Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Colorado State Rams Form Partnership With The Aspire Group For Ticket Marketing, Sales and Service Support

Posted on: April 21st, 2015

Colorado State University Athletics is pleased to announce a partnership with The Aspire Group to utilize Aspire’s expertise in enhancing ticket revenue and providing Rams fans with world-class customer service and fan engagement. To accomplish these goals, Aspire will work with CSU Athletics on ticket marketing, sales and service, market research insights on the CSU Rams fan base, strategic consulting through yield management and selling season tickets for the anticipated on-campus football stadium scheduled to open in 2017.

“We are excited to work hand-in-hand with The Aspire Group to improve our ticketing operation, gain a 360 view of our fans and create a memorable experience at each home sporting event that will have our fans coming back for years to come,” said Ben Lorenzen, Senior Associate A.D. for Sales, Marketing and Communications for CSU Athletics.

Starting in May 2015, CSU fans will experience the first of many ticketing improvements with a Fan Relationship Management Center (FRMC) in Fort Collins, operated and managed by The Aspire Group. The CSU FRMC will include a Director, a Manager of Database Marketing & Analytics, and a minimum of five Sales & Service Consultants, all dedicated to providing Rams fans with the highest level of customer service. Aspire’s Regional-VP, C.J. Wiatr, will oversee this client relationship and work with CSU Athletics to make sure goals and objectives are met at the CSU FRMC.

“We are consistently able to provide our partner schools with optimal results when trusted to manage all Ticket Marketing, Sales and Service initiatives,” said Alan Pandiani, Manager of Client Partner Development for The Aspire Group. “This full-scale partnership with CSU Athletics is the first of its kind in the Mountain West Conference and in particular for a new stadium project, which has the potential to make a significant impact in the Front Range community.”

The Aspire Group had produced highly successful results selling for new collegiate stadiums/arenas at Tulane Athletics’ 30,000 seat Yulman Stadium (opened in 2014) and Georgia Tech Athletics’ 8,600 seat McCamish Pavilion (opened in 2013-14 basketball season), among others.

For inquiries or further questions on this partnership, please contact Alan Pandiani at alan.pandiani@theaspriegroupinc.com

About The Aspire Group

The Aspire Group is a global sports and entertainment marketing firm that specializes in enhancing every stream of revenue and building lifelong fans for our clients through superb fan engagement and service. The Aspire Group currently works with client partners in North America, Europe and Australia providing ongoing strategic and implementation support in ticketing, consulting, research, marketing enhancement, and sport investment optimization. The Aspire Group has become the global leader in outsourced revenue enhancement with over 130 sports and entertainment properties who have trusted Aspire to drive revenue, attendance and enterprise value. Recently, The Aspire Group was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Top Ten Best Places To Work For In Sports.”

 

 

Historic Penn Relays Partners with The Aspire Group for 121st Track and Field Competition

Posted on: March 27th, 2015

Starting March 2nd, The Aspire Group began an eight-week remote ticket sales campaign out of their USA National Sales Center for the Penn Relays – the nation’s oldest track and field event which is taking place April 23 – 25 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.

Tickets for the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States will be sold by three Aspire sales consultants, equipped with the highest quality ticket sales training in the sport and entertainment industry.

“While their proven sales results speak for themselves, we wanted to partner with The Aspire Group for the exemplary customer service that they can provide to our fans. Every year, the Penn Relays get better and better. We are looking forward to The Aspire Group helping us to continue this forward momentum,” said Dave Johnson, Director of The Penn Relays.

The Aspire Group has a close connection to this event having had two employees participate in the event. Bill Duffy, COO, ran in the Penn Relays during his time at Princeton and more recently Alan Pandiani, Manager of Client Partner Development, ran during his collegiate career at Providence College.

“Having participated in this event in my collegiate career at Providence College, I can personally say this was one of my most memorable experiences in sports. Outside of the Olympic Games, this is truly the pinnacle of the sport in terms of atmosphere, tradition, and competition. I couldn’t be more proud to have our company supporting this historic event, and we intend to deliver tremendous results,” stated Alan Pandiani, Aspire’s Manager of Client Partner Development.

About Penn Relays

First run in 1895, The Penn Relays is the oldest and largest track and field event in the United States. Contested every year during the last weekend of April, the Relays bring in over 20,000 competitors from around the globe to compete in front of over 110,000 fans during the three days of the carnival. Over 250 individuals who have competed in The Penn Relays have gone on to win Olympic Gold medals during their careers.

