By: James Maddox
Social media is becoming increasingly more important for sports fans around the world. It can be as easy as ‘liking’ a page on Facebook and instantly gaining access to news updates, exclusive photos, and creative video content. It’s becoming more apparent, however, that fans are not the only one’s reaping the benefits of social media. Many teams and universities in general are seeing increases in ticket sales, donations from donors, and increases in overall revenue. Does social media deserve some of the credit for these increases?
The benefits of social media are enormous when capitalized in an effective and efficient manner. It’s ultimately a free tool that allows you to connect and engage with fans and followers by sharing news, posting video content, and hosting contests. Some schools, however, take it a step further and use their social media platforms to promote events and ultimately drive ticket sales.
For example, if you take a quick visit to the Facebook page of the University of Tennessee athletics, you will see a picture promoting an upcoming game for the women’s basketball team with a web link on the bottom of the page: UTtix.com. That picture alone had over 200 likes and 20 shares. Thus, the university was able to direct a portion of their 250,000 followers to their ticketing website, allowing fans to not only purchase tickets for that women’s basketball game, but any other sport that they may be interested in.
While visiting the website, fans may find that they are interested in season tickets for the upcoming football season, an excellent source of revenue for any athletics program. By simply posting a photo through social media, the University of Tennessee may have been able to lock in a future football season ticket holder, all for the beautiful price of ‘free’.
Athletics programs across the country are doing the same thing the University of Tennessee is doing across several different platforms. For example, the Louisville Cardinals athletic program is using Pinterest among several different platforms to push ticket sales. There is a board on the UofL page titled ‘Promotions’ in which ads for upcoming games are posted and includes ticket prices, links to other social media pages, and links to the ticketing website.
Additionally, the University of Texas uses Twitter to push ticket sales to fans through several techniques. They recently ran a contest for the best fan photo with the winner receiving tickets to the Texas vs. UCLA men’s basketball game. Another tweet lets followers know that tickets are going fast but still available for the volleyball team that is competing in the NCAA Austin Regional this upcoming weekend.
Whether it’s Tennessee on Facebook, Louisville on Pinterest, or Texas on Twitter, it becomes quite clear that some schools are using social media the right way.
After seeing how some of the elite programs in the country are using social media to drive ticket sales, it begs the follow question: does it work? Are universities seeing increases in athletics revenue, primarily in ticket and donor revenue, due to social media? Social media is a very small factor in the grand scheme of revenue for college athletics, especially when you look at factors such as the wealthy donors in Austin, Texas, and the new KFC Yum Center! generating revenue for the Louisville Cardinals.
However, it’s hard to say that social media hasn’t positively impacted athletics programs across the country. Though in the past it may have been more relevant and useful to call individual donors to gauge interest in purchasing or renewing season ticket packages, programs can now use social media platforms to get the job done. They can reach out to more fans and donors at the same time by tweeting the deadline for ticket renewal on Twitter or posting the link to the website in which you can purchase season tickets on Facebook.
Many programs send out emails regarding ticket packages, season tickets, and upcoming promotions. However, you have to wonder how many of those emails get overlooked or aren’t even given the opportunity because they fall into the spam folder. Social media fixes this problem.
The University of Michigan is a prime example of a program that is dominating social media in college athletics and the results of their social media campaigns confirm this. Every year the Wolverines athletic department holds a social media-only ticket presale for the football team during a two-week period in July. According to Paciolan, the team generated approximately $75,000 in 2011 and was looking to do even better in 2012. With no signs of social media slowing down they did just that by nearly doubling their number in 2011 and raking in over $140,000.
Despite a near 100% increase the number is not so significant considering the athletics department revenue and even football-only revenue is well into the tens of millions. However the impact goes beyond the financials of this successful campaign. The landscape of social media in sports and ticket sales dramatically shifts with drives like this. The idea of making season tickets literally a ‘Like’ away makes it easier for potential buyers and opens up marketing possibilities for the University of Michigan athletic department as well as programs across the country.