It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic put the world of college athletics into disarray during the ’20-’21 season, with most games played in largely empty venues. Without ticket sales and traditional gameday spending, revenue was down significantly.
Air Force Athletics was not immune to the revenue downturn resulting from strict health and safety protocols put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. The ongoing health crisis shuttered sports venues across their campus and forced them to play their entire 2020 football season in a fan-less Falcon Stadium, rather than in front of a raucous crowd that can eclipse the 46,000-attendee mark.
Air Force Academy Summer Sports Camps, another tried and true revenue stream for the athletics department, were also negatively impacted in 2020. These camps, which are open to children ranging from ages 8-18 and led by Air Force head coaches, were cancelled to ensure the safety and well-being of the campers, cadets and staff.
Despite a challenging winter and minor uptick in cases in Colorado Springs during early spring, the athletics department was given the green light to host summer camps in June of 2021. The only significant change was that the camps would be commuter only, with no boarder option (an experience to stay in the same dorms as the more than 4,000 cadets) available to campers this summer.
CHANGE IN TECHNOLOGY
Historically, the Air Force Sports Camps staff used a 3rd party platform for camper registration. In an effort to consolidate their technology, they made the decision to use their core ticketing platform, AudienceView Unlimited, to run registration for all 14 sports camps offered.
“We’ve considered using AudienceView Unlimited in the past, but just never made the change for one reason or another,” said Alex Hope, Director of Ticket Operations at Air Force Athletics. “With an opportunity to reevaluate business operations during the pandemic, we made the decision to invest the time and energy to make the switch for camp registration.”
Even though the previous platform was built specifically for camp registration, the system had its shortcomings. The camper registration experience, for one, was a big challenge.
“The system we were using only allowed for one camper registration at a time, rather than allowing parents to sign up for different sports or for multiple kids in one transaction,” said Alex. “The friction was a big point of frustration for our staff and parents.”
“Each sports camp is different and requires unique information for each camper. The gymnastics camp asks for things like leotard size, while the hockey camp asks for the position for each player,” said Alex.
With AudienceView Unlimited, Air Force was able to collect all registration data for each camp (and camper) in the same transaction.
“Thanks to AudienceView, parents could now buy ice hockey session one, fencing session two and gymnastics session three in the same transaction – all while collecting the necessary data for each camper by asking individual questions against each admission during the registration process,” continued Alex. “We were then able to pull some very specific reporting based on the questions we asked, ultimately providing each coach with all of the very nuanced information they needed to run their individual sports camp.”
In addition to the improved registration experience, Air Force used the AudienceView Unlimited platform for:
- Custom branded microsites for event (camp) discovery. Each sport had a unique page that allowed the head coach to provide parents with all the information necessary to make sure the camp was a good fit for their child and to be prepared with things like proper gear and equipment once they made the commitment.
- Add-ons during camp registration. Bolt Bucks were offered as an add-on during the initial online registration, starting at $25 and continuing with set increments up to $150. These Bolt Bucks take the place of money and are loaded onto the barcodes of the camper credentials, allowing each kid to easily purchase souvenirs and concessions – without the risk of losing cash or a parent’s credit card.
- Operational efficiency. Calendar functionality allowed Alex to confidently take a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to price changes. When early bird offers expired, the system would automatically add fees to the registration cost based on a date and time set in the system.
- Powerful reporting. All the data collected during the registration process was able to be pulled or actioned to ensure each camp ran smoothly. Coaches and other sports camp staffers used these reports for pre-event orders, camper check-in, assigning counselors and much more.
- Accurate data collection in the core CRM. The Air Force team no longer had to import data from a third-party solution at the conclusion of camp. Instead, the data was entered directly into the same that is used for all other athletics department transactions. The data is much cleaner and is attached directly to the customer record that includes all other ticket purchases and donations.
- Smart targeting and intelligent marketing. The data collected during registration allows Air Force to seamlessly market 2022 sports camps and much more. The ability to segment by sport played, location or any number of data points will also allow them to send hyper-specific ticket offers during the upcoming season.
“We’re very pleased with how camp registration was run using AudienceView Unlimited this summer,” added Alex. “We created a customer friendly, reporting friendly and coach friendly experience that will only get better in subsequent years. We’re already looking at ways to use the platform to increase our efficiency and revenue in 2022!