University of Tennessee Case Study
The University of Tennessee houses one of the premier Division 1 athletic programs in the country. As a charter member of the Southeastern Conference, the spirit of the Vols’ long standing traditions is deeply rooted in loyal fans and supporters. With two of the largest on-campus venues in the nation, Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena, ticket sales are a significant revenue source and opportunity for the athletic department.
On July 1st, 2011, IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions (IMGL) partnered with Tennessee to be a part of its overall external strategy and help grow its tickets sales and contributions.
IMGL hired a strong staff to be the ticket sales engine at Tennessee. In the early phases of the partnership, the main focus was to fully integrate into the athletic department and identify identify the school’s needs and values. IMGL became one with Tennessee’s athletic department staff by becoming actively involved in external meetings on a regular basis. Once fully integrated, IMGL worked in partnership on a variety of external strategies:
- Offering input on season ticket prices and timelines
- Evaluating existing ticket packages
- Creating and implementing new ticket sales strategies
- Utilizing new or unused assets for group sales
- Redesign of ticket related web pages: www.utsports.com and www.uttix.com
IMGL built a proactive sales culture to grow Tennessee’s ticket business. IMGL’s on-site staff grew the athletic department’s presence in the local community by setting up displays at local events to inform customers of UT’s various ticket and group package options. Additionally, with Tennessee’s approval, IMGL incorporated new mini plan initiatives, group assets and season ticket pricing options. IMGL educated Tennessee fans about their options and emphasized the experience and added value in each purchase.
Equally important, another goal was to maintain the high level of customer service associated with Tennessee athletics. Showing genuine appreciation to prospects, customers and donors no matter their level of support, was a contributing factor to building relationships. IMGL staff visited fans in their seats to be sure they were enjoying their experience and thanked them for their support. Rick Jones, a youth group leader’s quote, sums up the experience by saying “Just wanted to thank you guys for Youth Football Day. My guys had a blast. Keep doing what you guys are doing. It was an amazing experience and we look forward to next year. Thanks again and anything I could possibly do to help with anything, just let me know.” This type of healthy relationship building increases new sales, renewals and even referrals.
As a result of our campaigns, IMGL has achieved substantial success for Tennessee ticket sales, renewals, donations and sales strategies:
- New season tickets sold since inception:
- 15,000 Football season tickets
- 2,750 Men’s Basketball season tickets
- 1,450 Women’s Basketball season tickets
- Over $2.5M in donation revenue
- Over $2M in new football season ticket revenue collected within the first 18 months of partnership
- Early sales timeline with dedicated ticket sales staff driving sales months ahead of season start
IMGL, along with Tennessee’s marketing department, has also instituted new group initiatives to help increase attendance for home athletic events. This season, Tennessee was the first IMGL partner to surpass 22,000 group football tickets. Top group successes of first-time theme days include:
- 2011 Band Day – over 2,500 tickets sold
- 2012 Spirit Day – over 3,000 tickets sold
- 2013 Youth Sports Day – over 1,400 tickets sold
- 2014 Fellowship Day – almost 800 tickets sold
- 2014 Scout & 4-H Day – over 1,700 tickets sold
IMGL has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with Tennessee and is a key part of its external revenue strategy. As a result of this shared success, the UT Athletic Department recently agreed to extend its partnership. “IMG Learfield Tickets is a key part of our external strategy at the University of Tennessee,” said Greg Hulen, Chief Development Officer, Associate Athletic Director, University of Tennessee Athletic Department. “Working collaboratively with the athletic department staff, IMG Learfield has helped us to grow our revenue while providing excellent customer service for Vol nation.”