A positive relationship between an athletic marketing department and their third-party multimedia rights-holder is not only important to the success of the clients’ fulfillment and the fan experience, but it is also crucial to the financially stability of both entities. Therefore, over the last few years, we have placed additional emphasis on aiding our Bulldog Sports Properties (“BSP”) team in creating new revenue in the form of elements from which we already find success and are less intrusive and commercialized to our fans. To go above and beyond this goal this season, we partnered with BSP to continue to refresh and/or replace all in-game sponsored features at men’s and women’s basketball this season. Additionally, marketing worked directly with BSP through the process of planning the layout and features for the debut of the largest video board in college baseball, at Dudy Noble Field last spring, which included the addition of 13 new static display ads, and five new in-game features. In order to move some sponsorships out of games, to better the fan experience, marketing worked with our third party digital platform partners to begin placing embedded ads throughout our Gameday App, Hail State Student Rewards app, and Bully’s Kids Club rewards app.
Merchandise and Licensing
When the pressure to maintain financial growth and national relevance grows—along with expenses—a department must find incremental revenue through more than ticket sales, especially in a “down” year on the field/court. With this in mind, marketing set goals to continue to boost our positive national presence in order to raise demand for Mississippi State (and uniquely “Hail State” and “StarkVegas” branded items by fans and vendors. Through this focus, we realized another increase in both merchandise sales and licensing/royalties. This tangibly shows that our extensive and continued MSU-branding and creative licensing efforts are producing positive effects, not only to our local fan base, but also regionally and nationally. This year, we also have transitioned our licensing vendors from LRG to IMGL with the goal of pushing our licensing and merchandising efforts even further in future years.
Gifts-In-Kind and Trade Agreements
Our relationship with our trade partners is crucial to our ability to successfully infiltrate traditional and non-traditional mediums and means of gaining exposure for all our athletic programs. Not only do these sound relationships aid in brand exposure and national presence—which is invaluable—but they also allow us to save significant advertising costs which, in turn, indirectly and positively affects our ability to generate additional revenue. By continuing to create packages appealing to our trade partners and restructuring ticket and gift-in-kind offerings, we were able to realize a six percent growth in trade assets—these range from TV, static and digital billboards, radio, digital marketing/online ads, and newspaper. By the numbers, in the 2015-16 year we accumulated around $250,220 in advertising trade dollars, for the 2016-17 year, we increased that number to $290,370, and for 2017-18 we increased our number to $307,265. We also increased our overall trade partner number from 35 partners to 39 partners in Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.
Although Adidas and Gatorade are two of our larger “official providers” and are not necessarily classified as trade partners, we have been able to further cultivate these two partners which has led to growth in product and promotional offerings which has, in turn, added to our overall revenue calculations. A major part of this increase has come in a partnership with adidas to promote co-branding efforts on campus.
Bully’s Kids Club - The All New Bully's Kids Club
Kids Clubs – everyone has them. What better way to engage fans at an early age, and drive revenue for your department? But, what change to the traditional Kids Club model can make a program unique, and also drastically increase year-over-year revenue? Let me introduce to you the new Bully’s Kids Club – the future of kids clubs.
Like most Kids Clubs, Bully’s Kids Club is the official fan membership program for children 12 years of age and younger. Each member receives a Bully’s Kids Club jersey t-shirt, a drawstring backpack, a lanyard with a personalized ID card with a custom QR code, and free admission to all home women’s basketball games, all home regular-season baseball games, and select men’s basketball games. Those are the basics, which nearly every kids club offers.
What makes BKC unique is the custom-built administrative system that helps manage and operate the program. Last year, we partnered with FanMaker for an ambitious project: design a fully custom, rewards-based kids club program that will help us in driving attendance at events, capture key data, and allow simple retention of members from year to year, so that the primary focus each year can be growth, not just retention. This system combines a traditional student rewards program with all of the standard features of a kids club, plus more.
Since we capture the birthdate for each child, we are not only able to send a digital message from Bully to the child on their birthday, but we are also able to send an email in advance of their birthday to the parent to ask if they would want to host their child’s party at one of our sporting events – and then drive incremental revenue by offering them the ability to purchase a party directly through us. Depending on the sport and the opponent, our parties range from $100 to $200. These “Birthdays with Bully” are available at soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and softball. Decorations (set-up and clean-up,) pizza, 500 BKC points, a personalized birthday button delivered by Bully, as well an in-game recognition are included in all party packages. The most popular parties are basketball and baseball. To date this year, we have brought in over $3,000 in basketball birthday parties and over $3,500 last season in baseball birthday parties.
The best aspect of the system for driving increased revenue each year is the ability to have accounts “auto-renew”. Since the entire system is built digitally, and parents mostly sign up using a credit card, they have the ability to check “auto-renew my child until they age out”. This allows us to start each year with a base budget, which is listed in our dashboard by the parents who have that box checked on their accounts. Whereas, in years past, we spent the summer collecting checks to try to retain our members, now we focus on driving new sales. This year, we have 1,318 total active/paid members, from 815 different accounts, which yields $45,770 in total membership revenue – a 41% increase from last year’s total BKC revenue. More than $30K of that funding is already set up to auto-renew for us in July of this year.
As we look to drive increased membership, we strive to have a presence at all Mississippi State athletic events. We have a table set up with a digital iPad sign-up kiosk at every game to make people aware of BKC and to push new membership signups. When signing up on our kiosks, parents are given the option to sign up multiple children, and pay by swiping their debit or credit card. This saves parents the hassle of mailing in a form or going online every year to manually renew their children.
Special events such as a birthday party for Bully and Bully’s Halloween Spooktacular have helped add value to the program, increasing future renewals. This system is truly the future of kids clubs, and in less than a year, has allowed us to drive a 41% increase in total revenue.
In striving to create the best experience possible for our fans, we launched a new fan experience program in 2014, known as Maroon Memories. Our athletic department aims to provide fans of all ages an experience they will never forget. This program is a partnership with experience (EXPAPP.com) in which we share revenue based on each experience or item redeemed. Since the program initial success, the Maroon Memories program went through a rebranding period this year.
Maroon Memories offers in game experiences as well as merchandise and giveaways for all MSU home football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball games. Our newest additions to Maroon Memories includes the South Loge seating, memory packages, and proposals.
Proposals and engagement pictures have brought in revenue over the last years, and now we are just getting to the point of fine tuning the process. These types of packages sell extremely well during the football and baseball seasons. The South Loge was an upgrade seating option for football games. Located in the southeast concourse of Davis Wade. This new upgrade was designed to be private and luxury styled cabanas. The biggest focus this year was improving our revenue in basketball. On top of the experience packages (National Anthem Buddy, Game Ball Delivery, Post-Game Free Throws, etc.), we thought of a way to capitalize on the success of our Women’s Basketball Program. Some might say that you cannot buy success, but we managed to bottle it with the SEC Championship Packages. Bringing in just under $1800 this was one of our most successful items this year. Overall, this program has increased a total revenue by $3,519 for a grand total of $26,467 as of right now.