November 1

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Lessons from Leaders – Rhett Hobart

Katie Rudy

November 1, 2021

Community, customer experience, Deacon Brew, Deactown, employee experience, fan engagement, fandom, sports business, sports marketing

Are you challenging your team to create new strategies and tactics to build deeper emotional connections with your fans and drive incremental revenue? Rhett Hobart and the team at Wake Forest University have been stepping outside of the box to drive wins for their university, sponsors, fans and larger community.

Rhett has seen success throughout his career, winning back-to-back “Marketing Team of the Year” awards with Mississippi State, and he’s now brought that same mentality to Wake Forest. Rhett joined us to share his approach to driving value for his athletics organization, and it starts with putting the fans first. Here are three key takeaways from the conversation:

Find new revenue streams through co-branded products

As facilities and scholarship expenses increase, athletic departments are seeking new revenue streams outside of standard broadcast rights, sponsorship guarantees and ticket sales.  Wake Forest is one of several schools launching co-branded products including beer and coffee.  Not only are partnerships like Deacon Brew more engaging for a sponsor, they create opportunities for commissions from concession sales and royalty rates from out-of-venue sales.

Create a game day experience any college sports fan would enjoy

“Welcome to Deactown” is all about connecting with the greater Winston-Salem community, particularly those who don’t consider Wake Forest their #1 team.  Rather than emphasizing the on-field product, Rhett and his team have invested in the whole event experience, including the R&D Seven Saturdays Bar and unique in-stadium student tailgating. If your team isn’t winning, or if your alumni aren’t local, market the value of coming to an event (joy, memories, etc.) rather than the product on the field. 

Keep your ticket offers simple

We’ve seen organizations create mini ticket plans to serve their fans, but as Wake Forest realized, providing fans too many options was confusing.  Instead of football mini packages, Rhett’s team created demand through tiered pricing for single games, offering four tickets and parking that increased every 30 days.  For basketball, fans can purchase full-, half- or quarter-season flex plans and redeem vouchers at the games of their choice. There’s a fine line between meeting the needs of your fans and offering too many options. Sometimes simpler is better. 

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