For more information, visit www.thepennrelays.com

About The Aspire Group

The Aspire Group is a global sports and entertainment marketing firm that specializes in enhancing every stream of revenue and building lifelong fans for our clients through superb fan engagement and service. The Aspire Group currently works with client partners in North America, Europe and Australia providing ongoing strategic and implementation support in ticketing, consulting, research, marketing enhancement, and sport investment optimization. The Aspire Group has become the global leader in outsourced revenue enhancement with over 130 sports and entertainment properties who have trusted Aspire to drive revenue, attendance and enterprise value.

For the 2nd Year In A Row The Aspire Group Helps Honda Battle of the Bands (HBOB) Set New Attendance Highs

Posted on: March 18th, 2015

Urban Sports and Entertainment Group, Extends Relationship With Aspire Through 2016

Urban Sports and Entertainment Group, a marketing firm that specializes in the multicultural marketplace, hired The Aspire Group to provide Ticket Marketing, Sales and Service support for the 2014 & 2015 Honda Battle of the Bands (HBOB). Since partnering with Aspire, HBOB revenues have seen a 35 % increase and more recently, the 2015 HBOB event had the highest attendance in 5 years.

“We are thrilled to be working with The Aspire Group moving forward. Creating a Fan Relationship Management Center so our fans have a go to person has been invaluable. We have gained strategic insight as it relates to our fans which drives revenue and enhances their overall experience,” stated Tom Grabowski, President & CEO of Urban Sports & Entertainment Group.

Aspire’s 2015 campaign for the 13th annual Honda Battle of the Bands was 16 weeks long with three sales consultants selling out of Aspire’s National Sales Center in Atlanta. Aspire also provided strategic intelligent e-marketing support to digitally prequalify leads and improve the sales efficiency of the sales consultants.

“Success came easy when we had the chance to partner with such a great organization like Urban Sports and their team,” stated Darren Arnold, Director of USA National Sales Center. “Building on the positives from our first campaign in 2014 coupled with our team’s diligent work and added strategic e-marketing efforts, we feel led to a great fan experience in 2015. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg where this partnership can go.”

Launched in 2003, Honda Battle of the Bands (HBOB) is an annual marching band competition which features performances by bands from historically black colleges and universities. The showcase takes place in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia every January. Urban Sports and Entertainment Group oversees the promotion and execution of each event and through 2016 The Aspire Group will continue to provide Ticket Marketing, Sales and Service support.
About The Aspire Group
The Aspire Group is a global sports and entertainment marketing firm that specializes in enhancing every stream of revenue and building lifelong fans for our clients through superb fan engagement and service. The Aspire Group currently works with client partners in North America, Europe and Australia providing ongoing strategic and implementation support in ticketing, consulting, research, marketing enhancement, and sport investment optimization. The Aspire Group has become the global leader in outsourced revenue enhancement with over 130 sports and entertainment properties who have trusted Aspire to drive revenue, attendance and enterprise value.

Forbes Names The Aspire Group One Of The Ten Best Organizations to Work For In Sports

Posted on: March 11th, 2015

Forbes has named The Aspire Group as one of the “The Top 10 Best Organizations To Work For In Sports” based on employee satisfaction, work-life balance and opportunity for career growth.

Dozens of executives and individuals at all levels of sports, from entry-level sales staff to team presidents, as well as top executive recruiters and university leaders who’ve trained countless generations of top industry professionals, were interviewed to determine who would made the list. The Aspire Group, along with other notable organizations such as the National Football League, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Cavaliers and The Ohio State University Athletic Department, were included in this list based on their dedication to employee development and ongoing success in the sports & entertainment industry.

The Aspire Group follows the Disney Loyalty Profit Chain philosophy of putting leadership excellence first which in return maximizes employee satisfaction, which then leads to the highest level of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and finally profitability/ sustainability. This philosophy has contributed to Aspire offering employees the highest quality ticket marketing, sales and service training, developing “Raise Your Game” a unique executive development program which is so advanced that it is in the process of approval for graduate school credit by major state universities in the USA and England, and has resulted in leaders and staff retention numbers that far exceed sport sales and service industry standards.

