Lessons from Leaders – Rhett Hobart

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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Flip the Switch

College Leaders | Using Partnership to Build Community w/ Rhett Hobart

This week, we sat down with Rhett Hobart, Associate AD for Fan Experience and Brand Development at Wake Forest University.  Since he joined the Demon Deacons in April 2020, Rhett and his team have launched their “Welcome to Deactown” brand campaign, introduced new in-game experiences for the greater college football fan and debuted a co-branded beer, Deacon Brew, all to create the “Best Fan Experience in North Carolina.”  In this episode, we go deep into strategies and tactics for engaging your fan base and building a true community.

Show Notes

2:31   Crafting Deacon Brew

3:19    Behind the Partnership with R&D Brewing

5:51    The Tough Conversations 

7:42     Capitalizing on Your Biggest Sampling Opportunity

11:51  New Branded Revenue Streams

16:03  Welcome to “Deactown”

20:21  The Financial Buy-in to a Branding Campaign

23:44   Takeaways from a Long-Term Branding Campaign

27:30   Creating an Experience for Any College Sports Fan

31:15   Wake’s Digital Student Engagement Strategy

34:25   Transforming the Student Tailgate Experience

38:15   Wake’s New Football and Basketball Ticket Model

42:54   From “Season Ticket Holder” to “Season Ticket Member”

45:42   The Deacon Virtual Season Ticket

53:02   Book Recommendations

54:08   “Bumping the Lamp”

57:57   Parting Advice


For more info on topics covered in this episode:

Deacon Brew

Wake Forest Football Ticket Plans 

FanMaker app

Rhett’s Book Recommendations

Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise by Horst Schulze 

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by the Disney Institute

Connect with Rhett via email or Twitter


Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Delivering training digitally to better equip your staff for game day.

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