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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Teaching ethics in computer science the right way with Georgia Tech’s Charles Isbell – gpgmail


The new fall semester is upon us, and at elite private colleges and universities, it’s hard to find a trendier major than Computer Science. It’s also becoming more common for such institutions to prioritize integrating ethics into their CS studies, so students don’t just learn about how to build software, but whether or not they should build it in the first place. Of course, this begs questions about how much the ethics lessons such prestigious schools are teaching are actually making a positive impression on students.

But at a time when demand for qualified computer scientists is skyrocketing around the world and far exceeds supply, another kind of question might be even more important: Can computer science be transformed from a field largely led by elites into a profession that empowers vastly more working people, and one that trains them in a way that promotes ethics and an awareness of their impact on the world around them?

Enter Charles Isbell of Georgia Tech, a humble and unassuming star of inclusive and ethical computer science. Isbell, a longtime CS professor at Georgia Tech, enters this fall as the new Dean and John P. Imlay Chair of Georgia Tech’s rapidly expanding College of Computing.

Isbell’s role is especially given Georgia Tech’s approximately 9,000 online graduate students in Computer Science. This astronomical number of students in the CS field is the result of a philosophical decision made at the university to create an online CS master’s degree treated as completely equal to on-campus training.

Another counterintuitive philosophical decision made at Georgia Tech — for which Isbell proudly evangelized while speaking at conferences like the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Next, where I met him in June — is to admit every student who has the potential to earn a degree, rather than making any attempt at “exclusivity” by rejecting worthy candidates. In the coming years all of this may lead, Isbell projected at EmTech Next, to a situation in which up to one in eight of all people in the US who hold a graduate degree in CS will have earned it at Georgia Tech.

isbell 1

Isbell speaks to Gideon Lichfield, Editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review, at its EmTech Next conference in June. Image via MIT Technology Review.

“What they’ve done is pretty remarkable,” said Casey Fiesler, a 3x recent graduate of Georgia Tech and a founding faculty member and CS professor at the University of Colorado’s College of Media, Communication, and Information.

And it’s promising that Fiesler, who has become known in the tech ethics field for her comparative study of curricula and teaching approaches, told me, “ethics can be integrated into online [CS] courses just as easily as it can be into face to face courses.”

Still, it is as daunting as it is impressive to think about how one public school like Georgia Tech might be able to successfully and ethically educate such an enormous percentage of the students in arguably the most influential academic field in the world today. So I was glad to be able to speak to Isbell, an expert on statistical machine learning and artificial intelligence, for this gpgmail series on the ethics of technology.

Our conversation below covers the difference between equality and equity; cultural issues around women in American CS, and what it would look like for ethics to be so integrated into the discussion of computing that students and practitioners wouldn’t even think of it as ethics.

Greg Epstein: Around 1/8 of Computer Science graduate degrees will be delivered by your school in the coming years; you’re thinking inclusively about providing a relatively huge number of opportunities for people who would not otherwise get the opportunity to become computer scientists. How have you achieved that?

Charles Isbell: There’s an old joke about organizations: don’t tell me what your values are, show me your budget and then I’ll tell you what your values are. Because you spend money on the things that you care about.


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Kentucky Fried Chicken goes beyond chicken in partnership with Beyond Meat – gpgmail


Kentucky Fried Chicken is going beyond chicken with its latest partnership.

As other chicken chains vie for chicken sandwich dominance, KFC is doing its bit for the planet and taking its first fledgling steps to move beyond the chicken coop with a plant-based chicken nugget in partnership with Beyond Meat.

The first nuggets are going on sale at a single restaurant on August 27th in Smyrna, Ga.

KFC has already experimented with vegetarian offerings outside of the U.S. In the U.K. the company has an “Impostor Burger” on the menu that’s made from mushrooms and was developed with the English vcompany, Quorn.

Beyond Fried Chicken’s one-day-only offer from KFC is significantly different from the month-long citywide rollout that Burger King did for the Impossible Whopper (its Impossible Foods menu item) earlier this year. But it comes as most fast food chains are trying to come to grips with rising consumer demand for vegetarian alternatives to traditional menu items.

Beyond Meat’s foray into fast casual chicken comes after several big wins for the company with Dunkin Donuts, Del Taco, Tim Hortons, Carl’s Jr. and TGIFridays.

“KFC is an iconic part of American culture and a brand that I, like so many consumers, grew up with. To be able to bring Beyond Fried Chicken, in all of its KFC-inspired deliciousness to market, speaks to our collective ability to meet the consumer where they are and accompany them on their journey. My only regret is not being able to see the legendary Colonel himself enjoy this important moment,” said Ethan Brown, founder and CEO, Beyond Meat, in a statement.

Chicken is one of the next battlegrounds for the alternative protein purveyors, although they’re not just looking at plant-based chicken substitutes. Companies like Memphis Meats (and, reportedly, Just) are working on lab-cultured meat cultivated from animal cells.

News of KFC and Beyond Meat’s challenge to conventional chicken chains sent Beyond Meat’s stock price up more nearly 6%, or $8.28 per share, to close at $155.13.


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