Orange Bowl team aims to pass ticket sales slump
By Scott Blake
So far, more than 60,000 tickets have been sold for the Orange Bowl football game in January, organizers say, raising hopes for a sellout for the first time in three years.
Ticket sales for the 2010 and 2011 games failed to reach 70,000 each year, an unusual turn of events for one of college football's premier games and one of South Florida's signature events.
Orange Bowl Committee Chief Executive Officer Eric Poms is hoping for a comeback for this season's game, which will be played Jan. 4, 2012, at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. For the Orange Bowl, the stadium has a capacity of about 72,320.
"We're ahead of last year's pace," Mr. Poms says of ticket sales. "At this point, we're doing well, but we don't know what our matchups will be until early December. Our goal is a sellout."
Currently, more than 10,000 tickets are still available for the game. Some ticket prices have been lowered for this season's game, says Larry Wahl, the Orange Bowl Committee's vice president of communications.
Tickets have seven price levels, ranging from $75.99, mainly for upper-deck seats and those in the corners of the stadium, to $225, mainly for seats along the sidelines and in the "club" section.
Mr. Poms cites several reasons he thinks the Orange Bowl did not sell out in the past two years: the fragile economy; team matchups that didn't generate as much public interest; the scheduling of the game in the middle of the week; and a marketing approach that needed some retooling.
"These things are cyclical," Mr. Poms says.
The 2009 game between Virginia Tech and Cincinnati had the lowest television rating of any Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game.
The 2010 game between Georgia Tech and the University of Iowa did not sell out — the first time in a decade for the January classic. The 2011 game between Stanford University and Virginia Tech also did not sell out.
This season's game will continue some changes: It will be televised for the second straight year by ESPN, replacing FOX as the broadcaster for the previous four years. The game also has had a change in title sponsorship.
In 2010, FedEx dropped its sponsorship of the Orange Bowl, ending a 20-year partnership during which nine national championship games were played alongside the FedEx logo. Discover Financial has replaced FedEx as title sponsor.
Also last year, Dawson Hughes, formerly a sales executive with Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals, was hired as the Orange Bowl's vice president of ticket sales, which Mr. Poms describes as an "elevated position" from what the Orange Bowl Committee had before.
"Considering what the sports industry has evolved into," Mr. Poms says, "we needed a strong sales executive."
Part of the Orange Bowl's slump in ticket sales may be tied to its relationship with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The game's format calls for the ACC champion to be one of the teams to play in the Orange Bowl, while the slot for the other team is open.
However, ACC teams have struggled to sell tickets for their various bowl game appearances, according to Athletic Business.com, a web site that covers college athletics.
Played each year since 1935, the Orange Bowl is considered to be one of four premier college football bowl games.
In addition to the original game, the four bowls also host a second game, the BCS title game, once every four years. The three other bowls are the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, AZ, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA.
The Orange Bowl will next host the BSC title game in January 2013.
According to Mr. Poms, a study found that the last time the Orange Bowl was combined with the BSC title game in 2009, the two games had roughly $200 million worth of direct and indirect economic benefits for South Florida, including fan spending and news media exposure that equates to free advertising for the region.
Typically, about half of the fans attending the Orange Bowl come from Florida, while the other half come from outside, particularly from the fan bases of the two teams playing, Mr. Wahl says.
About 15,000 to 20,000 attendees each year are repeat customers, meaning they attended the previous season's game, he says.
"We're in pretty good shape" for this season's game. Mr. Poms adds. "The season just started, so our marketing efforts are going to pick up about now."
To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.