Outsourcing has become more and more common with tougher economic times as companies do what they can to maximize profit. And now it seems even college ticketing offices are adopting the practice, spurred on by loss of their fan base in recent years as well as both economic and technological changes.
A number of athletic departments at big-name sports colleges are seeing the benefits of using third-party companies to sell their tickets. This marks a change in perspective from years past, when schools like the University of Tennessee would simply build bigger stadiums and then sit back and let the season ticket orders roll in. But with the school seeing season ticket rolls drop from 78,000 to 67,000 in the past nine years, there was a feeling that something had to be done.
Enter new companies like IMG College Ticket Solutions and the Aspire Group, which set up camp in a college’s athletic offices and start working through lists of faculty, staff, alumni, parents of current students and past ticket purchasers to bring the hard sell to college ticketing.
The economy, with its impact on fans’ disposable income, has certainly contributed to the emptying of stadiums in recent years. But according to some, also sharing the blame are higher gas prices and improvements with high definition televisions that are beginning to make home viewing a reasonable alternative to attending a game.
The weak economy and improvements in TVs are not the only factors affecting ticket sales. Chris Fuller, Senior Associate Athletic Director for external operations at Tennessee, told MarketWatch about yet another source of competition now existing in college sales: “There’s been some real changes in how tickets are purchased, especially the secondary market with websites such as StubHub and Ticket Exchange. We wanted to be proactive.”
The list of colleges making use of such companies is growing. Tennessee is the third Division I college to work with IMG, according to MarketWatch, with Duke and San Jose State already on board. Twelve schools in the NCAA’s elite Football Bowl Subdivision have outsourced their ticketing in just the past three months.
Some schools are choosing to be proactive by working directly with the secondary market. Online ticket resale marketplace StubHub recently signed a number of agreements with schools like Clemson and the University of Michigan to provide their fan-to-fan ticket exchanges, allowing these schools to get a piece of the secondary market pie that they would otherwise lose.
Outsourcing the profit-making sectors of athletic departments is nothing new, particularly for elite college football programs. Merchandise and concession deals, as well as those for licensing rights and marketing rights, are well entrenched in big-name college sports. But this new drive to privatize ticketing efforts reveals just how much pressure is on these athletic department’s to generate revenue, and stable revenue, for their institutions.