“With 14 new client partners already secured in 2015, the industry is already aware of just how good and productive the Aspire staff are. We are immensely proud of this recognition from Forbes and grateful for Aspire’s inclusion within this most prestigious group. This award will no doubt further increase the size and quality of our recruiting pool as the broader world of sport more widely recognizes what our staff already knows, Aspire is a superb place to launch and further develop one’s personal brand and achieve the fullest career potential” stated Dr. Bernie Mullin, Chairman & CEO of The Aspire Group.

To read the full article and see what other organizations made The Top 10 Best Places to Work in Sports, click here.

Welcome to Club Erwin, where UT’s changing the gameday experience

Posted on: February 16th, 2015

Austin American-Statesman

By: Brian Davis

The person most responsible for turning up the music, finding DJs and bringing fireworks to Texas athletic events is Felisa Israel, a striking brunette just under 6 feet tall with copper-toned skin, charisma and someone who, quite frankly, got a little freaked when the locals refer to her as ma’am. She’s from LA.
Israel, who has a long background in working with NBA teams, had never really spent much time in Austin. She knew of Texas men’s athletic director Steve Patterson from their days together at the Portland Trail Blazers. When Patterson came to Texas in the fall of 2013, he saw what most Longhorns fans have known for years. The Frank C. Erwin Jr. Special Events Center has about the same dull, lackluster basketball atmosphere as the name implies. No offense to the progressive former Texas regent, of course.

So Patterson hired Israel to, as she said, “sprinkle some professional sports dust on what’s going on here.”

Welcome to Club Erwin. Patterson didn’t want to know what was planned. “They told me they had some good things coming and they wanted to surprise me,” he said. Israel went to work. “The first thing that came into my head was how am I going to incorporate Kevin Durant’s MVP speech?,” Israel said.

The arena staff was incredibly helpful with some out-of-the-box ideas. What about lasers? What about video mapping, the hot new NBA craze? That’s where an image is projected onto the floor to give it a three-dimensional look. Katy Perry used it during the Super Bowl. But Israel said 90 seconds of video mapping costs $100,000. Per game. “I said let’s get a $7,500 disco ball and start with that,” Israel said. A new pregame video featuring Durant, a darkened arena, lights bouncing off the mirror ball and some on-court pyrotechnics create a completely different environment lasting 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

“I think they’ve tried to embrace who we are. I think it’s awesome,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes, now in his 17th season. “I know I appreciate it, and I know the players do.”

Listening to feedback

Remember that survey the Longhorn Foundation sent out in September asking questions about the game-day experience? An astounding 5,500 people responded. From the sound of things, Texas fans just let ‘em have it. “In every single aspect of our business, we are listening,” said Steve Hank, Texas’ chief revenue officer. Overwhelmingly, the survey results said, “the game experience in men’s basketball was not where it needed to be.” Hank promises the athletic department will conduct the survey every year to track improvements. Patterson made a lot of die-hard fans nervous when he first took over in November 2013 because he suggested changes were coming. “Everyone’s afraid of change. Everyone’s afraid of the unexpected,” Israel said.

Club Erwin is a prime example of Patterson’s laser-like focus on improving customer relations and the fan experience. That’s what Disney Institute officials stressed during their meetings with Texas administrators in Orlando, Fla. “We can’t control what happens on the field, but we can control how people feel,” said Brent Centlivre, Texas’ account manager at the Disney Institute. “Even if it’s a close game and we lost, did someone thank me for coming? Did someone say they appreciate me being here? “I’m going to remember how someone treated one of my daughters as opposed to whether Texas won the game,” he added.

Does winning or losing change how one feels about the game experience? Possibly. Everyone loves to say they were at the 2005 national championship game at the Rose Bowl. Not too many brag about being there in 2009. Cliff Mountain, the CEO of Open Labs, has been a Texas football and basketball season ticket holder for more than 15 years. He truly enjoys the new atmosphere and understands what Patterson is trying to accomplish. “Austin have a lot of places to spend their entertainment dollars,” Mountain said. “The fan experience has to deliver something incremental. Part of the incremental piece is winning.”

Bringing fans back

Reporters who cover Texas football games would be aghast at the scene in the Royal-Memorial Stadium press box. It now looks like a Wall Street trading floor, with dozens of computer workstations, dual monitors and more than 20 people smiling and dialing. The press box inside Bellmont Hall is now the home to “the largest customer service and sales team in collegiate athletics,” said Bernie Mullin, CEO of The Aspire Group. “It’s not even close.”

Patterson initially signed a one-year services contract with Aspire to outsource Texas’ ticket selling operations. Texas and The Aspire Group are now engaged in talks to sign a multiyear extension, according to Texas officials.

