Gators take next step in digital evolution

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[Staff Photo/Erin Nelson]

Special to Gatorsports.com

Attention Gator Nation: It’s time to mark Aug. 1, 2019, on your electronic calendars.

The University Athletic Association will be launching the new Florida Gators App, where fans can connect his or her Ticketmaster account to the app. This will allow fans the opportunity to store their tickets (season, package, or single-game) on the app and enter Ben Hill Griffin Stadium using their phone. This feature will be available for all fans (including students) this fall.

This is the first time in school history that UF students will not have to go to the student ticket-office outside Gate 13 during the week of a game to pick up his or her tickets. Their tickets, with seat locations, will be sent directly to them on their phone during the week of a home game.

  • Student tickets for the 2019 season are still available and can be ordered here: FloridaGators.com/StudentTickets
  • Further ticket information will be released to students in conjunction with the August 1 app launch.

Student tickets will be exclusively digital this fall with the plan for all tickets being digital in 2020.

Once in the stadium, fans will be able to store credit card information on the app so cash or a physical credit card won’t be necessary if a fan desires a cashless experience at concession stands.

In addition to tickets and concessions, other in-stadium benefits for fans in the app include purchasing ‘Swamp Moments’ (i.e. videoboard messages, seat upgrades, or exclusive events).

This easy-to-use technology is the evolution of four years of work by the University Athletic Association.

“Our primary goal is to transform the gameday experience,” said UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin. “This app, along with its features and the new Wi-Fi system inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to handle its capabilities, allows us to provide enjoyment and convenience to our fans when they attend games or receive information from us.”

UAA officials revealed partners in the operation include the companies VenueNext and SSB.

VenueNext, with offices in Orlando, Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City, is a mobile commerce technology company that began operations in 2014. Florida is the first collegiate program to partner with this next-level company, as previous clients for VenueNext include the 49ers, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Vikings and Yankees Stadium.

SSB, with operations in Denver and Nashville, is a data management & analytics platform company with 30 years’ experience and over 100 clients in sports and education. SSB provides unified customer profiles, accurate metrics, strategic insights and operational visibility for one complete, consistent and current view of every fan.

Here is the background of the UAA’s organizational moves that have led up to the Aug. 1 launch date:

  • 2016:

o    A customer-relationship-management (CRM) system was acquired that included software for marketing automation initiatives. This was the beginning of more efficient marketing and targeted communication with ticket-buyers and Gators fans, UAA officials said.

o    Also that year, Andrew Case was hired as director of CRM & Analytics and Jillian Kirby was hired as Digital Strategy & Analytics Specialist. They report to James Slagle, Assistant Athletic Director for Revenue Generation.

  • 2018:

o    The UAA reached an agreement with Extreme Networks & Verizon Business Markets to create a Wi-Fi system inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Officials said the project included installing conduits, wiring and “under-seat enclosures” housing 1,100 wireless access points in the seating bowl.

  • 2019:

o    The UAA partnered with VenueNext to develop the mobile app and added SSB for “data warehousing and advanced analytics” services.

“We talk a lot about having a balance among the 4 S’s (software, strategy, staffing and support),” Slagle said. “If any of those are out of balance, then we won’t operate as efficiently.”

He added that UAA officials updated university administration leaders on the project, including showing them “what pro teams were doing, and explaining where we thought the industry was going.”

Between the new Wi-Fi system and the app, fans have the opportunity to enjoy a more efficient and personalized experience at Gators events.

UAA officials said while crowds may total 90,000 at games, the department’s information on fans’ consumer spending habits probably only covers about 40,000 of those. That will increase with the popularity of app usage, and SSB systems will be aimed at eliminating duplication problems.

“Without the Wi-Fi, I was never comfortable with heavily promoting the use of mobile tickets on game day for entry due to our connectivity issues,” said Associate Athletic Director for Tickets Doug Sutherland. “I wanted to avoid thousands of fans attempting to log in to their account and download their ticket as they walked up to the gate and have a bad experience by not being able to complete the process.”

Now, Sutherland added, “We’ve eliminated PDF tickets from any tickets sold on Ticketmaster.com and on the Gators’ secondary ticket site, Ticket Exchange.”

He said the ticketing office will be communicating with buyers to encourage mobile usage and guidance on the new app.

All of this evolution is to support the program’s efforts to create the most exciting home environment and fan experience in college football.

 

9 COMMENTS

    • ADA a million years ago ATM machines were supposed to cut costs for banks and speed up things for customers. It did the first two then they added the fee for using the machine that saved the expense of a teller. I wonder what this is going to cost in the long term.

  1. Rog has a fancy cellular communication device ….. and Rog is tethered to a laptop 50-60 hrs a week (Nerdy Accountant) and Rog has lots of fancy E-lectronic toyz …… but these kinds of upgrades are not aimed at the Rog’s of the world. Rog pays his money and sits and watches the game and soaks in the atmosphere. Rog doesn’t care two hoots about posting on Instagram or Twitter to let everyone know where he is…. If Rog wants something from the concession stand he whips out his trusty wallet, throws down an Abe Lincoln and enjoys himself immensely with 84,000 of his closest friends.

    I’m not the target audience….but unfortunately I get why they have to do this because I’m just an old fart, not a long term future customer.

  2. So when fans sell their tickets, will they hold their phones up in the air? As long as I can get in with my paper tickets I get in the mail, I don’t care if they tattoo the ticket to your forehead with a bar code.

    Now there is another reason for millennials to stay glued to their phones during the game. Maybe the app will show the score of the game while they are texting so they don’t miss a minute! Go Gators!