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Ideas for the SDSU Priority Points System

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Like most college athletic departments, SDSU has a point system for allocating tickets. Whether its NCAA basketball tickets, moving to better season ticket locations, or seating priority for a bowl game, the point system is valuable to all fans who like to attend games.

The Problem with the Current SDSU Priority Points System

With that said, the current SDSU point system is struggling to adapt to an exploding fan base. Starting in about 2009, the football and basketball programs have gone on a tear, moving from regional doormat to a blossoming national awareness. The net effect has been that there are two different San Diego State fan bases.

First, you have the long-time alumni. Many of these folks have supported the Aztecs for decades. While they are being rewarded for their loyalty with great seats and a high point total, they are also our most fickle fans. They won’t come if the game is too late or on an odd day. They won’t come if the weather is too hot or too cold. And, in the case of basketball, even if they do come they often vacate their seats 5-10 minutes before the game is over so they can be the first out of the parking lot. Second, you have new fans. (I’m in this category) We were initially attracted to the Aztecs because they are fun to watch. As we’ve become part of the Aztec fan base we’ve paid our dues by buying into season tickets, loaded up on gear, and made the commitment to cheer on the local team. We aren’t better fans than folks who have been with SDSU for years. But this group is relatively frustrated with lackluster attendance, especially by fickle long-time season ticket holders.

Unfortunately, there is a building frustration among these newer fans over the priority seating system. New fans have a hard time getting desirable season ticket seats. And bowl game ticketing, while better in 2012, continues to be challenging because you’re asked to lay out a lot of money with no real guess as to where you’ll be seated.

Frankly, this all came to a boiling point in November when the ticket office struggled with the demand for the SDSU vs UCLA game in Anaheim. The ticket office initially failed to mention that tickets would be awarded via the priority system, many assumed they would be assigned on a first come, first serve basis.

Similarly, while there are 3000+ people on the waiting list for basketball season tickets, most non-conference games only fill Viejas Arena about half to two-thirds full. Newer fans in the back of the arena find it highly annoying that they can’t have access to seats which are empty because the point system seems to be rewarding the less engaged fans with better seats.

With continued success on the horizon for basketball and an impending move to the Big East for football, it’s time to modernize the points system.

Ideas to Fix the Points System and Reward Attendance

Introduce a merged Aztecs Loyalty Program
Reward a fan for attending ANY Aztec game, for holding season tickets, and for making donations in an integrated Aztecs Loyalty Program. With this new system any fan could create an individual account and build points, rewarding them along the way for their qualifying activity.

A sample of how this could work…

  • Football season tickets – 1 point for every dollar spent on the package
  • Basketball season tickets – 1 point for every dollar spent on the package
  • Non-revenue season tickets – .5 points for every dollar spent on the package
  • Individual game tickets for football/basketball – .25 points for every ticket purchased through the Aztec ticket office or Ticket Exchange.
  • Individual game tickets for non-revunue sports – .1 points per dollar spent
  • Football/basketball season ticket scanned at the gate – .25 points awarded for attending the game, even if you sell the ticket, if your barcode is scanned you get credit

Why Merge the Points Systems? We need to merge the point systems because SDSU needs a fan base, not just a football or basketball fan base. If a top football fan wants to buy an NCAA ticket, why not reward them for their loyalty to Aztecs athletics overall? And if a basketball fan wants to buy into season tickets, why not let them use their points to get great seats? It just makes no sense to have different systems in place.

Why would it help the athletics department? This would also give the ticket office an added incentive to get people to non-revunue sports, like womens basketball, soccer, etc. If you buy a ticket via the ticket office… you earn points. Want to get your best fans to attend a big soccer game? Allow them to earn reward points so they can get non-revenue tickets for free. Just like with the airline systems, these rewards build loyalty to a brand while simultaneously rewarding your biggest fans.

Transparency will help. A priority system based on loyalty, donations, and attendance plays into people’s egos. Currently, there’s no way to know where you stand on the priority system. For instance, as I head into my 4th season holding basketball season tickets I’d like to know if I need to make a donation to move into better seats. But I can only make that decision if I know where I stand and what kind of donation would get me where I want to sit.

With a transparent loyalty system if you want to be a top fan that pathway would be more clear. A big part of that would be allowing fans to know where they stand in the priority rewards system. Even if you don’t want to divulge the exact numbers, fans deserve to know where they are in the system and what they might need to do to get better seats for games. We are attending games, we like competition, so let us compete!

Merge the football/basketball point systems
It makes zero sense to not reward a fan for attending EVERY Aztec game, holding season tickets, or making donations to the university. If a top football fans wants to buy an NCAA ticket, why not reward them for their loyalty to Aztecs athletics overall? Merging the systems would allow that to become easier to understand.

This would also give the ticket office an added incentive to get people to non-revunue sports, like womens basketball, soccer, etc. If you buy a ticket via the ticket office… you earn points. How many people would buy season tickets to baseball and attend a few games just to get better basketball tickets? I might be tempted. 

Other Ticket Office Fixes…

Fix football seating to create a better fan environment
The next step for SDSU football is to foster a Show atmosphere at the Q. First, get the students out of the crap seats in the end zone. Moving them in the first 15 rows of field level from endzone to endzone. This will reward students for coming by getting them in the action. The ticket office usually gives these seats away already, why not move your students there and give away end zone seats?  (The first 15 rows are virtually unsellable because of poor sight lines.)

Next, close off the upper decks completely for Aztec games. We draw 25-40 thousand fans at games… why spread everyone out? By pushing everyone into the lower levels it’ll get loud and it’ll get fun, just like in basketball. Allowing a sell out to occur in the lower bowl will just increase people’s desire to be there, cut back on supply and increase demand. Economics 101.

Fix basketball seating
As demonstrated above, reward season ticket holders for attending with a fraction of a point each time their ticket is scanned at Viejas. Give the same reward to those who sell their tickets back through the ticket exchange. For each game they attend, give them a fraction of a point for the basketball system so they can get even better seats if they take care of them and fill the arena.

That won’t fix things right away. But over time, it’ll get season ticket holders to care about attending non-conference games or, at the very least, taking the time to sell their tickets via the ticket exchange.

Shorten the Window for Priority Purchases

Instead of giving priority members a huge window to purchase tickets according to their priority ranking, shorten that window to something like a week. If they want to buy a bowl ticket or a ticket to the NCAA games, they should be able to get tickets according to their priority placement. But at the same time, you can’t punish non-priority ticket buyers by making them wait or get shuffled at the last minute. That just makes no sense and is easy to fix. 

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