It’s BUDGET SZN.
Time to make the decisions about what to spend money on...
Staff, leader compensation, pizza, t-shirts, rally towels, marketing materials, game day promotions, speakers, lights, DJs, tifo banners etc.
I completely understand there are LOTS of ways to spend your budget.
But I want to share why I believe every school should invest in the student section.
Obviously I’m a little biased, but it truly makes everyone’s life easier in the long term.
So Part Six of the Student Section Rebuild is all about revenue. In this blog, I share the four ‘R’ benefits of a new-age student section...
And provide five strategies to generate direct revenue to the student section…
And how to produce $75k+ within four years, with only 2,000 students.
Gone are the days of viewing the student section as an expense or liability… Time to turn it into an asset and a revenue generating machine!
Before I share the indirect and direct revenue streams that come from a robust new-age student section, ask yourself…
“How do I view the student section financially?”
A liability that sucks up my budget? An expense?
An asset that generates revenue for the students and department?
Whatever you currently think, I hope to completely reshape the way you view the student section.
Hopefully, you start treating it as an asset and investment for the university, athletes, department and students. Here’s a graphic to help shift your mindset.
There are four primary benefits of a robust new-age student section.
These are natural by-products of the ‘end result’ – when you have a culture of students who show up to games, stand, cheer and get rowdy…
I call them the Four “R’s”
R1 - Recruiting
Everything comes back to recruiting.
A robust student section helps a university recruit both students and athletes.
When a prospective student visits your university, are you proud to show them a game and the student environment?
To calculate the investment, ask yourself:
Athletics - How much is a star player worth to your teams in terms of W/L? How much does a winning team drive ticket sales?
University - How much is one student’s tuition because they pick your school and want to participate in the student section? R2 - Retention
Keeping students and athletes is arguably more valuable than recruiting. When a student enrolls, feeling connected to the university and athletics through the student section will increase their loyalty and emotional ties to the school.
One year of tuition is great, but how much is the Average Lifetime Value of a student worth? Four years of tuition + a future of donations. (See my blog on the ALV of a Student for more).
To calculate the investment, ask you yourself:
Athletics - How much is it worth keeping a star player because they love the community and atmosphere, rather than entering the dark transfer portal?
University - See the ALV blog above. Hint: 4 years + donations = more than 1 year of tuition
R3 - Recognition
Hate to keep bringing up my own experience and GCU but it’s worth noting…
How many of you heard of GCU because of the Havocs? Or at least felt the student section and basketball program helped put them on the map? It’s the power of Recognition. When you invest in culture and run the marathon of building a robust new-age student section, people WILL take notice. It’s cause and effect.
And let me tell you, when you have Bleacher Report and ESPN writing articles on the student section…
Yes it’s an awesome feeling, but it immediately brings attention to your university and athletic programs. FREE marketing!
To calculate the investment, ask you yourself:
How much is local and national press worth in terms of recruiting, retention and marketing?
R4 - Revenue
Athletics is the front porch to the university, right? Well then the student section is the front porch to Athletics.
What is the benefit of recruiting? Revenue.
What is the benefit of retention? Revenue.
What is the benefit of recognition? Revenue.
In a previous blog, I listed ALL the ways a robust new-age student section drives revenue.
I’ll list them again for convenience:
Better recruits, more winning, enrollment tuition, tuition retention, media deals, ticket sales, concession sales, sponsorship opportunities, merchandising sales, membership sales, season ticket sales, general admission sales, community engagement (sales), generous boosters (donations).The student section makes or breaks the collegiate environment. If the students are excited, everyone else is excited. If the students are apathetic, everyone else is apathetic.
I’m sure none of this is new, but hopefully this gives you a crystal clear picture of why investing in your students is powerful and brings a monetary return.
It gets better. On top of the Four “R’s” – the student section can generate direct revenue through five primary strategies. This revenue can be used to self-sustain the student section, increase budget to continue investing in the experience of the student section.
Revenue Strategy #1 - Memberships
This is the most common student section revenue stream.
Most of the top student sections have some sort of membership strategy.
Memberships are how we generated six figures of revenue for the Havocs within three years of starting the student section.
Students pay a membership fee and get EXCLUSIVE PERKS.
A mistake I see schools make is jumping into memberships too soon.
They try to charge students and give away perks when there’s no demand or culture, devaluing the membership and offering no incentive or reason to join.
So it’s important to first build the leadership team, culture, brand and game day experience before charging memberships.
Then, the perks must be worth spending the money on. Students must value what you’re offering (nice shirt, gear, guaranteed ticket, priority seating, exclusive access etc).
The nice thing about implementing memberships is scalability.
You can scale the quantity or price of memberships, or both. Each year, you can increase the price, the tiers, or the amount of available memberships per tier.
Year 1 - No memberships, build leadership, culture, brand, game day
Year 2 - Start with 500 memberships at $25. ($12.5k)
Year 3 - Increase quantity to 1,250 at $25. ($31.2k)
Year 4 - Implement tiers (1,000 x $25, 500 x $50, 250 x $100). ($75k)
Year 5+ Scale up price and quantity based on demand ($100k+)
Revenue Strategy #2 - Sponsorships
Ever heard of OPM?
It stands for “other people’s money.”
You can leverage the money of sponsors or corporations to invest in the student section and offer them value.
Companies love getting in front of students.
Since your student section is a captive audience, utilize this to your advantage.
Ask sponsors to subsidize costs or trade in exchange for a logo on their shirt or setting up a booth.
Ask for money in return for access to student contact info.
There are lots of ways to utilize sponsorships. Be creative. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Revenue Strategy #3 - Merchandising
Reason #184 to spend time focusing on the culture and brand of the student section.
Once you build a brand students identify with, you can sell it.
Students love buying clothes and merchandise with things they value or identify with.
Pop your brand on shirts, hats, backpacks, fanny packs and sell them at the Team Store or Bookstore and take a % of profits.
Win-win for everyone.
Revenue Strategy #4 - Donors
Donors want to give money.
Donors want to give money to specific projects.
Donors want more students standing and engaged at games.
Ask for help.
Cast the vision and see what they’d be willing to contribute.
With donors, be specific on projects or items. Example:
Would you be willing to contribute to a training program to help empower our student section leaders to build a culture on campus?
Would you be willing to contribute to a tifo banner to enhance the game day experience?
Revenue Strategy #5 - Crowdfunding
This is not as common but it has worked at multiple schools.
If you have a fun project or specific idea you can’t seem to find the funding for... Ask the students.
Let’s say you want to buy a tifo banner or provide an experience for the whole student section (bus trip or DJ)...
Don’t be afraid to ask for their contributions.
It’s definitely not the most ideal way to generate revenue, but if students see you care about their experience and are working hard to give them an amazing experience…
You might be surprised what they contribute.
Okay, now you have the four “R” benefits of a robust student section and the five primary strategies to generate direct revenue…
Time to make some mulahh!
If you need help building your student section and scaling revenue…