The partnership must be working. Men’s basketball ticket sales are way up. Sales of six-game mini plans are up an eye-popping 325 percent, from 277 packages sold during the 2013-14 season to 1,129 this season. The Aspire Group receives a monthly $15,000 management fee, according to the initial contract obtained by the American-Statesman. Ticket representatives, many of whom are mid-to-late 20s college graduates getting their first break in the sports business, receive commissions based on their weekly season-ticket sales totals. And Aspire engages in revenue sharing once Texas goes over 10 percent of its annual sales goals. No matter how many tickets Aspire sells, the company is capped at 15 percent of revenues. Every season ticket holder is assigned to a sales rep. If you are a Texas season ticket holder, odds are someone has likely tried to call you.

Carly Reger handles service inquiries and manages those responsible for season ticket retention. Max Kozinn oversees new sales. Mino Solomon runs the entire department. All of them came to UT with some kind of professional sports backgrounds. If you send an email to complain about something, these three will probably read it. “Today, there was a lady who sent an email that said my floor at the Erwin Center has been sticky since the beginning of the season,” Reger said. “Within five minutes, we’ve got somebody at the Erwin Center headed to mop the floor where she sits.”

So what about football? 

It’s clear that changing that fan atmosphere at men’s and women’s basketball is paying off. But what about football? “Wabash Cannonball, March Grandioso, Texas Fight, that is not going away,” Hank said. “We are not here to denigrate, ruin, get rid of the traditions that have made the University of Texas great. But you know what? Every tradition started somewhere.” Israel has carte blanche to try new things this fall at Royal-Memorial Stadium. As a self-professed “band geek,” she smartly brings up ways to go about highlighting the Texas band. “I definitely want to enhance it. I want to make it more fun, make them more of a presence than they already are,” she said. School officials have already confirmed to the Statesman that Jet Pack Guy won’t return in 2015. Trey Goldsmith, longtime marketing consultant for Mighty Fine Burgers, is excited about what opportunities lie ahead at Texas athletic events.

“The fact they’re willing to do a jet pack says to me they’re willing to do almost anything,” Goldsmith said.

So what’s next?

“Alien spaceship from Mars coming to drop off hamburgers!,” Goldsmith declared. “Maybe not.”

 

To read the full article, click here.

U.S.-Based Aspire’s Partnership With National Rugby League Off To Strong Start

Posted on: February 11th, 2015

Sports Business Daily Global

By: Tyler Everett

U.S.-based sport and entertainment marketing firm The Aspire Group’s first foray into Australia is off to a strong start. Led by Aspire Dir of Australian Operations Ben Pincus, the firm opened a center based at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Dec. 9 devoted exclusively to outbound calls selling National Rugby League season tickets — “memberships,” as they’re referred to in Australia. The Fan Relationship Management Center, the first of its kind in the NRL, features 10 sales consultants, two apiece representing NRL sides St. George Illawarra Dragons, Canterbury Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers. Pincus is encouraged by the pilot program’s results to date — more than 2,000 memberships have already been sold since December — and confident the concerted effort in this area will continue to pay off. It took Pincus, FRMC Manager Ryan Burgess, who manages the call center, outside consultant Marcus Zeltzer and the 10 consultants just 18 work days to crack the 1,000-membership barrier, and as of Thursday, 2,149 memberships had been sold, good for more than $191,000 in revenue. In addition to the financial benefit, another point of emphasis is on teaching the sales consultants skills that will benefit the NRL’s growth as a business in the long term. Pincus: “It’s teaching them about sales and service, closing techniques and how sponsorship and membership work together, all the areas of the industry. … Eventually these sales consultants are able to leave our center and go into the clubs with a skill set that no entry-level employee they’ve had has possessed previously.” The plan is to continue the collaboration with the NRL for at least three seasons, with Aspire hoping for the program to represent eight to 10 teams in ’16 before expanding to each of the league’s 16 teams for the ’17 campaign.

