Recognized as an innovator and early adopter, the University of Minnesota (U of M) has been an AudienceView partner since 2006. The school uses the AudienceView solution across its entire campus, for both athletics and arts.
We recently spoke with Chad Rasmussen, Director of Sales and Service, to learn about his career, Minnesota’s ongoing success with AudienceView and why improving the overall fan experience is always a number one priority.
AV: How did you get into the ticketing business?
Chad: I’m a graduate of the University of Minnesota sports management program. I started out as an intern with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves in fan relations. Then, I moved to Special Olympics Minnesota – running tournaments, annual events, and various campaigns. I became an intern in the ticket office at U of M in 2007 and wanted to make myself indispensable. We moved into TCF Bank Stadium and I was willing to do whatever it took to stick around. After about 18 months, a job opened up and I was hired full time in the ticket office. Initially, I was in charge of football and men’s basketball, and then I was promoted to Director of Sales and Service. I now oversee the entire office.
AV: What’s your favorite thing about working at Minnesota?
Chad: The culture here has a lot of energy. It encourages people to be innovative, bold and different. We know that ‘different’ isn’t always better, but we have the freedom to try new things and, if we fail, we’ll try it a different way or tweak it to get it right.
I think using AudienceView allows us the flexibility to try new things and be innovative, and it helps create that culture. The ability to customize the online experience for fans with renewals, for instance, certainly makes us different and more innovative than others.
AV: You’ve been ‘paperless’ with your renewals for the last three years. How has that impacted your office?
Chad: Well, it’s taken huge workload off us. We’ve seen a growth in online renewal purchases and now fans expect to do it online and without paper. They’re doing online banking and online bill payments, why not season tickets renewals? We try to make it fun and exciting and allow them to absorb new content during the process, like an infographic on where the recruits are from [geographically], or the makeup of the team, or different videos featuring players. MyGopherSports.com allows us to put content out there that entices them to purchase merchandise along with tickets. The whole concept makes it much easier on fans.
AV: When you talk to other schools about what you do at Minnesota with AudienceView, particularly Big Ten schools, what’s their reaction?
Chad: Other schools are amazed when we talk about various processes, renewals or the one-click purchase with merchandise. We’ve shown them the interactive features that we have on MyGopherSports.com – the videos, for instance – and how fans are consuming that content. We show them how easy it is to set up in AudienceView and that you can control that process yourself in house. That has been eye opening for those schools.
Then we get into the weeds and show them the automated emails the system can produce and the safety nets we’ve built to snag customers who we can tell are having problems. Their response typically is, “Well, we can’t do that, and if we wanted to, it would take too long.”
Conversely, we’re amazed that schools don’t have control over their system. I get a kick out of showing them the dashboard or automated reports, or how we have the ability to pick and choose what data we want to get out of the system and accessing that data right from my desk without having to call anyone and their jaws drop. It’s fun to get that reaction.
AV: How has AudienceView changed the daily operations of the U of M ticket office?
Chad: We use our staging environment all the time to test out different things to alter our business and we crave that kind of flexibility to have the freedom to try new things. We don’t want to be just ok; we want to be better and strive to be the best. AudienceView gives us the ability to be the best. When we get stuck, we have our AudienceView colleagues to walk us through things we can’t do ourselves. The freedom to package things ourselves – merchandise with tickets, or bundle games together to attract fans who may not be able to afford a full season tickets package – makes us better at what we do.
AV: Can you give an example of how you package or bundle items like that?
Chad: Two examples would be a VIP Package and our Week of Thanks with the Golden Gopher Fund. With the VIP Package, we partnered with a local hotel and restaurant to offer a package that came with a game ticket, hotel room and restaurant voucher. All of this was able to be purchased in one transaction on MyGopherSports.com. It was successful and very well received by our fans.
For the second package, we worked with the Golden Gopher Fund to develop a Week of Thanks where our development office wanted to offer donors access to tickets as a thank you for their gifts. We came up with a multi-sport package with the hopes of engaging the donor base and exposing them to different sports. Again, that was well received by our donors and we’ll likely do that again.
We had a weekend this fall when men’s and women’s hockey were both at home, but the women played on Saturday at 4pm and the men played at 7pm. We ran a report of men’s hockey ticket purchasers and sent out an offer that provided them a free ticket to the women’s hockey game. We allocated 600 tickets for this promotion and allowed them to go online to pick up their ticket. We figured those people coming into town for men’s hockey were interested in the women’s team as well and we were right. That might mean we turn a handful of them into women’s hockey fans, but at least we’re introducing them to our very successful women’s team – plus creating a better atmosphere for the women as well.
We’ve bundled other sports before [women’s volleyball and women’s hockey] and we’ve allowed fans to use their football ticket to get into women’s soccer, and promote that through our “Gopher Weekly Email” to our fan base. AudienceView gives us the flexibility to try these kinds of things out and then track our success.
AV: You’re not a traditional ticket office, per se, and when you talk about your operation, you sound more like a marketer than someone in a box office. Why is that?
Chad: A leadership change has led to a philosophical change in our external approach. We rely on all departments to create a better experience for our fans. We re-branded our name from the ticket office to the Sales and Service department because we do more than just tickets. We also restructured the office with a focus on sales, service and operations.Well, that’s because we’ve decided to take a more holistic approach – it’s ticketing and so much more. It’s about VIP packages that aren’t typically offered. It’s about media consumption to excite people to buy tickets or renew their season tickets. It’s about offering merchandise in the purchase flow and getting fans to buy everything Minnesota. Fans are important whether they live here or live in California and we try to convey that in everything we do.
Chad: At the top of the list is probably the integration we have with the University of Minnesota Foundation. We have approximately 50,000 accounts cross-referenced from AudienceView into DMS, [Minnesota’s foundation system]. The data is updated on a daily basis and we know that data is only good when it’s accurate. Inaccurate data can ruin relationships with fans. This process has allowed us to create a larger fan profile and determine who the premium and discount shoppers are and in turn go out with offers that match their tendencies. It’s fun to go out with offers to fans and see what kind of results we get. [For example], we wonder if fans who bought a men’s hockey ticket would be interested in an offer for a women’s hockey ticket.
The feedback from cultivating and tracking these kinds of touchpoints has been overwhelmingly positive.
AV: How has AudienceView made your life easier?
Chad: Truth be told, I have never used another system. But I appreciate how flexible and adaptable the system is. We can change things on the fly and have control over almost everything that impacts our business. We use dynamic pricing and AV provides the ability to adjust pricing within a few minutes. I know other schools have trouble adjusting to the market at that speed. We also have full control of our web content and can easily update game information or parking changes in a matter of minutes. We don’t have to call anyone to change it for us or get approval.
The ability to customize and schedule reports has been a tremendous time saver. We have multiple reports that run daily and weekly going to multiple people within the department (admin, marketing, coaches) and each report contains customized data. The Business Intelligence tool has also been a time saver as we’re able to mine data we want in minutes and no longer have to combine five or six reports to get the same data.
AV: Do you have any advice for other schools who are considering using AudienceView?
Chad: You have to ask yourself if you’re okay doing things the way they’ve always been done, or are you willing to be different and be bold to engage your fans more. With AudienceView, you can do everything you’re used to doing and more.
AV has allowed us to customize a full shopping experience with the ability for fans to buy all they want in one place. A customer can buy or renew tickets, purchase parking or merchandise and donate in one transaction.
The ability to fully integrate with third parties has been vital to our success and is key to be successful in the future.
I think automating reporting and data mining are easy in AudienceView as well. At the end of the day, if you’re unable to do these things with your current solution I would you say you might want to consider a new solution.