandom and become fans of our customers. We can’t forget where we come from and we need to celebrate and support our fans by giving them experiences that fit their needs. To some people this may just be free items or discounts, to others this may be experiences you can’t buy. Diversity in their choices is important while recognizing them for helping us and updating them on our progress of improving their experiences. As we establish and run our programs these are the key principles we are shooting for to break through the noise of the evolving and growing loyalty marketplace.

 

 

 

So you want a career in sports? Here are a few tips…

So you want a career in sports? Here are a few tips…
by Shawn McGee – August 2014

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That question crosses everyone’s mind at least once…if not countless times throughout our lives.  It may seem a strange question to ask in an interview, but I ask it every time.

We think we know what we want to do for our career as we graduate college. But, in reality you rarely stay in the same position or with the same company for more than just a few years after accepting that first “real” job.  For this very reason, I tell the students I mentor not to worry about where they will work or what their job will be when they first enter the workforce. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years.

Just Get Started

The real focus should be: Just get started. Once you are in an organization, do your job to the best of your ability–and better than anyone one else who is performing the same role.  That will allow you the opportunity to then ask for more work (often at no increase in pay), which leads to more responsibility, a greater role within the company, a more prestigious title and more dollars in your pocket.

From there the long and winding road begins.  Once you prove your value to an organization and have grown (or sharpened) your skills set, the doors begin to open.  You are ready to look at other opportunities, ones that may have been out of your reach earlier in your career, but now fit well with your passion and your experience.

Know How to Leave Your Job

But, it is VERY important that as you begin to move from job to job, and up the corporate ladder, that you leave your job in better shape than you found it. And make sure the relationships created there remain firmly intact.

While this seems logical, leaving a company can be tricky. You basically tell them you are departing for greener pastures. How do you do that without leaving a bad taste in their collective mouths?

  1. Personally meet with your manager first, before telling anyone else.
  2. Do not mail it in from an effort perspective during your final days.
  3. Plan how to effectively transfer responsibilities and complete unfinished work.
  4. Continue acting as a model employee who wants the best for everyone.

You never know when you might once again work for this company or for anyone who works there somewhere else.  Just ask Bill Sutton, who started and ran the Team Marketing and Business Operations department for the NBA.  Originally, Bernie Mullins worked for him.  Fast forward a few years later, after Bill left the NBA, Bill was working for Bernie…you never know if those who work for you or with you will later be your boss.

Know How Not to Leave a Job

So you interview for a different job and receive an offer. What if you choose not to accept? As a professional in the sports world you never know if you will later want to work for that company or someone else in that company who moves elsewhere.

Here’s how not to do it: Don’t email ten minutes prior to an interview stating “I will not be at the meeting as I have accepted another position that is paying more than double what you are offering.”  That happened this past week. Really. Needless to say, that individual will not be interviewed again. The Golden Rule applies anywhere and it applies here: Communicate with others the way you would want to be communicated with.

Where Will You End Up?

You never really know.

George Killebrew
George Killebrew

Here’s my story. I started in pro soccer and spent 12 years pursuing my passion. I expected to work in soccer  my entire career.  But, thanks to good friends, George Killebrew (Dallas Mavericks) and John Alper (Legends), I was referred for the Associate AD position at SMU.  I loved my job at SMU, but after two years my position was eliminated.  I had opportunities to stay in Dallas in pro sports and in sports radio, but I took a gamble and moved my family to Atlanta to run the Atlanta Beat of Women’s Pro Soccer (WPS).  After two seasons, the league was struggling and I was worried.  However, a friend of mine interested in a position at Las Vegas Motor Speedway asked me to make a call to their VP of Sales, Mike Mossholder. I just happened to have worked with Mike in MLS.  Mike shared with me that NASCAR was a great industry and that there was an open VP position at Homestead-Miami Speedway (HMS).  Within three weeks, I accepted that position and packed up my life in Atlanta for the move to South Florida.  I NEVER anticipated that I would be working NASCAR or living in Miami.  But, the Lord leads us where he wants us to go and certainly had I not been let go from SMU, I would not have taken the position in Atlanta and therefore would not have reconnected with my friend…or ended up in Miami with HMS.

john alper

Colin Faulkner
Colin Faulkner

Look at Colin Faulkner, a Baylor S3 Board member and Baylor Bear.  He knew soccer was played with a round ball, but that was about it.  He had little experience, but he impressed me enough to give him a chance at the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas).  He got his foot in door.  Then, he performed above any and all expectations.  He created and maintained solid relationships across the industry.  This, then, allowed him the opportunity to go to the Rangers (MLB), the Dallas Stars (NHL) and ultimately to the Cubs (MLB).  He burned no bridges and always left his position better than he found it. And yes, I would hire him again in a second, but now there is no way I could afford him!  And who knows, someday, I may be working for him.

It’s a Small World After All

People think the sports industry is huge.  In reality, it is very small. Most of us know each other or at least know someone who knows that person.