LONG TIME COMING: When the FRMC went live on Dec. 9, it marked one of Aspire’s first steps toward establishing a foothold in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically in Australia, which Pincus said represents a “huge opportunity.” It also wrapped up a three-year process of planning and negotiations. Aspire Founder Bernie Mullin has been eyeing the Australian market, and the NRL in particular, since first engaging in talks with former NRL Head of Commercial Paul Kind — who was sacked by the league on Wednesday for a breach of conduct — and NRL GM of Marketing & Fan Engagement Michael Johnstone around three years ago. Pincus said that Aspire’s attraction to Australia was based in large part on Aussie fans’ love of the game. He said, “They have a passion that, unless you’re some of those lucky franchises like the Detroit Red Wings or Boston Red Sox, you don’t really see. I think a lot of it has to do with, these clubs are still relatively in their infancy from a business perspective. It wasn’t that long ago that they were more just community-based, community-funded clubs.” Pincus compared the family-friendly atmosphere at NRL stadiums to what U.S. sports fans find at minor league baseball games, but cited the league’s $1.2B TV contract and 254,000 members as proof of the game’s pull Down Under. The talks between Mullin and the NRL execs nearly yielded a program similar to the one currently underway, but it was put on hold when former NRL CEO David Gallop stepped away from rugby league in ’12. Mullin, however, remained persistent, and Kind and Johnstone stayed open to the idea. “Paul Kind and Michael Johnstone didn’t let it die,” Pincus said. With the initiative given new life, Pincus, who had been involved in the earlier talks during a previous stint with Aspire but was working for Ironman in Nov. ‘13, got a call from his old boss. Mullin offered him a chance to rejoin Aspire and head up the project in Australia. Despite receiving no guarantee of anything beyond an initial period of negotiations, Pincus deemed the move to rejoin Aspire an easy decision. “Even though I had left, we obviously had a great relationship and he knew that I was a big part of this and wanted to be a part of this in the future,” Pincus said. “I came here basically for three months, with no guarantee of anything after that. For someone like Bernie, I was perfectly fine with it.”

MAKING THE PITCH: Before cementing the collaboration, the NRL wanted assurances Aspire could deliver a program worth the investment. “They said, ‘Come here for basically a three-month program and let’s see if you guys really know what it is that you’re doing and if you can adapt this for the Australian market,’” Pincus said. To get the project up and running, Aspire needed the approval of a number of execs both inside and outside the NRL. After league bosses signed off, the next step was gaining backing from the Australian Rugby League Commission, a body of Aussie business leaders who govern the game. To convince them of the value of the project, Pincus explained to NRL execs the need to dedicate resources to outbound calls, an area that had not previously been emphasized. The league’s lack of prior experience made it essential to, as Pincus said, “do this the right way the first time and sort of educate the clubs along the way.”

HIRING PROCESS: Once the project was given the green light in late September, the next order of business was to hire the sales consultants and equip the office ahead of the FRMC’s launch on Dec. 9. A top priority as Pincus and Burgess went about hiring the 10 consultants was to represent the NRL’s fan base. Pincus: “All 10 consultants, from the beginning, we wanted to have them be Australians. One, it’s authentic; we want to represent the NRL fans as who they really are. Two, the goal of this is not to just bring a bunch of people who are already doing it. What we wanted to do was show the NRL and NRL fans and the NRL clubs how they can do it.”

CREATING A PIPELINE: Pincus is also working to launch a program that will give 32 interns — two per NRL club — exposure to all areas of sports business in what is tentatively being called the NRL Business Academy. Each intern will receive centralized training from Pincus and two account managers, while working for a club and gaining experience in a variety of areas of sports business. Pincus said that the NRL and Aspire’s goal is to eventually create a program similar to the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department (TMBO). TMBO has acted as a liaison between the NBA league office and all NBA, WNBA and D-League teams since it was created in ‘00. Aspire’s connection to that program is strong, as Mullin was the first director of TMBO, from ’00-04. TMBO, first created as an in-house consulting division for the NBA, has become a launchpad for top execs, as its alumni include several high-ranking officials inside and outside the NBA. Pincus said of his goals for the NRL internship program, “Right now [within the NRL] there’s not necessarily that pipeline of talent for membership or sponsorship or public relations or any areas of the business specifically … We want to expose these interns to as much as we possibly can to hopefully find those next great entry-level employees and hopefully future executives.”

To read full article, click here. 

Army-Aspire Extend Partnership

Posted on: February 5th, 2015

The Army Athletic Association and The Aspire Group have reached a five-year extension, Army Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan announced today.

Army and Aspire began working together in 2011 and have extended a partnership that allows Black Knights fans a full menu of ticket options for football, basketball, hockey and lacrosse games.

The Aspire Group operates a Fan Relationship Management Center at West Point and will hire an additional three staff members immediately.

