As college football attendance slumps, new ways to ticket may hold an answer – gpgmail

As college football’s second week draws to a close, one storyline has gotten an unusual amount of attention: the game’s slumping attendance numbers.

While opinions on cause of the 22-year-low in ticket sales vary, technology has been cited as a culprit by many pundits; including Northwestern’s head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who recently blamed the youth and their phones.

While there’s no question that highlight-filled phones create stiff competition for ticket sales, college football’s biggest attendance problem may be that it hasn’t adopted enough technology in its effort to fill seats.  At the start of the 2019 season, however, that appears to be changing, with the majority of top 25 teams moving away from their reliance on 3rd-party distribution via the secondary ticket market and inside season-ticket sales.

As a supplement, they’re introducing more products than ever using the kind of brand-centric, direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing that helped upstarts like Dollar Shave Club, Casper, and Warby Parker take share from some of the most entrenched brands on the planet.

While the ticket category is estimated to be around $20 billion across both the primary and secondary markets, if that number is going to grow over the next decade, direct team and artist brands will likely have to lead the charge by taking a page out of the DTC brands playbook. In addition to leveraging performance-based marketing channels like Facebook, Instagram and Google, schools will also need to move away from a one-size-fits-all message and focus on hyper-targeting consumer with new and more personalized products than ever before.

They’ll also need to make it cheaper.

In a recent poll by Front Office Sports, 58% of respondents cited ticket cost the top reason for not attending a college sporting event. According to TicketIQ, since 2012, the average price of top 25 college football tickets on the secondary market has increased by 24%.

Add to that the cost of parking, gas and food, and the cheapest option to see Saturday football live is a couple hundred dollars…most likely for a game that will be over in the first quarter. For a competitive rivalry, prices can easily be double or triple that. For the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn, the cheapest lower level seat will run $300, while USC’s semi-annual visit to Notre Dame starts at $254.

Image courtesy of Getty Images/Bernard Lang

One play to boost ticket sales is through group ticketing. It’s become a major driver of direct-to-fan marketing for college sports. According to Jake Bye, EVP at IMG Learfield–a leading outsourced ticket sales platform that works with over 40 colleges–group ticket scan rates can be as much as 20% higher than season or single-game tickets.

That may be one of the reasons that IMGL has entered into a national deal with ticket startup Fevo, which launched in 2016 and provides technology to help ticket sellers manage and customize group offers to any affinity group.  Using Fevo, IMGL has rolled out multiple new group products this season with themes including education day, tickets for veterans, youth sports, as well as cheer and dance–all cohorts that can be targeted directly.

Based on a report last year from the Wall Street Journal, ticket products that improve scan rates for purchased tickets may have arrived just in time.

According to the Journal, the difference in announced attendance and scanned tickets was as high as 50% for some major college football programs, and in the range of 10-15% for big-name schools like Alabama and Ohio State. That’s on top of the numbers reported by the NCAA and making headlines, which shows that FBS attendance is down 9% over the last 10 years.

In addition to innovating around products and price, teams looking to evolve their marketplace also must actually have tickets to sell. While that may sound like an obvious statement, it requires a break from the old-school definition of ticket-market success: Selling Out.

2018 was the year the sell-out died for some big name ticket brands like Taylor Swift and the Washington Redskins, and 2019 appears to be the year that college football is following suit. Of the top five teams in the 2019 TicketIQ top 25 only the University of Georgia is completely sold out, meaning that the secondary ticket market is the only place to get tickets.  Even blue chip programs like Notre Dame, Ohio State and the National Champs, Clemson, have unsold single-game tickets available directly through Ticketmaster or Paciolan, their primary ticketing platforms.

Even with single-game tickets to sell, new products in the market, and measurable, ROI-positive marketing channels to tap into, reversing the downward trend for college ticket sales isn’t a sure thing. It will take an entrepreneurial mindset and willingness to test a lot of new strategies, which can be an uphill battle, especially for bureaucratic-heavy state schools.

