Students walking around a higher education campus

Revenue generation has always been a significant focus for college and university athletic programs, but the spotlight is shining even brighter as costs associated with these programs continue to rise. This may be increasingly important to public universities as state subsidies are dwindling.

In recent years, many college and university athletic programs have substantially increased their revenue through enhanced fundraising, licensing, media rights and partnerships with the secondary ticket market. However, effectively implementing these efforts requires additional resources and personnel, and establishing new business relationships and negotiating contracts can be time-consuming.

Ticket sales—a traditional source of athletic program revenue—is a faster way to generate money and consists of selling tickets at a higher price or selling more of the existing ticket inventory.

Some athletic programs have taken the first approach and applied dynamic ticket pricing (DTP) strategies to increase profits by charging more for high-demand games. Under this method, athletic programs can generate additional profits by reducing ticket prices for less popular games, thus selling more tickets. However, to successfully implement DTP strategies, it’s necessary to consider a number of variables in the ticket-pricing equation, such as the quality of the opposing team, time of day, day of week, specific time in the season and seating location. Coordinating so many moving parts can be complicated, so DTP strategies may not be the most efficient way to enhance revenue.

The second option—using the existing available-for-sale ticket inventory—is the “low-hanging fruit” that can be more easily harvested to boost ticket revenue. The two most unused inventory categories are “held tickets” and tickets from donor “turnback” programs.

BKD recently provided consulting services to a major university with a highly successful men’s basketball program. The engagement team found that many premium location tickets were being put on hold for basketball program members at the beginning of the season and were never used or released for sale. In some cases, floor and near-floor tickets for high-demand games were, in essence, wasted. This athletic program also had a donor turnback program that allowed donors to turn in unused tickets for a credit to their priority point account. The goal was to have these tickets available to court other potential donors—or for resale. However, in most cases, the donors weren’t turning the tickets in until a few hours before the game, making it difficult for the program’s fundraising function to sell those tickets or use them for prospective donors.

BKD professionals applied data analytics to the information housed in the athletic program’s ticketing software and quickly identified caches of unused held tickets for the men’s basketball and football programs. The team also investigated the timing issue related to the return of the donor tickets. BKD’s data analysts helped management introduce policy and process changes to address those issues and helped implement a reporting structure to monitor those issues going forward.

Data analytics can be a powerful tool for managing athletic programs. Ticketing inventory analysis can help quickly trend and relate information across seasons, ticket holders and even sales of tickets through secondary markets, answering questions management didn’t even realize they should be asking.

BKD has successfully used data analytics to identify areas of ticketing fraud and abuse within many athletic programs. Our experienced data analysts can analyze your ticketing software platforms to help you quickly and efficiently identify underused ticket inventory and harvest the low-hanging fruit to generate more revenue.

For more information, contact your BKD advisor.

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