clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What would you do to improve Cal football ticket sales?

It's no secret that the renovations to Memorial Stadium come with a heavy price tag. If fans don't buy tickets, the loss of revenue could be catastrophic to the athletic department. Obviously, the on-the-field product has a lot to do with fans opting to go all-in or to vote with their feet. Depending on who you ask, hiring the architect of last year's #1 offense is either a step in the right direction, or the 1st sign of the apocalypse. Coaching changeover aside, is there anything that the Cal Athletic department can do to reach out to our fan base? 1) What would you do in order to improve ticket sales? 2) If you did buy season tickets, what were the positives about this transaction? 3) Were there any negatives to buying season tickets? 4) What would make you buy or not buy season tickets in the future?



1) Lower the ESP ticket prices. Some of the prices reach SEC-level, ensuring a good portion of them will never be filled. Fill the middle seats and stop worrying about trying to milk every dime out of the big donors.

With regards to the stadium, there is no real way to improve ticket sales other than reaching out to the lower-tier donors. Cal has done a decent enough job with the Gold Standard for young alumni, but it's only a start. Cal seems to focus 95% of their time on the big donors, which is fine, but marginalizing the middle to lower donors will ensure variable ticket sales and decreased interest when the team is not playing a big opponent, Big Game aside.


1) Instead of waiting for students to graduate, then mailing them with "hey, why not buy young alumni season ticket" literature...why not market to them while they're seniors? This was done to me when I was a senior ortho resident. By signing up for various programs early, I got them at a discount. You could target all of the senior season ticket holders for starters because you already know that they're following the team. It's probably easier to get the info to them while they're at Cal before they move away and start doing their own thing.

Part of what keeps people coming back to games is when they become a family outing. The more family-friendly activities or amenities that are available, the more likely parents will be able to brain-wash their kids into going. My girls absolutely love it when there's face-painting, or arts/crafts stations to make their own Cal signs or banners. I think they enjoy the pre-game activities more than the games themselves.

I think that Cal should really take a look at what Coach Gottlieb is doing with women's basketball. She's making use of social media, humanizing her players, and is doing a great job of creating a brand. Her "Triple Threat" club could be used as a model to get fans more in touch with their favorite players.

2) I really liked the emphasis on welcoming people to Memorial and to Haas. I've been going to games a long time and it really stood out how friendly all the staff were. It really makes for a nice atmosphere.

3) The event staff should pay more attention to the border between visiting seating and general admissions seating. At the Cal-ASU game, a large number of visiting fans moved into the "home" section behind the end zone. They were loud, inebriated, rowdy, and had smuggled in a large quantity of alcoholic beverages. It really changes the experience of watching the game when you're surrounded by that type of crowd. Since most (all?) of the people sitting in that area are single-game purchasers, it's less likely that they'd want to buy single game tickets again especially if they have children.

The Gold Out was a good idea. However, not many people have gold clothing, especially not gold outerwear. Instead of choosing a night game, one of the games earlier in the year (warm weather) might be a better idea. If you combine it with a promo, you might get a better response. For example, Home Game #3 = Gold Out. At Games #1 and #2, you promote the Gold Out heavily. If people buy Mini-Plan X, or tickets to Game Y, it includes a gold shirt. Maybe the first X # of students get free shirts, too?


1) What would you do in order to improve ticket sales?

TwistNHook: Win, win, win, win, win. I mean fundamentally, that is outside of the control of the marketing staff. But the reality is that the only thing that will really bring fans back is winning. We've had several rough years and that has stunted growth.

2) If you did buy season tickets, what were the positives about this transaction?

TwistNHook: I was happy with how they got rid of the fee to transfer tickets over emails. I love the email ticket transfer thing. It makes it SUPER EASY for me to hoard tickets from friends who are not going to the game and redistribute them to people who are interested in going. I helped get tickets to many, many people this year who had never been to Cal games in a long time (or ever, for that matter).

I am not sure whether you can email individual season tickets or the entire season ticket package you have. If the ticket transfer only allows for the transfer of the entire season ticket package as compared to individual season tickets, then Athletics should change that.