So, create a solid personal brand and cultivate positive relationships.  At the end of the day, it is simple: Get your foot in the door. Get started. Outwork everyone. Create relationships. Maintain relationships and don’t burn bridges. Work your way to your ultimate job.  It is truly a long and winding road, but well worth the trip.


 

Cover photo courtesy of James Wheeler.

Why the best teams and brands partner with academics

Why the best teams and brands partner with academics
by Kirk Wakefield – August 2014

Back in the early 1990’s, I started out with my Baseball Almanac contacting major and minor league teams to conduct research. Being at Ole Miss during that time, just an hour south of Memphis, I made quick friends with every pro franchise that came through town–among them the Memphis Chicks, Memphis MadDogs (CFL), Memphis Fire (USBL), and Memphis Redbirds, where I managed their fan research for three summers before leaving for Baylor in 2002.

During the ’90s, I recall a visit with a vice-president of marketing at a MLB team in the northeast about collaborating on fan research. He thought it was all very interesting, but said they weren’t interested because, “We already did one fan survey this year.”

Times have changed and MLBAM has taken the league and its teams to the front of the class in understanding its fans. However, one paradox I learned still holds today:

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”300px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

The best organizations always want to know more and the struggling rarely want help.[/dropshadowbox]

Why do the best get better?

Derek Blake
Derek Blake

Everyone who’s read “Good to Great” knows that the best leaders have an intense drive coupled with humility. This combination is what makes any leader get better because first they want to and second they know they don’t have a corner on knowledge. Derek Blake, Vice President, Partnership Marketing, La Quinta Inns & Suites, demonstrates this kind of leadership. Derek shares how this plays out in working with educators,

Business today is always evolving and we want to be on the cutting edge.  Working with academics who are experts in a very specific field of study – like corporate partnerships – just makes sense.  By giving back to our educational institutions, we help build the foundation of who students become in the future and that’s where we all benefit.

Some of the greatest franchises in the world are literally right up or down the road from us here in Waco and they always want to learn more. Some might think the San Antonio Spurs have accomplished all they need to after five NBA titles and operating above 99% attendance capacity. But from the top to the bottom of that organization, they always want to get better and are always open to new ideas, new methods, and new approaches to satisfy and grow the fan base.

Eric Sudol
Eric Sudol

The Dallas Cowboys are the NFL’s most valuable franchise, but their executives never hesitate to explore new ideas and to partner with us on research and classroom projects. Eric Sudol, Sr. Director, Corporate Partnerships Sales & Service at Dallas Cowboys, adds, “Teams are always busy and we can save time and money by partnering with academics when our interests overlap with their research needs.”

Much the same can be said of Baylor’s other partners around the state, both corporate and sports organizations. Further, aggressive teams like the Padres, Browns, Chiefs, and Dolphins work with us to take an innovative partnership approach with corporate sponsors to provide valid measures of sponsorship returns.

Why (not) work with academics?

WCAI Partners
WCAI Partners

ESPN and the Sports Analytics Conference partner with MIT. Wharton’s Consumer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) works with a variety of corporate partners (see right) and also works with sports teams. Yet, some corporate and sports organizations are hesitant to engage with academics.

Hey, I get it, we’re a little weird. Some of us are a lot weird. There’s a reason the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is called a “nerdfest” and hosts a panel entitled, “Revenge of the Nerds.” But, for the fearful, here are three reasons you should work with academics:

  1. Focus. At research institutions like MIT, Wharton, and Baylor, faculty are experts in very specific fields. Aside from service responsibilities, typical workload is 50% research & 50% teaching. We spend 2-4 days a week, about 50 weeks a year, often for many years focused on finding out what’s new in one or two areas–which leads to the next point.
  2. Innovation. Academics are rewarded for publishing research. Research gets published (ideally) only when we learn something new. In contrast, syndicated research firms are rewarded for standardizing and commercializing past practices.
  3. Confidentiality. If you read the Sports Business Journal and popular press, you might think academics will want to publish the name of the team, the executives, and specific financial or customer data. In sharp contrast, academics do the opposite for two big reasons:
    1. Research is published when it’s generalizable to other situations. Sports is just the laboratory to study interesting phenomenon. We often don’t state the specific team or location because then someone would say it might not apply elsewhere.
    2. Research is based on the relationship between variables or fields in a data set–not the levels. In other words, we care about the relationship between X and Y, not the levels of X and Y. So, if you had data on fan demos and expenditures, we don’t care about the amounts–we care about how much variable X (e.g., tickets used) influences variable Y (e.g., renewals). What we report is the strength of relationships.
  4. Expense. What academics need most is data. If you can provide access to data, most academics will trade time for cool data. Obviously, our institutions and programs need support so we can conduct research and teach the future business leaders of the world. Partners understand that (e.g., WCAI, above), of course. But, essentially, all we need is access.

And we thank you for your support.

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