“The Aspire Group has allowed us the opportunity to continue to build relationships with our fans,” said Corrigan. “Their success in outsourcing ticket sales operations is tremendous. They are also allotting more resources to Army West Point and that means better service for our fans.”

The Aspire Group Fan Relationship Management Center specializes in revenue enhancement by providing superb customer experience for fans on ticket sales and service calls. Joe Kronander is the Director of Business Strategy and Analytics and Joe Begendorf serves as the manager for the Army FRMC and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Center and continual development of the Army ticket sales program.

“It has been an honor to represent West Point over the past three years,” said Bill Fagan, Aspire Senior Vice President and General Manager, Fan Relationship Management. “Our staff arrives to post every day knowing their top priority is serving Army Athletic fans ticket marketing, sales and service needs. We are humbled to continue our partnership with the Army Athletics for many years to come.”

Loyal Knicks Fans May Deserve a Medal. But a Refund?

Posted on: January 21st, 2015

The New York Times

By: Richard Sandomir

Loyal Knicks fans will not be surprised after this painful season when they learn that their ticket prices will not rise in 2015-16.

A freeze on prices was their reward after last season, when the Knicks won 37 games, and in eight of nine dismal seasons before 2011-12.

The Knicks offered a different type of compensation for the final home game of the 2007-8 season: free food for fans as they watched the team’s 58th loss — the next-to-last game coached by Isiah Thomas.

Even after winning their second straight game Wednesday night, the Knicks (7-36) had the N.B.A.’s worst record. Their tickets cost an average of $129.38 apiece, the most expensive by far in the league, according to Team Marketing Report, an industry publication. Their roster is in the process of being dismantled. Yet game after game, Madison Square Garden improbably reports capacity crowds, even as the team earns comparisons to the woeful 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who finished 9-73.

But as the team continues its seemingly inevitable march to a forgettable season’s merciful end, some are asking a new question: How should the Knicks reward fans who, more than ever, are proving their extreme devotion? In what looks to be the historic nadir for the franchise, is the Garden’s policy of holding the line on prices after bad seasons enough to acknowledge the angst of those whose season tickets cost them $49 to $3,700 a game?

Michael Barasch, a Manhattan lawyer, does not think so. For 22 years, he was a season-ticket holder. Last season, he paid $45,100 for four seats at $275 each. Mostly, he took his clients, injured firefighters, to the seats in Section 115, in the corner opposite the home team’s bench. But early last spring, when he learned that he would also have to pay $1,100 for tickets to three meaningless preseason games in order to renew his seats, he balked.

“I feel like I broke up a bad marriage — and I feel fabulous about it,” he said.

Still, he cannot completely stay away. Taking his clients to games is still a lure of sorts. So he is paying a friend for four similar seats in the same section for 11 games. The cost: $12,000.

“Last game I saw, against Houston, I left at halftime,” Barasch said of the Knicks’ 24-point loss to James Harden and the Rockets on Jan. 8. “I saw Harden, but I couldn’t tell you who most of the Knicks were.”

Barasch’s radical solution would be for the Knicks to give fans a full rebate on all games played since the team traded J. R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland and waived the three players they received (two of those players have since been re-signed).

“Since they stopped being both competitive and entertaining that day, we shouldn’t have to pay for the games that followed,” Barasch said.

When Phil Jackson was hired as the Knicks’ president, he said that he believed he was running a playoff-bound team. But a 5-20 start was followed by a 16-game losing streak. Injuries have limited the playing time of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. After trading Smith and Shumpert in a salary dump, Jackson blamed himself for a roster that has seriously underachieved.

Barasch said that Jackson and his boss, James L. Dolan, the chairman of the Garden, could learn from Broadway, where theatergoers are routinely offered a refund or exchange for a different date if an above-the-title star does not appear in a performance. When Barasch and his wife went to see Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” recently, they learned that Glenn Close was sick, so they exchanged their tickets for another day.

“At least I had that option,” Barasch said. The only vaguely similar option available to him with his Knicks package is to sell his remaining tickets on the secondary market, probably at a loss.

Sports ticketing and marketing experts say the Knicks do not need to mimic Broadway policy or drop prices. Several also said they should not.

“Not unless people are saying: ‘No, we’re not renewing. We’re not coming,’ ” said Jon Greenberg, the executive editor of Team Marketing Report. “Fans know what they’re getting into, especially with the Knicks.”