In a world that values experiences more than things, however, the platform that college sports has to work with is enviable.  Colleges likely have the deepest level of brand identification of any major sports category. Even the most ardent professional sports fans can’t claim to have ever actually been a Yankee or a Laker. For a large percentage of college ticket buyers, however, the opposite is true, and it’s the kind of brand loyalty that can’t be bought. For the 2019 season and beyond, the key to reversing the negative attendance trend will be figuring out how to sell it.

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The Pill Club is donating 5,000 units of emergency contraception – gpgmail

Eleven million women in the U.S. live more than an hour from an abortion clinic, a number expected to increase as facilities close up shop following new restrictions on women’s healthcare in several states.

Planned Parenthood and other leading nonprofits continue to put up a good fight while private “mission-driven” companies in the burgeoning women’s health tech sector are all talk and little action. But a new effort from The Pill Club, an Alphabet-backed birth control and prescription delivery startup, may lead to change in the nascent sector.

The Pill Club has partnered with Power To Decide, a nonprofit campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancies, to dole out free emergency contraception to women in need. Together they’ll distribute 5,000 units of a generic form of Plan B, a pill taken after sex to stop a pregnancy before it starts. For the next three months The Pill Club will also match all donations up to $10,000 made to Power To Decide’s Contraceptive Access Fund, which helps low-income women access contraception. Anyone can sign up now to receive free units.

The Pill Club’s decision to share resources with a nonprofit comes as several states this year have imposed new laws restricting or outlawing abortion procedures. Alabama, for example, earlier this year passed a Senate bill banning abortion in the state. Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and others have also OK’d new restrictions on abortion.

This is The Pill Club’s first effort to donate emergency contraception to populations in need, as well as its first partnership with a not-for-profit entity. Co-founder and chief executive officer Nick Chang says the startup thought long and hard about how it could be most helpful to women in this political climate.

“We thought, what can we do to support women in these states in ways that other companies may not be able to?,” Chang tells gpgmail. “This is the moment where private companies can really go out and benefit women in ways that may not be supported in other avenues. Since we have the means and ability to do it in ways that are more convenient and private, it’s our opportunity to drive access and support.”

Founded in 2014 and backed with more than $60 million in venture capital funding, one might argue The Pill Club should have forged partnerships like this from the get-go. Curious what efforts other well-funded birth control startups were making to support women in 2019, especially women in contraceptive deserts who are likely unfamiliar with the new line of consumer birth control brands, I reached out to The Pill Club’s competitors Nurx, a fellow birth control delivery company, and Hers, a line of women’s healthcare products owned by the billion-dollar startup Hims.

Both companies emphasized the fact that many of their customers live in Southern states, or the region most impacted by new limitations to abortion care, but didn’t mention any new efforts to increase access, like partnerships with nonprofits or donations. Hers provided this quote from the company’s co-founder Hilary Coles, which didn’t answer my question but did make clear the company is thinking about serving contraceptive deserts:

“At Hers, our mission is to provide women with more convenient and affordable access to the healthcare system,” Hers co-founders Hilary Coles said in a statement. “Approximately 3.5 million patients go without care because they cannot access transportation to their providers and 19.5 million women have reported not having access to a clinic that provides birth control specifically. That’s simply unacceptable. Closing the gaps caused by geographic barriers between patients and their doctors was one of the primary challenges we set out to address when founding Hers. We’re proud to be a resource for women nationwide, including those who live in contraceptive deserts who may not otherwise have access to the care they need. It’s crucial to Hers to be part of the solution in alleviating the pain points women experience within the healthcare system.” 

It’s not the responsibility of these companies to improve the political landscape of the U.S., but with $340 million in private capital shared between them, the trio does have a unique opportunity to innovate, share, collaborate and influence. After all, that’s what’s so great about healthtech; it brings new, innovative solutions to an industry characterized by antiquated systems and slow movers. For once, Silicon Valley’s “move fast and break things” mantra may be appropriately applied to a facet of healthcare. Women need sustained access to contraception and abortion care. Fast.

“This is the time when private companies can step in,” Chang concluded. “We can come in and help out and it’s our responsibility to do that.”

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