Q&A with Duke’s Director of Football Marketing, Chris Alston and Executive General Manager Bradley Reynolds

Last year Duke Athletics launched a long-term marketing campaign, “Bull City Proud”, as a way to re-brand and engage the greater Durham community. An Ambassador Team was developed and responsible for attending community events from May to October to promote Duke Athletics.

In conjunction with “Bull City Proud” a new season ticket initiative called the “277 Club” was announced.  The exclusive new season ticket promotion targeted Durham residents and was focused on driving new season ticket sales. The name of the promotion came from Durham zip codes which all begin with “277” and we tied in 4 GA season tickets + tee shirts for $277.  Must be new season tickets, must purchase 4 or more, and was “non-renewable” at that introductory rate.   In 2017, we sold 605 new season tickets via this promotion.


IMGL: Where did the 277 Club idea come from? Why?

Alston: In an effort to grow our fan base and with two other large universities in the surrounding towns, we have decided to focus a majority of our marketing efforts on those people who live within the Durham city limits. This led to our overall marketing campaign “Bull City Proud” and the The 277 Club was an offshoot of the campaign and gave us a way for all Durham residents (277XX Zip Code) to join us at a very affordable price starting at $277 for 4 season tickets.


IMGL: How did you market the package once it came to fruition?

Alston: We did a lot of targeted marketing in the Durham community. This included a mass mailing to Durham residents with a letter from Head Coach David Cutcliffe describing the offer, trackable digital advertising and print advertising in the local newspaper. We also developed an ambassador program along the lines of a street team that set up at over 40 Durham events leading up to the season to help spread the word about the program.


IMGL: What expectations did you have for year 1? How did the package line up?

Alston: We expected this program to give us a bump in season tickets, which it certainly did. Not only did this promotion yield the highest number of new season tickets holders that we have had in many years, but it also generated a good amount of buzz in the community. The key now is retaining those 2017 purchasers into the 2018 season.


IMGL: What were the results from year 1 and how are sales so far for year 2?

Reynolds: During the first year of the program, we sold over 600 new season tickets through this particular initiative. Ultimately the success of the campaign led us to expand the offer into even more sections or pricing tiers for 2018.  This expansion has led to many people, renewals and new sales alike, upgrading into reserved seats rather than opting for the base general admission seating.  It’s still early in the 2018 sales campaign; that said, we are well on pace to surpass last year’s new season ticket total and grow our season ticket revenue by a substantial amount.


IMGL: What changes or improvements did you make for the plan for year 2?

Alston: We initially were not going to offer the 277 Club pricing as a renewable rate for 2018, but decided that we wanted to incentivize those past purchasers by offering them the same price in year 2 if they purchased by our first priority deadline of April 13th. Following the deadline the price did have a slight increase.

In addition, last year the 277 Club was seated in general admission sections only. This year, we have expanded the seating options to offer a discount to Durham residents in 4 different pricing tiers throughout the stadium.

Finally, last year we offered four 277 Club branded  t-shirts with every package ordered. The logistics it took for the initial distribution and exchanging shirt sizes took a lot of time for the marketing and ticket office staffs. This year we are  looking to offer other incentives with the packages that will be easier to manage.


IMGL: How have the new football sales and accounts impacted other sports? 

Reynolds: It’s definitely had a positive impact on building awareness for other sports.  As sales experts, we are able to capitalize on every conversation we have by engaging the fans who are interested in the 277 Club with opportunities for season and group tickets to other sports like women’s basketball, soccer, and lacrosse that carry similar, affordable options.


IMGL: What is your vision for the 277 Club / Duke Football moving forward?

Alston: The Durham market continues to be one of the fastest growing in the nation. With new families moving to the area daily, our goal is to capture them as they arrive and get them to experience our newly renovated stadium at an affordable price year after year. As we continue to be out in the community with our ambassador program, this gives them and our ticket sales team a great talking point to get conversations started.


For more details on the 277 Club contact Bradley Reynolds at [email protected]