"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More Ticketing Questions - Q&A with Mike Broeker

Recently, Cracked Sidewalks lamented the inclusion of the Wisconsin game in the Marquette 5-packs, which we faulted for an unusually large percentage of Wisconsin fans in attendance. This prompted some immediate follow-up from the Marquette Athletic department. After much back and forth, we realized in a subsequent update that you are to blame for the Wisconsin fans that attend the MU-UW contest at the Bradley Center.

The vigorous exchange of emails between Cracked Sidewalks and the MU Athletic Department opened up an avenue to explore additional questions. As a result, Mike Broeker has been kind enough to respond to some of our questions in a Q&A. Mike is Deputy Athletic Director at Marquette University, serving in a COO role for the Athletics Department. He came to Marquette in 2003 from the NBA, where he was the senior manager, basketball communications. In addition to having a professional tie to MU, Mike also married a Marquette grad and now has a plethora of MU in-laws.

This case study on the financial and marketing realities of a basketball-only athletic department also drew the attention of SportsBiz, the Business of Sports Illuminated -- a terrific blog that tracks the economics of sport. Check it out. Now, here's Mike Broeker.

We all know that basketball is the #1 sport at Marquette, and by far the highest revenue producing sport. Plus we know that season attendance continues to grow. Are there any further insights you'd like to share about tickets and attendance? You’re absolutely correct. Men’s basketball tickets sales are the largest revenue stream for our department. In fact, when you factor in ancillary revenue directly tied to men’s basketball, somewhere between 95 and 97% of athletic department revenue is attributed to our men’s basketball program. The numbers are staggering. As satisfying as it is to see the Bradley Center full, it is equally as satisfying to know the impact that has on the rest of our athletic programs.

There's a presumption among the fan base that MU has to play X number of home games to fund the rest of the athletic department. How do you address the concerns of paying fans who would like to see a better non-conference schedule? We certainly appreciate our fans desire to see their program play the best but scheduling is just not that simple, particularly for our program. We could dedicate a lot of space to “scheduling philosophies”. Ours is two-fold, build a schedule that first and foremost prepares our program for conference and postseason play, and of equal significance, provide enough opportunities to generate the revenue necessary for all of our athletic programs to compete at a national level.

Simply, we should never play less then 18 home games in any season and, with new scheduling legislation passed a few years ago, could play as many as 21. Once the Big East Conference went to 18 league games, it really limits us, based on our philosophy, to three to five non-guarantee non-conference opportunities a year. Understanding Wisconsin will always be there doesn’t provide a lot of flexibility.

Under what circumstances would MU be willing to sacrifice a home game? We’d give up a home game if Coach Williams believed it was in the best interest of the program. In fact, we’ve done this in the past by limiting ourselves to one exhibition game because Coach Crean felt, as does Coach Williams, so strongly about the benefits of a scrimmage. Other factors that could come in to play are television and recruiting.

What's your strategy for dealing with the challenge of marketing Marquette basketball in a city like Milwaukee where there are various entertainment options? Like any of the other entertainment options, we must convey to potential customers the unbelievable value and experience that is Marquette Basketball. As much time as we spend brainstorming about ways to attract people to our games, I’d guess we spend twice as much time discussing how to make their experience different, special and meaningful from start to finish.

How has being a non-football school caused you to alter your approach?
Because we don’t have another significant revenue stream, our marketing and sales staff MUST spend a portion of every day, not just basketball season, thinking about ways to maximize our 18 to 20 opportunities at the Bradley Center. We can’t take our recent success for granted nor expect it to continue. I can assure you we have a talented, driven and highly motivated group of people working each day to move those numbers.

Obviously, times are tough with the economy. Has the economic status altered your approach to sales and marketing with Marquette, and to what extent? We build packages, programs and plans that are attractive and affordable to as many people who are interested as possible. I believe it is that simple. Today, people are spending more time analyzing and evaluating discretionary purchases. We must show them as much value as possible. In the end, that will be the deciding factor. This should answer your question regarding this year’s plans.

Since their inception, we’ve made an effort to distribute evenly our 10 best games over the five-game plans. Those plans have become haven for season ticket holders who can no longer make a larger commitment but still want to enjoy our program and a nice stop over for people considering a larger commitment to full season tickets. It’s made a significant impact on our business and we couldn’t be happier.

There have been a few posts on Cracked Sidewalks about the mini-plans. Why not exclude the UW game? UW with four non-premium games was never an option. That is a disservice to fans we are asking to spend $45; what could be the only $45 they spend on a sporting event this winter. People are overvaluing the number of UW people who actually buy those plans.

Why not include a few more "non-premium" games in the 5-packs to maximize revenue?
For example, we believe a plan consisting of UW and four non-premium games would have the opposite effect due to a significant decrease in the attractiveness. If you were to study NBA mini-plans you would see the majority of teams are attempting to put together as attractive and affordable packages as possible. Also, because of the number of games they can also offer a certain amount of flexibility, which unfortunately we can't.

Because of the financial impact to our department and the limited amount of opportunity, remember only 18-to-20 games, our practice is to not discount tickets. Instead, we've tried to create a model with varying degrees of affordability. We believe our ticket prices have great value to a wide variety of customers, reduced ticket prices or plans sends the opposite message. Fundamentally, I oppose massive reductions as means to stimulate demand. We prefer to focus on added value to the purchase, ie our group plans, in which a premium item is added instead of a ticket discount. A mutually beneficial option, in my opinion.

Is there anything we have not asked you about how Marquette markets the program that you’d like to share? I’m an avid reader of the blog and appreciate you affording us the opportunity to talk about the program. We are proud of the work our staff has done, particularly in this market and economy, but believe greater accomplishments are on the horizon.


Cracked Sidewalks appreciates your readership. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Mike!

1 comment:

Oliver said...

Nice interview, but he didn't satisfy me on his answer regarding the 5-pack plans.

By making the 5-pack plans so attractive, he is running a risk that season ticket holders might trade down for two 5-packs instead of the season ticket package.

I love my season tickets, but I can't say that I don't cringe at the price when I attend some games in November and December. I understand the he is trying to avoid people dropping their season tickets outright in a slow economy, but I think packages of four quality games and one cupcake would have been a better strategy.

I hope it works well.