At a Glance
- Marist College Athletics sold fan cutouts in their basketball arena during the 2020-21 season.
- The entire program was sold and managed through AudienceView Campus, the box office software used for event ticketing selling by Marist College in a more typical year.
- The fan cutout program allowed the athletics program to generate revenue, increase fan engagement, create a better in-arena and broadcast experience and more.
The Marist College Athletics Program ‘is committed to be competitive at the NCAA Division I or other member conference level, to offer equitable opportunities to all students and staff, and to advance their welfare, health, and safety.’
This powerful mission statement, which predates the COVID-19 pandemic that has altered the entire landscape of college sports, very clearly demonstrates the importance of the well-being of the members of the Marist community.
In fact, the safety of student-athletes, staff and supporters now takes precedence over everything else as college athletics programs across the United States deal with a virus that has disrupted the status quo.
Marist College is not immune to the major changes that have taken place in college athletics. Their 2020-21 college basketball season tipped off with empty stands in McCann Arena on their gorgeous campus in Poughkeepsie, New York. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school is unable to host fans at sporting events – including men’s and women’s basketball games in their 3,200-seat on-campus arena.
A big part of the college journey in the United States is the shared experience of packing the stands to cheer on the student-athletes that represent their institution of higher education. The high-fives with fellow fans after a rim-rattling dunk or late-game, lead-taking three pointer have, unfortunately, been replaced with hashtag sharing on our favorite social media platforms.
Andrew Sahawneh, Ticketing & Marketing Assistant at Marist College, focused on turning the negative – fan-less stands – into a positive. After conducting market research and bouncing ideas off of his colleagues and other members of the tight-knit sports business community, he made the decision to create a fan cutout program.
Modeled after the campaigns run by professional sports franchises, the fan images are used to fill seats in the arena and generate revenue for the Marist College Athletics program. The cutouts include images of fans, current student-athletes, their mascot Frankie the Red Fox, family pets and former players like Rik Smits of NBA-fame and Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers.
“The creation of a fan cutout program checked so many boxes for us. It was an opportunity to engage with our loyal season ticket holders, to generate revenue lost due to a lack of ticket sales and to create a better in-venue experience for our student-athletes,” said Sahawneh. “In an effort to provide higher quality broadcasts for our fans watching from home, we also strategically placed our cutouts in the seats behind the scorer’s table to provide a fan-filled backdrop on television.”
The entire program was sold and managed through AudienceView Campus, the box office software used for event ticketing selling by Marist College in a more typical year.
“The popularity of these fan cutout programs has led to the creation of new companies dedicated to selling and fulfilling them on behalf of sports organizations. That outsourcing model works for some athletics programs, but I quickly realized that we could use AudienceView Campus to manage the program completely in-house,” said Sahawneh. “Our goal was to make the buying experience as friendly as possible, so allowing our fans to place an order for their fan cutout in the same environment, with their same login credentials, that we use to sell event tickets online was a big factor in our decision.”
The process to sell and fulfill the fan cutouts was equally efficient. “It was a really streamlined process and the resources made available by AudienceView were a huge help,” added Sahawneh. “It was easy to set up the buy flow, which included the ability for fans to upload their photo during the checkout process. Once that was set, we were off and running.”
Avoiding the use of outside vendors resulted in better customer service as well. “We like talking to our fans, we like helping them out,” said Sahawneh. “In the rare case of a fan uploading a photo that didn’t meet the required specs, as an example, we were able to pick up the phone and resolve the issue quickly.”
The fan cutout program has been very well received by the entire Marist community. The benefits of the fan cutout program are the following:
- New revenue: At the time of publishing, Marist has sold 75 cutouts at a cost of $75 each. A portion of the proceeds goes toward the cost of COVID-19 testing of their student-athletes.
- Streamlined operations, greater control: The entire process was built and managed using core features available in AudienceView Campus. No need to use a 3rd party vendor or software to sell and fulfill.
- Reduced costs: Leveraging AudienceView Campus to sell the fan cutouts and manage the fulfillment allowed them to reduce costs (when compared to using an outside vendor).
- Increased fan engagement: Loyal Red Fox supporters could continue their tradition of being in McCann Arena and part of the action on basketball game days during the 2020-21 season.
- Better fan viewing experience: In an effort to provide high quality broadcasts under these unique circumstances, Marist placed the fan cutouts in the section behind the scorer’s table to provide a fan-filled backdrop on television.
The student-athletes have also appreciated the in-arena support. “The players love it! Many have even posted selfies with fans on their personal Instagram accounts,” said Sahawneh. “The combination of the cutouts and crowd noise has helped make it as game-like as possible in McCann Arena this season, so we see it as a big success.”
“The combination of the cutouts and crowd noise has helped make it as game-like as possible in McCann Arena this season, so we see it as a big success.” – Andrew Sahawneh, Ticketing & Marketing Assistant at Marist College
About Marist College Athletics
The Marist College Athletics Program serves to support the ideals of Marist College by its commitment to excellence in education and to the pursuit of higher human values through the self-knowledge and personal development that come from participation in athletics activity. The Athletics Program is dedicated to the development of the whole person and the integration of ethical values consistent with the Mission Statement of Marist College.
The Athletics Program strives to offer Marist students the opportunity to participate in athletics activity at their level of ability and interest – intercollegiate, club, intramural, or recreational. The Athletics Program aims to complement academic and social experiences with the development of organizational skills, leadership qualities, and an appreciation for sportsmanship and team effort through athletics opportunities and community service.
About AudienceView Campus
For athletics, performing arts and student life ticketing, AudienceView Campus (formerly known as UTIX by UniversityTickets) was born on a college campus to meet the unique needs of the higher education market. It is continually battle tested and enhanced to ensure your next event is a success.