Bernie Mullin, chairman of the Aspire Group, a sports marketing firm, said that giving rebates, or refunds, based on poor performance would be a bad precedent.

“If LeBron or Kobe weren’t playing, you’d want a rebate,” said Mullin, a former Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Hawks executive. “It’s an impossible road to go down. What we recommend is to get your tickets priced right and have modest cost-of-living increases each year. But don’t price based on wins or losses.”

The Garden has taken a different route. Over three recent seasons, which coincided with the phased, $1 billion reopening of the renovated Garden, the Knicks raised their ticket prices. For 2011-12, their first full season with Anthony, prices increased significantly — an average of 49 percent. The next season, the increase was a more modest 4.9 percent, followed by a 6.4 percent rise in 2013-14.

Yet still the fans came, renewing their season tickets at a 91 percent rate before the current dismal season. The Garden dotes on its loyalists by providing the sort of experiences that are increasingly common in sports: get-togethers with current and former players and the Knicks City Dancers for food, conversation and photos at the Garden or in nearby restaurants.

“It’s always smart to appease your fans when you’re 6-36,” Greenberg said. “That’s abysmal. That’s not entertainment.”

Fortunately for the Knicks, they can rely on the patience and kindness of a fan base that can still find the fleeting joy in a dunk by Langston Galloway or a quarter’s worth of solid team play.

“It’s the illusion of hope,” Barasch said.

 

To read full article, click here.

Man On Mission to Bring US-style Razzmatazz to English Football

Posted on: November 20th, 2014

By: Emma Jacobs, Financial Times

Atlanta-dwelling, mustachioed businessman Bernie Mullin is on a mission. He wants football, a game that many tribal fans believe has been spoiled by billionaire owners, to fix its eye more firmly on the money.

What sport needs is razzmatazz, he says. “In America, it’s entertainment. It’s not basketball, it’s basketball entertainment. We get dancers, cheerleaders and DJs, contests and videoboards.”

The 65-year-old has a vested interest in making this case. He is in London to generate business for The Aspire Group, the Georgia-based ticket marketing and sales company he started in 2008, which helps sports franchises build relationships with fans. The key to a club’s success, he says, is less about a winning team than entertainment and relationships with fans.

A former semi-professional footballer and life-long Everton fan, who grew up in Liverpool in the northwest of England, he knows only too well what it is to have life-long commitment to a club.

“The level of passion and commitment of the fans is over the top,” he says. I went to Goodison Park [Everton Football Club’s home ground] with my dad at five. The first thing I do every morning is go on the Everton website. Got to have my fix.” At 7am on a Saturday, you can find him – if it is an early game – meeting his fellow Evertonians in an Irish pub in Atlanta. A few years ago, he was rumoured to be part of a consortium to buy the club: a story he denies.

Mr Mullin’s accent slips between his native Liverpudlian and transatlantic, though as a child he attended elocution classes so he could “learn to talk like the Queen . . . One did not want a Liverpool accent because that was a social stigma.”
Sport is a business unlike any others, he says. “It’s completely illogical. The addiction is crazy. But the owners take the fans for granted. They’re not running it like a business because they’re not treating their top customers superbly.”
Talent, digital media, television rights, merchandise: everyone is all over that. But ticket marketing and sales? Woefully neglected, says Mr Mullin.

Many of Aspire’s ticket sales, he says, come through phone calls rather than social media or emails. They are tipped off by “digital prequalification” – by which he means a reply to a targeted email or text, based on customers’ previous ticket purchases. In the UK, he says, people are far more suspicious than their US peers and believe data collection to be an “invasion of privacy”. Surely they are right to be suspicious? “There’s a lot of companies not as ethical as we are,” he concedes.

After playing football for Oxford City in the early 1970s during a stint at British Leyland, the automotive and engineering conglomerate, he moved to the US and did a PhD in organisational behaviour and administration at the University of Kansas. Later, he moved to the new sports business department of the University of Massachusetts. After a few years in academia, and writing a book on sports marketing, he was hired in 1986 by the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. “They were in desperate shape,” he says. So he got the team aggressively selling to fans: calling, mailing them with offers based on their interests. In five seasons, he says, ticket revenues went from $7m to over $28m.

Mr Mullin believes he can make a sports customer out of anyone, even me. He pitches the patter used by his sales team. “I’m building a relationship with you, Emma. I’m asking questions in a really friendly, open honest way. What do you like to do?”