3) Were there any negatives to buying season tickets?

TwistNHook: The ATO essentially screwed me out of $100. I bought my season tickets at the first opportunity to do so. I was told that the New Alumni section was 5 years, so I was out of it. However, at some point, they changed that to 10 years. I am in that 10 year group. The difference in price is $100 between New Alumni and the tickets I did purchase.

They did not provide any refunds to people who were excited enough about the team to buy season tickets early. This was frustrating to me. I let it wash off my back, because I do love Cal and I figure they can use my $100. It's just $100. But not everybody is going to be quite so as forgiving as I am.

Screwing your most passionate fans out of $100 doesn't seem like the best way to raise a loyal fanbase. Give refunds if you change ticket pricing after fans have started purchasing tickets.

4) What would make you buy or not buy season tickets in the future?

TwistNHook: As long as I continue to have fun at the games, I'll buy tickets.


1) The ESP seating area looks absolutely pathetic when it is only 30% filled for most games. My suggestion is that Cal Athletics figures out a way to fill those seats. I mean, those are the most prime seats in the stadium. They should be filled. It looks so stupid when everyone else is crammed around the endzones and corners of the stadium in the cheap seats but there are all of 100 people sitting between the 35 yard lines on the west side of the stadium.

Now, I understand that a lot of those ESP seats haven't been sold (as ESP seats). That's unfortunate. But why not sell them anyways? Perhaps Cal can charge single game ticket prices of $100-$150 for one of those seats or something. I don't know. I haven't done the math to figure out if a price point of that much would be about equivalent to owning one of those seats for the full length ESP term, but do something. I'm sure there are some people who would be willing to pay $100, $200, and maybe even $300 for one game (perhaps Big Game or against USC, or Oregon) to sit in those seats. Let people sit in those empty un-bought ESP seats! Let people buy them on a game by game basis. Let people sit in the empty seats for free after halftime. Do SOMETHING. Just get butts in those seats.

I can't express how pathetic it looks to see the ESP seating on the west side so barren. I'm glad the TVs don't show that side of the stadium during televised games.


The simple reality is that most of the things that annoy me about the Cal football experience - issues that make me think that I'd be better off watching on a big screen at home - are issues that Cal athletics has no power to fix. They can't change TV start times, they can't control Fox not deciding who plays when until 10 days before the game. And they can't control endless TV timeouts.

What the athletic department might have some control of is what happens in the stadium during those TV timeouts.

Now, I'll actually give them credit - I do think stadium entertainment has improved. There are usually a number of interesting videos/interviews/features. (As an aside: I personally have the dual problem of iffy vision AND iffy hearing, so I often have trouble understanding these videos. If Cal athletics could increase the font size of the videos I'd be forever grateful!) But I'd still like to hear from the band more often, I'd still like to hear the students and alums trading Go! and Bears! more often. I guess it's a cost/benefit analysis - I recognize the value of advertising revenue and I recognize that improving the gameday atmosphere won't necessarily result in increased ticket sales to make up for potential lost ad revenue. But I know what I enjoy hearing more on a Saturday.


I do have a few ideas. The idea is to market to the community, not just Cal alums.

When I was a student in Berkeley schools, I was a member of the BJTP (Berkeley Junior Traffic Police), an organization that is now long gone, I think. This was in the early 70s.

BJTP members got into Cal games for $1 (!). Now, I wouldn't suggest that Cal sell tickets for $1, but I would suggest to look at expanding the opportunities to get members of the surrounding communities to Cal games, with emphasis on attracting school age kids and their parents.

The idea is that if you live in Berkeley and go to Berkeley public or private schools you can get a discount on tickets just by showing a school ID or completing a specially created form that's made available through the school offices.

Also, I'd look at widening the area bit more to include Albany, Oakland, Kensington, El Cerrito, and Richmond.

Pricing is best left to Cal to decide; I'm not that good at such an exercise. But it seems to me that you want to give folks an incentive to attend games who might not otherwise do so. A stadium with fewer empty seats carries its own value, even if the revenues aren't quite as much as Gold Zone seats.

