Georgia Tech outsources ticket sales

Bernie Mullin-led Aspire Group will handle football, basketball event transactions

Georgia Tech has turned over its ticket sales operation to an outside agency in a deal projected to be worth as much as $2.2 million to the athletics department.

The Aspire Group, a sports marketing agency run by former Atlanta Spirit president Bernie Mullin, will handle ticket sales for Tech's football and basketball teams for the next three years.

"It's a perfect fit," Wayne Hogan, assistant athletics director, said. "We have that issue of trying to close that gap between season ticket sales and our capacity."

Tech will pay the Aspire Group a projected management fee of $85,000 for the 2009-10 seasons, based upon a percentage of increased ticket sales. That fee is projected to reach $160,000 by the final year of the agreement.

Hogan said Tech projects a profit of $466,000 the first year in new ticket sales, $727,000 in the second year and $1,045,000 the third year.

Aspire will supply a general manager and 15 to 20 full-time sales associates that will work from Tech's campus. The team, to be operational within two weeks, will sell a variety of packages, according to Bill Duffy, a Spirit partner and principle with Aspire.

The Yellow Jackets previously had three employees in their ticket office but two were laid off last month, when Tech cut 13 jobs from the athletics department. Hogan stressed that the employees were not laid off because of the negotiations with Aspire. He indicated the deal came about as a result of the layoffs, as the department tried to figure how to sell tickets.

"It benefits Tech because they will now have a group that's dedicated full time to selling their products," Duffy said. "In the past they've had people trying to sell a variety of products."

Tech will still set ticket prices and plans and its remaining administrator will continue to sell "premium seating," most of which is allotted through its donor program.

Arizona State has already adopted a similar outsourced ticket sales arrangement.

"Major universities are already outsourcing licensing and broadcasting rights so this is a natural progression to do it with ticket sells," Mullin told the Sports Business Journal, which first reported the deal in Wednesday's edition. "It will be a more integrated and sophisticated approach."

Tech has struggled with season ticket sales over the years. Sales have ranged from 23,000 to 26,000 in 55,000-seat Bobby Dodd Stadium, where average attendance last season was 47,489.

Hogan said Tech has sold 23,900 season tickets so far this year, which matches the 2008 total. He said he hopes to reach 30,000 before the season starts on Sept. 5 with Jacksonville State.

"We are in a pro sports market and the best thing about this is we have access to previous year season ticket-holders . . . all kinds of these constituent groups that are potential ticket buyers," Hogan said.

"There are tens of thousands of these people. The way we feel we can reach them is with a mass effort, versus two or three sales people making an impact on a hundred thousand names. It's difficult."

Georgia Tech also recently outsourced its athletics marketing to ISP in a $50 million deal. In that agreement, an offshoot of ISP, called Georgia Tech Sports Properties, will market internet, TV and radio advertising, as well as signage for Tech's sports properties.