Jets Audible Into Direct Response15 Jan, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response
Next autumn, fans of the National Football League’s (NFL) New York Jets will be able to watch their team in the luxury of a brand new, 82,500-seat stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. With the debut of the as-yet-unnamed stadium (which the team will share with the New York Giants), new Jets season tickets were available to fans for the first time in decades. For Jessica Ciccone, the team’s director of corporate communications, this was a huge marketing opportunity.
“With such a well-known brand in the sports world, and in America’s largest market, having season tickets available in the new building is big news,” she says. “Since we’ve been sold out of new season tickets for decades, we knew that it would take a major marketing effort to notify the public of this rare availability.”
That effort — called the Opportunity Knocks campaign — included a strong direct response push across all major media — from TV to Web to print — to sell seats in four different groups. Those groups included luxury suites, club seats, personal seat licenses (PSL) for general seating and non-PSL general seating.
A campaign that started in 2008 is coming to a close, as the Jets expect to sell out of new season ticket opportunities soon. The effort was not without bumps in the road, as the cost of some PSLs became an issue in tough economic times.
However, by continuing follow-through on the campaign, with some minor transitions in pricing structure, the Jets organization expects packed houses in the new stadium in 2010 and beyond.
A Franchise Flourishes in the New Century
Packed houses weren’t always a way of life for a star-crossed franchise that was founded 50 years ago. The Jets originally played in New York’s old Polo Grounds before moving to Shea Stadium in Queens in 1964, and then to the Meadowlands in 1984. However, the Jets were not only a tenant in the Meadowlands for the past 25 years, but they were also stuck with the name Giants Stadium — the name of the crosstown rival football squad they shared the stadium with.
Jets history runs deep in NFL annals, going back to the franchise’s upset win in Super Bowl III in 1969. Then, the Jets became the first American Football League (AFL) team to defeat the NFL champions in the big game, prior to the two leagues merging in 1970. However, there were many lean times throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, before the Jets reestablished themselves as a regular contender for division titles in the NFL’s era of parity. A return to contention also meant stronger ticket sales, as the Jets have done extremely well in filling Giants Stadium with fans on gameday in recent years.
It was into this era that Ciccone stepped, joining the franchise directly after finishing her undergraduate work at Georgetown University in 2002. “I was hired right out of college as an assistant in business operations, and I’ve been through a number of different roles here,” she says. “As an organization, it’s actually surprisingly small and flexible, very collaborative. On my way into this role, I saw a bit of everything.”
Her work in marketing and communications, though, was where Ciccone really excelled and where Matt Higgins, the team’s executive vice president of business operations, saw her career heading. “I’d done a lot of work in marketing, from merchandise and products to tickets,” Ciccone says. “Now, as director of corporate communications, I oversee the overall communications aspect of the franchise, including on- and off-the-field public relations.”
She adds, “A football team is unlike any other public company — it’s business shows up on both the front and back pages of the newspaper. Our job is to do the best we can for the organization to get our messages — whether sales and marketing, or PR — out, whether it’s via the Web, social media or earned media.”
New Ticket Opportunities, New Marketing Objectives
When tasked with the Opportunity Knocks campaign for ticket sales in the Jets’ new home, Ciccone knew that she would need to use various forms of marketing to achieve both sales and branding objectives. “It’s a three-prong approach — a strong initial branding and awareness campaign, combined always with a direct response call-to-action, and then finally, a solid back-end of follow-up calls, E-mails and direct mail to interested fans,” she says. “DR is a crucial element of this mix because you have to give fans the action to take in order to sell tickets.”