A month has certainly flown by since my last commercial update. I talked then about our four key aims as we move into the season, and these were going to form the content for my next four updates.
However, given the huge draw we have had in the Carabao Cup against the current cup holders and Premier League Champions, Manchester City, it presents a great opportunity to talk a little about what a draw like this means to us as a club and behind the scenes.
Firstly, it is of course a fantastic occasion and opportunity for the club. There were great cup matches here recently against the likes of Swansea City and Newcastle United, but this is the first visit of one of the real big guns in a competitive match at Grenoble Road. In fact, you probably have to go back to the Chelsea match at The Manor in 1999 for the last home cup tie with this kind of demand against this stature of opposition.
With opportunity of course come challenges. As a club, both commercially and in ticketing arrangements for the match, our number one priority was ensuring that our loyal fans and clients were guaranteed to see the match at no further cost than a normal league game.
In ticketing terms, this meant really careful consideration as we are acutely aware that getting this wrong would be a disaster. Luckily, timing wise, as club staff we had a ten hour round trip to Sunderland in the car on the Saturday immediately following the draw, which gave us plenty of time to debate and consider it!
Without going into too much detail, we worked through a thought process something like this:
1. Demand – is there a demand from home fans for a home sell out, with the minimum away allocation? In this case, we felt the answer was yes. However, through planning, those eagle eyed supporters buying once tickets were released to database sale will have noticed that additional blocks in the North Stand were opened up during this time, as we had left them until last so we had options to extend the away support should demand not be there from home supporters.
2. Price – we usually consider pricing in tiers according to the level of competition and opposition. In this situation price would probably have not been too much of a barrier to the demand for tickets, but we never consider pricing tickets higher than league matches.
3. Priority – of course Season Ticket Holders are guaranteed their seat, along with members. This is where the new membership scheme comes into its own. We had already sold around 500 memberships prior to this game. We now have 1500. We also wanted to ensure that those who had attended the previous rounds were guaranteed a ticket, and the same with the Coventry league match so that fans in any of the above groups were essentially guaranteed a ticket.
4. Ticket Limits – once the match reached database sale we agreed a limit of four tickets per transaction. This of course included anyone from the previous priority needing extra tickets. We wanted to sell out at this stage, and with a four ticket limit we know some people will be bringing along new fans and friends – but at least someone in each group has already attended previously. Hopefully this match and occasion will showcase what we can be as a club in the best possible light to the widest possible audience, and encourage many to return again for a future match.
By this point we had reached York without even noticing! Having gone through the process again on the way home, we were set by Monday morning to release ticket details and confirm the initial allocation to Manchester City ahead of the midday requirement.
I think it is important to show some of the detail of what is thought about in these scenarios, and that whilst driving revenue is of course important, far more attention is given to ensuring that the process is fair, and that it looks after our regular supporters. Of course we want new fans through the door, and of course we welcome the opportunity this kind of match brings to open us up to potential new fans – the long term benefits are in the follow up marketing we can do afterwards to the casual attendees and new members we have gained. As a club, we are extremely lucky to have some very long serving and loyal members of staff such as Mick Brown, with incredible experience, and we need to recognise the thought and effort that went in to ensuring this was a smooth and fair process.
Commercially, a very similar approach was taken, however immediately after the draw it became abundantly clear that we had a level of demand that was far outweighing supply. In commercial sales terms, we do have tiered pricing and we are able to gain more revenue from a match like this than we would a normal match purely due to the exposure playing such a top team brings.
The first decision was an easy one. In line with the match ticket policy, all of our seasonal corporate clients in the Executive Boxes and 1893 Club were guaranteed their place at the same price as a normal league match.
We are lucky that we have so many seasonal Executive Boxes, and with unsurprisingly a 100% take up rate, this left us with very limited space to sell.
Within days, all sponsorship packages, restaurant, boxes and mascot packages were filled, and we have also sold additional TV arc advertising based on the match being broadcast Internationally, though not in the UK.
The commercial team worked extremely hard to talk to every business who had showed an interest, and at the same time as match tickets, all Commercial areas were sold out within days.
Revenue wise, just in the Commercial areas, this is worth over £50,000 to the club and that is before our share of the gate receipts is taken into account. So as a one off event, the revenue this match will bring in is huge.
I would also like to make sure we say thank you and appreciate the work that the Ticket Office and Commercial teams have put into this. Our strategy of selling the match out, quickly, to the right people was carried out excellently. Every department at a club of our size will be working extremely hard to deliver this match, and of course as well as the sold out crowd, I hope everyone behind the scenes also gets a moment or two to enjoy what promises to be a fantastic evening.
Doing more in the City
I want to finish briefly on touching on one of the four key aims from my previous update – that we as a club forge closer links with the City of Oxford, and we get our name out across this county. We are a one club county and there is no reason that everyone in the county shouldn’t know who and where we are.
The £1.25 to £12.50 matchday against Shrewsbury Town on 27th October gives us a huge chance to invite everyone along to a matchday and celebrate with us.
From this week, you will see big advertising campaigns in the Oxford Mail and Jack FM. These ticket prices and the nature of the celebration give us an opportunity to potentially reach a new audience. Of course there are a very important three points on offer that day, but this match is about far more than that. By advertising across the county we hope as a club we will attract new support.
We were also extremely keen to work closely with Oxvox and the Yellow Army to promote this match to the existing fan base. As a club it is just as important that we work closely with the supporters as advertise heavily aimed at new supporters. I have seen first hand over the years how much this fan base can get behind these big matches and events. By doing so this time, and with the wide advertising, it offers us the perfect opportunity to showcase what we are about and that maybe you don’t have to wait for the next big cup draw to come back and enjoy your day out at Oxford United.
As well as the fantastic matchday against Shrewsbury – which we hope will be a huge celebration of 125 years of history (make sure you keep updated with our plans for that day) we are delighted to be hosting our Black Tie Dinner in the evening in such a prestigious and famous venue as the Bodleian Libraries.
Our aim here is to put on an event that companies in Oxford want to celebrate with us, regardless of any current allegiance with Oxford United. You can see our event brochure HERE which we are distributing to businesses across the City. I’ll talk more about the 125th Anniversary and our aims of hosting the event as well as everything going on for the matchday in my next update.
On a final note, we will also be supporting the Round Table Fireworks at South Park on 3rd November. Oxford United will be a co-sponsor of the event alongside Jack FM, and are working closely with the Round Table to ensure that we have a very visible presence to the many families that attend this. With over 20,000 people expected, this is another huge opportunity for us to reach a potentially new audience.
I think the most used word in this update has been ‘opportunity’. That is exactly what this club has if we shout loudly enough about what we offer. The Manchester City tie will do a lot of shouting for us, but there is a whole lot more going on in the background to ensure we can grow as a club. It won’t happen overnight, but if we do things in the right way and get our message out across Oxfordshire, we will grow.
Matt Everett Commercial & Marketing Director