Mike Boswell – Aggies recruit sales star Relationship manager kicks off first season
September 12, 2012
By: Alta LeCompte
For the Las Cruces Bulletin
The Aggies gave their new fan relationship manager Mike Boswell something to cheer about when they defeated Sacramento State in their home football opener.
“They looked good,” he said in an interview Friday, Aug. 31, in his office in the field house. “I was enthusiastic about the crowd.”
On opening game night at New Mexico State University, Boswell captured the energy of the crowd by stationing staffers out front to explain to arriving spectators the advantages of trading up to season tickets.
“We sold 22 season tickets to walk-ups,” he said. “The goal is to communicate the fun of attending games and show the financial and seat location benefits of buying a package.
“We’re excited about the present and future and think coach (Dewayne) Walker is headed in the right direction. We can’t do anything about the past.”
He said a certain amount of frustration among Aggie football fans is a good thing.
“If they didn’t care, we would have an entirely different problem,” he said. “We welcome fan frustration because it tells me there’s an opportunity here.”
Although there’s a big NMSU sign in the FRMC (Fan Relationship Management Center) and the job is all about selling Aggie football and men’s basketball tickets, Boswell and his crew are not NMSU employees. They are employees of The Aspire Group, an international sports sales consulting firm working in partnership with NMSU’s athletics department to enhance sales and customer service.
Their goal is to build a strong foundation of lifelong fans.
“The Aspire Group is part of our initiative to improve the game-day atmosphere at NM State athletic events,” said NMSU AssociateAthletic Director Steve Macy. “Through this unique partnership, Aspire will be actively engaging the community and expanding the fan base.”
Walking away from home
Boswell has been in the business of sports marketing 26 years, but this is his first outing with Aspire.
Throughout his career, his path has frequently crossed with Aspire founder Bernie Mullin, who became his mentor.
Boswell grew up and attended local schools in Indiana, Pa., 58 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Indiana is a college town, the home of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“I grew up in a college town and it didn’t seem like something I needed,” he said.
Instead, he went looking for a path into the work world, first doing some radio in smaller cities east of Pittsburgh. Relocating to Pittsburgh, he took a series of retail jobs he didn’t regard as long term.
And then, the Pittsburgh Pirates found him in 1986.
They needed help badly.
How bad can it get?
Asked about the Pirates’ status in 1986, he said, “It wasn’t good. They lost a hundred games the year before and their mascot got caught selling cocaine.”
Even in good years such as 1972, when the late Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th hit, Pittsburgh is a tough town for professional baseball. It is small market city that can’t afford to pay its players and offer fan incentives on a par with larger, more affluent cities.
“I learned how to do it in a difficult market,” Boswell said. “Anything that came after that seemed not that difficult.”
For the Pirates, marketing was a matter of survival. But they had one thing going for them: Bernie Mullin.
Mullin’s staff learned sales techniques and boosted productivity.
Miracles were not on their list of goals.
“It was a matter of improving,” Boswell said. “It didn’t happen overnight.”
Going on the road
Boswell went on to serve as director of telemarketing for the Denver Grizzlies hockey team, director of corporate sales for the San Francisco Giants, senior account executive for the Sports Facilities Management Group in Columbus, Ohio, director of sales and then team president of the National Basketball Development League team in Charleston, S.C., and senior director of season ticket customer service for the Atlanta Spirit, Hawks and Thrashers.
In 2006 he was named director of season ticket and premium seat sales at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., the position he said was most comparable to his current one as head of the fan relationship management office for Aspire at NMSU.
At ASU he created the Sales Academy. He recruited, hired, trained and directed a fulltime staff and student part-timers who generated $8.7 million in new ticket sales of Sun Devil football, basketball and other sports, tripling departmental sales goals in 2006-08.
The position enabled him to groom young staffers to go on to careers in the industry. Boswell said he assisted sales representatives in attaining positions with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles Clippers.
Boswell also traveled extensively to train sales and customer service representatives. His clients included the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes.
Mentoring for results
While Boswell began to talk about his initial experiences in Las Cruces, sales consultants Josiah Castro and Devin Day at nearby phones courted former season ticket holders.
An energized Day completed a sale and then checked in with Boswell, apologizing for the interruption.
“How did you do it?” Boswell asked.
“I listened,” Day said. “I found out what he needed. He just needed (his seats) to be higher up.”
Boswell’s role as a recruiter, trainer and mentor is critical to the success of the FRMC.
“I enjoy helping people; it’s giving back. I enjoy doing the same thing Bernie did for me. If you truly teach people, they’ll do it right for the rest of their life.”
Boswell said it’s important to hire FRM staff who understand sports sales is really work.
“If they know that, I think we have a starting point,” he said. “I want someone who’s passionate about the business side of sports, who works hard, follows directions and is honest.”
Boswell mentors as a volunteer as well as a supervisor.
He volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club in Tempe, Atlanta and Charleston, where he was a member of the board.
“The kids are smart enough to know they’re safer at the club than on the streets,” he said. “You gotta love a kid like that.”
He has also volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and is still in contact with his little brother of 10 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, who is now “a good dad.”
“He still calls me his big brother,” Boswell said. “It’s amazing how connected you can get with someone that needs that role in their life.
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