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Virginia Tech
“Old Hat helped formulate a more strategic plan based on our data and feedback from our fans. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, they helped target areas that were untapped and unengaged. Their ability to make the complex seem simple was truly appreciated as we work to expand our reach throughout our region.” - Brad Wurthman, Sr. Assoc. AD, External Affairs Virginia Tech University

Virginia Tech – Virginia Tech Leans on Old Hat to Expand Ticket Base

Summary

The Virginia Tech athletic department was under the impression that season tickets for both football and men’s basketball were declining. The staff was interested in selling single ticket sales, then turning that list of single-game buyers into season ticket holders via a marketing campaign. The near-sellout crowds at football games created an electric environment for the team to play in front of. Meanwhile, the empty sections for basketball games left Hokies fans feeling they weren’t getting the most bang for their buck.

Challenge

Old Hat needed to help Va Tech figure out the strategy. They weren’t entirely sure where fans were coming from – but appreciated the fact they were at 97% capacity for home football games. They weren’t sure if they should charge more – but saw their numbers remain steady. They also knew they wanted to tap into the student’s energy more – but needed to ensure they were in the building for basketball before doing so.

We needed fan data to uncover nearby markets that the Va Tech staff could focus their messaging in.

Our Role

In the summer of 2018, we used Qualtrics to send out a community survey to 7500 fans that the Hokies had in their database. We also polled 38 members of the Hokies athletics staff to get their views of their own challenges. We coupled these surveys with fan data from the 2014-18 seasons. This data included names, ticket- and price-type purchases, as well as zip codes.

We then cross-referenced this data using Google Data Studio and Qualtrics.

Analysis of Sport-Specific Data

Football
Internally, staff thought ticket prices were too high. This matched what was being said in the community. Pricing was the biggest hurdle for new or casual fans to take part in the great gameday atmosphere.
 Staff believed people would be interested in attending games because the Hokies had been to a bowl game for 25 consecutive seasons.

However, winning games, the fans told us, was not the most important reason they supported the team or came to games; they came for the atmosphere and because it was a shared community event.

Va Tech football games live up to expectations and the demand for tickets is high. Because of this, there is an increased sense of value with season ticket holders. However, we found that long-time season ticket holders believed their loyalty was not as appreciated as it once was.

The staff feared that in 7-10 years the fan base would not be as dependable as they are now to buy tickets and donate to the Hokie Club. As current fans age out, they aren’t being replaced because new and younger fans believe they simply can’t afford it.

When it comes to student attendance, Virginia Tech has increased steadily each year since 2015.

Men’s Basketball

People don’t travel to watch basketball games like they do football games as there are “too many night games” and “too many” mid-week night games. In fact, respondents told us there are too many games to attend period. If a fan lives in Blacksburg, however, their availability for a mid-week game is higher. The data suggested these are people who should want to take part in the Va Tech Experience whether they went to school there or not.

Old Hat recommended that Va Tech focuses on getting the locals out to Cassell Coliseum so they could experience the atmosphere and find a way to connect to the University.

At this same time, student tickets were starting to increase as well, helping to add to the overall ambiance of the arena.

Our research concluded Va Tech was selling more season tickets but making less money. Some people were dropping the higher-end ticket option and moving towards a cheaper alternative. Fans told us they weren’t able to attend ALL games but didn’t feel as bad missing a game if they were paying less.

Single-game revenue was increasing as fans were dropping season tickets and buying a single when their schedule permitted them to attend.

In other words, the most affordable ticket option was selling more while the most expensive option was selling less.

Solutions

We jumped into the data and helped identify the top 10 markets (for each sport) that Va Tech could realize the most success from. For the basketball campaign, we focused on areas within a 45-minute drive to the arena.

We found:

  • Christiansburg was filled with younger families with higher incomes. We recommended they target both football and basketball ticket sales here as it’s only 15 minutes from Blacksburg.
  • Despite having lower income levels than Christiansburg, Radford was another potential market to focus on as it was 30 minutes away.
  • We found higher income levels in Richmond and Virginia Beach, but they are three and five hours away, respectively, making midweek basketball games almost impossible to attend.
  • We suggested that they reduce the number of games in the mini plans.
  • Offer more dynamic pricing options to give all fans the ability to come to games but still allow the department to make a profit. 

Results

Game atmosphere for football is why they come – fans even told us that the atmosphere was more important than seeing the team win. Conversely, the game day experience for basketball isn’t on par and fans “felt” it. While they are at 97% capacity for football, it’s important to expand their base so the fans that are aging out of the Hokie Club can be replaced.

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