But this is something that should involve the community and boost ticket sales, especially in sections that are designated for single game and group ticket sales.

This is an opportunity to grow the Cal fanbase. If you have empty seats on a fall Saturday in Strawberry Canyon, you're losing money.


1) What would you do in order to improve ticket sales?
Simultaneously lower the prices, and make people feel more "special". Cal seems to put too much of an emphasis catering to the ultra-high-roller donors, and not enough towards your average working professional. The mid-tier season ticket holders are the lifeblood of the program. They're the ones that fill the seats. University Club-level donors provide the capital and drive for major initiatives in the program, but the regular season ticket holders are the ones that make us look good to the nation.

On an expanded note, I think there should be more of an emphasis on filling the stadium than there should be on selling tickets. A full stadium is a special type of experience that keeps both the team and the crowd fired up and interested through the downturns. A full stadium throughout the season could, and probably does, provide a major contribution to victories, and a single victory in a 12-game season can mean the difference between the Rose Bowl and Holiday Bowl.

2) If you did buy season tickets, what were the positives about this transaction?
The student ID card system is very nice. The recently introduced transfer system is also helpful and definitely helped fill the student section for some of the games. I was personally able to persuade 15-20 people to attend the UCLA Homecoming game specifically because of the ease of acquiring tickets from other students.

3) Were there any negatives to buying season tickets?
As a student, not really. The price could be lowered though; students generally don't want to feel like they're paying more than $10 (average) for a football game - especially with tuition going up the way it is.

4) What would make you buy or not buy season tickets in the future?
Regardless of the product on the field, the home Gameday experience and connection with the campus is probably the driving factor that keeps people coming back year after year. The more the college Gameday experience erodes, the more people will lose interest. The more our experience mirrors that of an NFL game, the more influence 49ers/Raiders games will have on eroding our fanbase. I feel that we have a unique ecological niche to fill, and our product should reflect that. Maintaining a traditional college experience will be the biggest factor in whether or not I buy season tickets in the future as a young alum.


1) What would you do in order to improve ticket sales?

Until we can put a winning consistent program on the field, we're going to have to start hustling. That means strategies like group sales, inside (cold calling) sales, team sales, giveaway type promotion (t-shirt day! bobblehead day!), doing ticket deals with sponsors (sign up with at&t and get a pair of tickets). This feels like stuff that struggling professional sports franchises do and very commercial, and consequently unseemly for a university, but we need to get people in the seats. Once they come to one game, we have to make sure their game day experience is top notch. We can't control what happens on the field, but we can control the entertainment (I think more Cal band!), pre-game experience for kids with face painting and fun activities for families. When I worked for a sports team I got a lot of comments from clients that they went to games for everything around the games as well as the actual competition. If we're only going to rely on the product on the field to sell tickets, then we're going to need to win a lot more.

What can we control? The experience and making sure people have fun and are entertained regardless of the on the field results.


1) What would you do in order to improve ticket sales?
Lower ticket prices definitely have to be in play here. Until there is a consistently winning product on the field, the best way to fill seats is to make sure they are affordable for everyone. Increased giveaways has been mentioned, which I agree with as well - had we sold out against UW, the sight of 60000 towel waving Golden Bear faithful would've been awesome. Nobody ever wants to turn down free stuff.

2) If you did buy season tickets, what were the positives about this transaction?
I only had student tickets this season, and what I really enjoyed was how simple that particular process was. Bring your ID - which you should have with you at all times anyway - show up at the stadium, and you're in. No need to worry about losing a ticket or anything.

3) Were there any negatives to buying season tickets?
Well, there was the watching us lose...but other than that, not really. Student season tickets remain extremely affordable at 99 dollars for 7 games, which is a huge bargain. More money for ramen.

4) What would make you buy or not buy season tickets in the future?
Nothing. I expect to buy season tickets, win or lose - regardless of price - as long as I live in the Bay Area.

What are your thoughts, CGB? The deadline for season ticket renewal is coming up at the end of the month. Are you excited for the new era of Cal football? Are you all in or still on the fence? Would anything change your mind?