The Butler Bulldogs are gearing up for tomorrow’s Final Four game.
And I’m not just talking about the basketball team.
The university’s information technology staff, along with its retail division, are preparing for a huge surge in business.
Usually, Butler’s main Web site, get’s between 5,000 and 7,000 visits per day. During last Thursday’s (March 25) Sweet 16 game, little-known Butler got 45,000 Web visits.
Butler Chief Information Officer Scott Kincaid was put on high alert after the Dawgs beat Syracuse. But the surge Saturday was still too much. Butler’s Web site got 137,000 visits (and a lot more page views than that). And, the site crashed.
Not only were Web visitors looking up information on the hoops team, many were looking up general information and admissions information.
“We were caught a little off guard by the volume,” Kincaid said.
But never fear. Kincaid and his staff ran a fast break to get the site back up in minutes, and this week they’ve been doing a full-court press, adding servers and other equipment gearing up for an even bigger surge of Web traffic during Saturday’s Final Four semi-final against Michigan State.
“We’re anticipating 600,000 visits,” Kincaid said. “And we’re ready for it.”
Those visits don’t even include the traffic to Butler’s athletics site. Butlersports.com topped out at 83,031 visits on March 27, and the site has racked up more than 211,000 visits between March 25 and 28, according to Joe Gentry, Butler’s director of corporate sponsorship. Not bad for a site that normally averages a couple thousand visits a day.
And that’s not all the good news for the Bulldog kingdom—or is it kennel. Anyway, a stunning amount of Butler merchandise has been sold since Butler knocked off Syracuse and Kansas State to make the Final Four.
John Mybeck, chief operating officer for Strategic Marketing Affiliates, which is Butler’s licensing agency, anticipates selling $2.5 million worth of school and Final Four merchandise in a two-week period surrounding the Final Four.
Does that number sound nuts? Well, the school is off to a flying start. In two days after the Elite Eight victory, Mybeck said near 50,000 pieces of merchandise were sold. That merchandise was primarily T-shirts and caps at $20 to $30 a pop. My four-function calculator shows that’s about $1.25 million in merchandise sold already. Actually, that figure is probably well over $1.75 million by now.
So I take Mybeck at his word when he tells me $2.5 million is a conservative estimate. I think if Butler plays its cards right, merchandise sales could easily exceed $3 million. My experience tells me, a national championship will escalate Butler merchandise sales to a stratosphere never imagined—$8 million to $10 million easy.
Butler President Bobby Fong told me sales have been so brisk they can’t keep the Butler book store stocked.
“We’re on our fourth shipment,” Fong said.
Web sales of Butler goods are going even stronger, Mybeck said. So strong in fact, some of retail carriers of Butler goods have asked that some items be withheld from Web sales.
“Otherwise, all of our stock gets sold almost immediately through the Web,” Mybeck said.
Now that’s a nice problem to have.
Butler has one other problem. Seeing these eye-popping numbers, Coach Brad Stevens and his agent are sure to be seeking a pay raise.
To read more about that, see the IBJ print edition in newsstands tomorrow.