IU chases Purdue in football ticket sales

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Indiana University had its best year in football ticket sales last year since 1992, and school officials think they’re in line for an even better year this year.

But when it comes to football, there’s still no comparison between Indiana University and Purdue University.

On the field, Purdue wins more games, and in the accounting columns the Boilers scores more cash.

IU Athletic Director Fred Glass and his staff hope to change all that. And a quick look at the books would indicate IU is closing the gap.

For the record, Glass and his staff said they don’t measure themselves against other programs, only their own standards. OK, whatever.

But if Purdue is the gold standard so-to-speak, let’s take a look at what IU is chasing. Take it easy Notre Dame fans, IU isn’t anywhere near ready to take on that gridiron behemoth. So let’s forget about the Golden Domers for the time being.

Last year, Purdue had average football attendance of 49,800, ahead of IU’s 42,000.

Remember in 2008, the Hoosiers averaged 31,782 fans per home game at Memorial Stadium. So not a bad uptick.

Every sports marketer knows the key to building attendance is season ticket sales. Single-game ticket sales are simply too labor intensive. So the summer is a key selling period for IU and Purdue.

Last year, Purdue sold 34,523 season tickets, 8,930 of those to students. IU trails those numbers too, but Pat Kraft, IU senior assistant athletic director for marketing, has high hopes for this year.

“The big goal is to average more than 42,000 per game and to get our student attendance up to 10,000 to 13,000 per game,” Kraft said.

Kraft and his staff have a long way to go.

IU did a back flip last September when it sold nearly 6,000 student season tickets. Kraft knows he’ll have to do better than that this year to make his goal. He has reason for optimism. Last year, IU sold about 10,200 student tickets per game, up almost 3,000 from 2008, and the most since 1992, when 11,389 student tickets per game were sold.

Still, too many of those sales last year were due to deep discounts and single-game sales. IU sold a total of 17,301 season tickets last year, 5,993 to students. Considering IU's fan base, it's difficult to understand why the Cream and Cimson would sell only half as many season football tickets as the Black and Gold. I guess winning, and tradition, matter.

Kraft said ticket sales “are tracking far ahead” of where they were a year ago, and the school is preparing to launch a viral marketing campaign featuring a video including football coach Bill Lynch that IU officials hope can close the gap to its cross-state rival.

“The key is we want a lot of students at our football games,” Kraft said. “The energy they bring is just unparalleled. We think it’s a big part of creating the atmosphere we want.”

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