Factors, Differential Market Effects, and Marketing Strategies in the Renewal of Season Tickets for Intercollegiate Football Games

By Pan, David W.; Baker, John A. W. | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Factors, Differential Market Effects, and Marketing Strategies in the Renewal of Season Tickets for Intercollegiate Football Games


Pan, David W., Baker, John A. W., Journal of Sport Behavior


Dempsey (2001) indicated that intercollegiate football and basketball games have served as a magnet to draw alumni and other supporters back to campuses. An attraction of this kind was the driving force behind the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) success in securing a multi-billion dollar contract with the CBS and ESPN sports networks to air numerous NCAA sports until the year 2013 (NCAA, 1999; NCAA, 2001). In the case of football, attendance at NCAA Events in 2003 reached a record 46 million. Of this, Division IA schools posted an all-time record of 35 million spectators, with an average of 45,447 for all 772 games played (Campbell, 2004).

To accommodate such a market demand in intercollegiate football at the NCAA Division I level, athletic administrators created a two-tier system for selling season tickets and general admission tickets for individual games. Given the fact that a stadium has a fixed capacity, an attempt to allocate a high proportion of seats to season ticket holders is a logical sales tactic to maintain a viable spectator base. This assumes that any unsold season tickets can always be re-allocated for general admission. A sufficient number of pre-sold season tickets not only guarantees a known income, but also provides a predictable market base to help athletic administrators secure other revenues from such sources as corporate sponsorships and alumni donations.

The competition for a share of a fixed amount of consumer expenditures is a challenge to all athletic administrators in today's dynamic and complex sport marketplace that is saturated with numerous competing alternatives. Season ticket holders for intercollegiate football, for example, often face the dilemma of whether or not to renew their tickets, and few athletic administrators are adequately prepared to overcome this type of situation. Instead, much of the blame for new renewing season tickets is attributed to the lack of a winning record. Mullin, Hardy, and Sutton (2000), criticized this single focus on winning as "sport marketing myopia," because it fails to identify the entire scope of consumer needs and wants when designing suitable marketing strategies to sell tickets. Athletic administrators should, therefore, understand that the decision of season ticket holders to renew or not renew season tickets is not based solely on a team's performance, but also on other factors associated with attending games such as market characteristics, and competing alternatives. This rationale prompted the undertaking of this study.

Theoretical Framework

The achievement of a marketing objective usually begins with the identification of an unmet need or want in a market segment so that a suitable product can be designed and marketed to that segment (Porter, 1985). While the classification of meaningful consumer characteristics is a prerequisite to market segmentation, market objectives can usually be achieved by deriving product attributes that are congruent with market needs and wants (Kotler, 2003).

The types of variables used to determine their effect on an individual's decision of whether or not to attend a sport event appear to be similar to those used in other industries. For example, the reasons why season ticket holders purchase intercollegiate football tickets are similar to why consumers buy products in general marketing. However, the usefulness of the information obtained in the sport industry is different from that in other industries. This is because the feedback relative to the expectations of season ticket holders towards the unique nature of sport cannot be fully transformed into corresponding marketing efforts to make the sport product congruent with consumer needs and wants. A sport marketer's responsibility, therefore, does not rest primarily upon the sport product core (the game itself) but rather on sport product extensions (other than those of the game itself) (Mullin, et al, 2000).

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