NC State Football Look To Optimize Ticket Pricing, Fan Experience in 2019

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(*Old Hat is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Most athletic departments and professional teams face a fairly simple question: How can you make as much as possible from ticket sales while filling the stadium? North Carolina State University (NC State) examined this question with their football program during the 2018 season.

NC State began a partnership with Old Hat back in October to do a marketing research and pricing optimization study for Wolfpack football season tickets, single game tickets, and parking. To execute this, Old Hat gathered current and historical data on football season ticket holders from NC State. They surveyed over 17,000 fans who had previously purchased tickets and asked poll questions at home football games. Fans were asked about their opinion of current NC State ticket prices as well as what aspects of the game-day atmosphere they loved most.

Old Hat came back with ideal price points for different areas of the stadium to ultimately allow NC State to optimize revenue, donations, and capacity. One key finding from the survey data was that fans understood NC State’s price points, as they were consistent with other entertainment options in the area. Of the 4,500 responses received, only 27 mentioned ticket price as an area that needed improvement at NC State.

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“It’s been an all-encompassing project to date,” says Colin Hargis, Senior Associate Athletic Director of Marketing and Ticket Services. “Overall, fan feedback was positive for us in regards to fan experience, tailgating, and game presentation.”

Old Hat also discovered that the highly sought-after midfield section of the stadium could withstand a slight-to-moderate price increase. Other areas within the stadium could be priced down marginally, such as the upper-level corner sections. Decreasing that price point could lead to an increase sales volume. Based on these findings and a relative lack of concern regarding pricing from survey responders, NC State plans to make changes to their existing seating model.

“The Wolfpack Club has traditionally sold lifetime rights seats, which are basically personal seat licenses,” Hargis explains. “For example, a donor could purchase the rights to a set seat location, and once they make the required donation, they own that location for their lifetime. We’ve started to move away from that practice and go towards more multi-year contracts for seats, which are becoming a little more commonplace nowadays.”

Most comments in the fan survey were related to overall fan experience. For example, some fans mentioned difficulties finding their way to certain parts of the stadium. That direct feedback helps Hargis and NC State craft policies that better adapt to their consumers’ needs.

“We, as employees, really know our way around the stadium, as do a lot of our season ticket holders,” Hargis remarks. “But for our single-game ticket buyers, it could be more difficult. So putting up some additional signage might be a good opportunity for us, as well as adding some concessions options for fans with more specific dining preferences or allergies.”

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Prior to changing their strategy for future football seasons, the university thought it would be worth it to find a third party who could come in and do this study so that NC State could be certain that they had an adequate amount of data to justify a shift. It also helps to have knowledge from the fans directly influence the strategy in order to benefit the organization in both the short and long term.

Based on Old Hat’s analysis, making small tweaks to their overall strategy would allow NC State to increase revenue as well as create a more enticing game-day product for Wolfpack fans. For Hargis and the rest of NC State’s athletic department, gaining this perspective from an outside party creates to a clearer path to continued improvement.

“I think we can become numb, because we live this stuff day in and day out,” Hargis added. “So every now and then, it’s beneficial to get that honest and unbiased viewpoint from a third party like Old Hat. Not everything that we found in the study can be acted on for a few reasons, but it does give you an idea of what you can improve on or start planning for down the road.”

Read Old Hat’s full case study on NC State Football here.

Old Hat are experts at helping athletic professionals achieve a more informed perspective on their fans’ behavior and decision-making process. To learn more, visit OldHatCreative.com.