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Boston College Associate AD J.M. Caparro Talks Ticketing, Marketing

Associate AD for External Affairs answers questions from BC Interruption

Gasson Hall

J.M. Caparro, who BC hired away from the New Jersey Nets, where he was most recently Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service, answered some questions from BC Interruption in an interview last week. Thanks to BCI readers who submitted questions via email.

1. What are the future plans for donor-based seating for football and men’s basketball?

There are many benefits of donor-based seating to the athletics department, specifically pertaining to athletic scholarships for our student-athletes.

The Flynn Fund’s primary purpose is to fund as many of our 272 scholarships as possible. Our 700+ student-athletes have benefited from this program as millions of dollars annually can be traced back to the seating program.

From a ticketing standpoint, donor-based seating is our most premium inventory and has produced the most ticket revenue beyond donations, so the success selling within that area is vital.

We are always analyzing our pricing structures for both sports and will continue to do so. However, it should be noted that the need to generate revenue through donations and tickets will always be paramount if we are to provide the best for our student-athletes and, in return, expect the best from our teams.

2. When will BC offer digital tickets (print-at- home, Apple Wallet, mobile PDF) for ticketed sports?

We actually already offer digital ticketing for all of our ticketed sports. Within the past season, over half of the tickets scanned in were through print-at- home or mobile.

3. Will baseball and softball be ticketed sports once the new stadium is built?

The proposed construction of the new baseball and softball fields have been a catalyst to evaluating the pros and cons of adding baseball and softball to our four ticketed sports. We’ll continue to assess the feasibility as we move closer to construction.

4. Other than price, what are the major factors that season ticket members are citing for not renewing?

Actually, the price of our tickets is not one of the biggest factors cited by fans. We are competitively priced across the board, especially from a season ticket standpoint. Historically, our renewal percentages have been consistent with peer institutions, this year being no different, and we’ll continue to develop benefits and incentives that reward our season ticket members’ loyalty.

This year we introduced the Eagles Nest Buy One Get One Free season ticket in football, and we’ve announced multiple new price points within our winter sports as well. You can now get a men’s basketball season ticket, which includes games against North Carolina and Syracuse this year, for as little as $6 per seat per game.

5. Are there any new account features rolling out? Ticket exchange for season ticket members? Ability to trade in unused tickets for extra tickets to future games?

Great question. One of our biggest initiatives on the external side of the business is how we take care of our season ticket members. Our biggest change over the past few months has been the creation of our own ticket sales and service team.

One of the reasons we transitioned away from outsourcing our ticket sales efforts was so that we could have more control over the season ticket member experience. We felt it necessary that all of our members, within both DBS and general seating areas, have a personal contact within athletics who is charged with making their overall experience best in class.

For our men’s basketball season ticket members, we have unveiled our new Ticket Exchange policy where you can exchange future or unused game tickets for tickets to other select games on our schedule. There will be more information on this once the schedule comes out. Once we get through this upcoming season with men’s basketball, I envision this could become a benefit we will look to integrate with our other winter sports as well.

Another new update across all of our ticketed sports is that we have recently partnered with StubHub to be our secondary marketplace provider. This partnership allows for our season ticket members to easily and quickly post their tickets for resale in a safe and secure environment. The tickets would then be delivered electronically to buyers so there is no need to print and ship anything. Having this capability within your BC ticketing account certainly adds to the ease of managing your tickets going forward.

6. How successful has the student gold pass been? Are there plans to expand the program? Has BC ever considered the trade-offs of distributing free student tickets via a lottery system?

Since its inception three years ago the GOLD Pass has consistently seen 85-87% of the total undergraduate population as annual members. We have examined all angles when it comes to student tickets, keeping in mind that free tickets at most institutions are actually the result of an annual athletics fee that is part of tuition (yet perceived as free). We’ve researched the practices of paid versus comp and lottery system for special events, but we continue to believe that offering the students an opportunity to purchase the Gold Pass creates value and choice.

When you look at the schedule of the four ticketed sports (football, men’s & women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey) where the Gold Pass allows access, our students are getting in for less than $4 per game.

We’re continuously looking to expand prizes and incentives to reward our most loyal students. For this upcoming year, thanks to our partnership with Under Armour, we have expanded the amount of reward prizes that will be offered. A full list of fall benefits will be launched within the Gold Pass App in late August. In addition we are expanding the number of Olympic sport events which qualify for points, and we’ll continue to look at the policies and procedures that will keep our students active and engaged pregame, in-game and postgame.

7. One of our readers suggests BC set aside some free tickets for police, fire, and teachers in Newton or Boston. Any chance this is something BC will pursue?

We pride ourselves on being a service-oriented school for others, similar to the brave men and women who protect us and educate our youth. We are definitely open to helping each group, whether it be through a match program or extended discounting, to enhance their game day experience.

8. Concessions at pro sports have transformed in the last 10-15 years, and stadia now tend to have a lot of options, many of them higher-end. Is BC looking to go in this direction with concessions? The concession options particularly at Conte are pretty bad.

We are always working with our Dining Services group to identify new offerings and menu enhancements every year.

Last year we added hamburgers and mac and cheese. This upcoming season we are including lobster rolls and beef brisket sandwiches. As with everything we do, we’ll continue to monitor and make any necessary adjustments as needed.

9. Aside from the “Boston’s College” slogan, what is BC looking to do to implement this new marketing push to casual fans in the Boston area?

Our goal with this campaign is to widen our marketing approach; to increase our footprint throughout all of Boston.

We’re being more analytical and creative with our marketing to attract those who might not have gone to BC, but live in the area and want to support a local program. We need to highlight the fact that we believe we’re the fifth franchise in the area, and we come at a fraction of the price.

We’ve also been hitting the ground with our Street Team for the past month increasing awareness and inviting people to games this fall. We’re excited about future announcements that tie into the Boston’s College campaign as we get closer to the football season.

10. What’s the biggest difference between selling tickets at the pro level vs. the collegiate level?

Anything particularly unique about BC?

There are a number of differences between the professional and collegiate levels. Once you get on campus, there is a passionate fan affinity that is extremely loyal. There’s just a different atmosphere at a college game than there is at the professional level, especially when you look at the traditions and rivalries across athletics.

On the sales side, aside from the obvious variance in cost of tickets, one difference comes down to staff sizes. At the professional level, I’ve managed sales staffs up to over 50 people for an organization. Here at BC, we have eight people selling and servicing across four ticketed sports.

What I find most distinctive about BC is our student-athletes. These diverse groups of men and women are playing for the love of the game and looking to win the right way. We are committed to recruiting student-athletes who are impressive on the field or court and in the classrooms.

11. For the most part, attendance at live sports is down across the board, particularly NCAA football and basketball. However, some teams have bucked that trend. Aside from winning, is there a common bond among teams/organizations that have been successful at keeping attendance even or increasing in recent years even as more people tend to stay home and watch on TV/stream?

As you can imagine, there is no silver bullet when it comes to selling tickets. We are fortunate that, similar to the culture within the NBA, the NCAA is all about sharing best practices amongst the schools. We certainly take advantage of that and look to communicate with those schools that offer best practices.

What it comes down to is how engaged are your fans. Do your season ticket members feel as if they are part of the team? Do they feel valued and rewarded for their loyalty? Are they emotionally invested in the success of the team? If you can say yes to those types of questions, you’ve got a solid foundation to build on.