Football Tickets, ID Cards and Mass Notification: There Is a Connection

The University of Alabama has leveraged the functionality of its voice, text and E-mail emergency alerting program and student ID card program to more efficiently sell and distribute football game tickets to students.

Admission to the football games at the University of Alabama (UA) is the hottest ticket on campus. With more than 30,000 students vying for 17,000 reserved seats in the student section at Bryant-Denny Stadium, scoring tickets to any home game is competitive. Because of the high demand and limited student seating, the university wants to ensure that as many students as possible have the opportunity to attend games. Minimizing lines and wait times at the stadium on game day is another goal of UA officials.

To accomplish this, in 2008 UA designed a program and turned to Blackboard Transact, its existing provider of student ID card and e-commerce technology, to leverage a set of assets already in place to build My Football Ticket, a self-service e-ticket account management program for students. During the 2009 season, UA officials built on the program’s success, using the Blackboard Connect mass notification service to facilitate communication for game day exchanges of student tickets. This creative combination of platforms has resulted in higher game day attendance and improved the overall student experience.

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Paper Ticket System Led to Long Lines at Stadium
Prior to the 2008 football season, UA’s athletic department distributed paper tickets to students for all of its home games. In addition to the logistical challenges of printing and distributing 15,000 season ticket packages, the university found that expediting student traffic into the stadium was difficult. Students had to present a paper ticket and swipe their Action Cards (student IDs) to enter. In addition, some students regularly resold their game tickets to nonstudents.

“Football is a strong element of our student experience, and we wanted to provide the chance for every student to experience an Alabama football game day at the stadium,” says Jeanine Brooks, director of the Action Card office at UA. “We realized we needed to provide a student-friendly system that encouraged usage and filled the student section for each game.”

Alabama’s robust academic and athletic offerings have led to record enrollment — 30,232 students in 2010  —  which has also intensified competition for student football tickets.

“With increased enrollment, we now had more students vying for 17,000 student tickets,” Brooks notes. High demand also meant that tickets were sometimes sold online to nonstudents.

“The value of tickets on the open market was high, and students sometimes purchased tickets with the intent to sell, not to attend,” explains Brooks. “And that’s not what UA wanted to see when there are thousands of eligible students who want to attend a game.”

Complicating matters was the existing paper ticket system, which made tracking sales and student attendance challenging. It also made the stadium entrance process cumbersome and slow.

Combining Platforms Proves to be Effective, User Friendly
Before the launch of My Football Ticket, the university wanted to create a program that could be easily adopted by students. UA officials knew the Blackboard Transact system was stable, reliable and already familiar to the students. This is why UA’s student government association, which had envisioned the My Football Ticket program, sought out the Action Card office to implement and manage the program. They worked with the Blackboard Transact team to customize the ticketing application using Blackboard’s commerce management capabilities, which were already in use on campus. Through Blackboard Transact, students use their Action Cards to gain access to events and recreational facilities. They can also preload funds to an online account so they can complete secure transactions with a swipe of their Action Cards at both on- and off-campus locations.

Watch the ‘My Football Ticket’ video

Once the My Football Ticket system was in place, students had secure, online, self-service access to verify ticket balances, transfer tickets, donate to a ticket pool or, for those without tickets, request from the ticket pool all on a game-by-game basis with E-mailed transaction receipts and streamlined stadium entrance. To further promote the My Football Ticket program on campus, UA produced and uploaded multiple training videos on the Blackboard system to demonstrate how the program works, which has helped increase student adoption.

“Blackboard was essential in helping us launch the My Football Ticket program,” Brooks says. “They helped us customize the system so it could easily handle large volumes of transactions online. Students’ familiarity with the Action Card program was beneficial for our training purposes. They knew how the system worked, which made the program’s adoption across campus much easier. It was a team effort from multiple university departments including Action Card, student government association, student affairs, athletics and information technology, combined with the expertise of multiple Blackboard product lines.”

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