I tell him my entertainment demands are slightly restricted by my two-year-old. Bingo, he spots a way in. “What does your son like to do?” Play with Lego and sticks. Mr Mullin is not put off. “OK, tell me your son’s seven. What does your son like to do? Boom.” He has made a sale to me and my imaginary seven-year-old.

“Let’s say if your son was coming, he loved it,” he says. “You don’t really like football but you like the fact that we got something together as a family. So as a mum you’ll do it for your kids.”

Targeting the young is obviously a source of future custom. So, he says, trips to football clubs should be pitched to primary schools as rewards for good behaviour or academic achievement.

“You want to buy data off schools?” I ask. “No. Good God, no. No.” Instead he proposes forging relationships with schools, offering tickets as prizes for teachers and children.

His tireless sales instinct was learnt at the side of his father, an insurance salesman at Prudential, door to door collecting money from policyholders, pushing for more sales. Accompanying him on his tour of the neighbourhood impressed upon the young Mr Mullin the importance of relationships.

During the holidays, the little Bernie would be given a bunch of flowers to hand over to the mother in a house, the “gatekeeper” – “My dad knew her name, knew all about her family.” So he was cute child labour? “I don’t think Dad would have been that cynical.”

Every week his father would discover if he had made it to the top of Prudential’s salespeople. The family would clear the house just in case his father had done badly. “My dad would go ballistic. He was that competitive, that aggressive and wanted to be the top.”

Relationships are important to his business. He trains his staff to find out who the gatekeepers are – getting to know a personal assistant is key to his bottom line: “You listen to them.” Sales staff are encouraged to pump them for information: what does your company like to do? Do you have suites? Do you have premium seats?

The work demands listening skills, he says. “My dad was good at listening . . . I’m good at listening.” He pauses.“It doesn’t sound like I’m good at listening.”

In truth he barely takes a breath.

Mr Mullin’s staff are “sports sales and entertainment consultants”. In each sales centre there is a sales scoreboard, on which they tally the number and duration of calls, how many appointments they have made, how many sales. He expects Aspire’s revenues to reach $12.5m in the next financial year.

There are also the rituals. “You make a sale, you walk up to the board, enter the information. You ring a bell, we celebrate the sale.” The goal is to engage fans by deploying sales tactics: capture, communicate, close. The team focuses first on reducing fan churn, before engaging the casual fan and then acquiring new ones.

He worries that people who are used to watching highlights of sports events on television are bored by the real thing. “We’re feeding the [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] generation,” he says. But in an era of electronic communication, there is nothing like watching sport together. “It’s community.”

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New Season, New Look. The Aspire Group Partners with Eyesore, Inc. to Launch Fresh, User-Friendly Website.

Posted on: October 8th, 2014

The Aspire Group, the world’s leading provider in outsourced Ticket Marketing, Sales and Service, has partnered with Atlanta-based Eyesore, Inc. to refresh and re-launch its website (www.theaspiregroupinc.com). After months of customer-focused research that led to the overall planning and execution of the website refresh, Aspire’s website will be going live today.

The redesigned website features improved functionality and benefits to users, including simpler navigation, clearer and more concise service offering enhanced content and an overall better representation of the core message underlying what The Aspire Group is and the customers the company serves.

“This refresh will provide users with a holistic view of what services we can provide to meet their needs,” stated Mia Ramer, Marketing Manager for The Aspire Group. “We pride ourselves on all the brands we have partnered with and we want to give users the opportunity to look inside our portfolio and see the results we have produced for our client partners.”

About The Aspire Group

The Aspire Group, founded by Dr. Bernie Mullin in 2008, is a global sports marketing firm that specializes in enhancing every stream of revenue and building lifelong fans through superb fan engagement and service. With over 240 full-time employees, The Aspire Group services over 130 best of brand sports properties in North America, Europe and Australia by providing ongoing strategic and implementation support in ticketing, consulting, research, and revenue and marketing enhancement, and sport investment optimization.

For more information visit www.theaspiregroupinc.com

About Eyesore, Inc.

Professionals. Techies. Creatives. Thinkers. Creators. Eyesore Inc. is a full-service digital production and creative agency specializing in mobile applications, e-commerce, and a full range of website creation and maintenance services. With clients ranging from large, national corporations to regional not-for-profits, Eyesore’s team of content experts, developers, and programmers, create the online presence, tools, systems, and applications that not only wow visitors, and move companies forward to success.

For more information visit www.eyesoreinc.com

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