Football Team Scoring Telemarketing Touchdowns

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An effective strategy used by the Orlando Predators' telemarketing department has led to an increase in the number of season ticket holders for the Arena Football League team.

Chris Tamburrelli, director of the team's division of telemarketing, had 10 agents place 40,000 calls last year in an effort to sell season tickets to business owners in the Orlando area.

The result of the effort was the sale of approximately 1,600 season tickets, resulting in a 4 percent call-to-sale ratio. The team solicited exclusively businesses because as incentives for clients and employees, tickets can be used by businesses as tax deductions.

Consumer prospects buy season tickets simply to attend games, making them a tougher sell, Tamburrelli said. The team tried telemarketing to Orlando-area residents a few years ago -- and kept agents working as late as 9 p.m. -- but gave up when the effort failed to be cost-effective.

"There are guys out there who claim they have lists that target sports fans," Tamburrelli said. "But it's still pretty much hit and miss."

With telemarketing sales rates remaining steady since the Predators began call center operations in 1997, the number of season ticket holders has grown to approximately 8,000. Average attendance at Predators games is about 14,000. The season runs during the spring and summer, and teams play seven home games each year.

The agents also try to boost the percentage of season ticket holders who renew their tickets at the end of the season. Pairs of Predators season tickets are available for as little as $90, but only about 70 percent of season ticket holders renew. The company, which is seeking to increase the renewal rate to 90 percent, telemarkets to all season ticket holders in an attempt to get them to retain their tickets.

Although the AFL's 2000 season was marred by a pre-season labor dispute, the Predators' telemarketing team generated approximately $320,000 in revenue, said Jeff Bouchy, the team's chief financial officer.

The Predators are the only Arena Football League team with an inhouse call center. In 1999, the center began telemarketing for the team's cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Storm.

Parent company Orlando Predators Entertainment Inc. has expanded into other minor league sports ventures, resulting in a telemarketing staff that has no shortage of work. The telemarketing staff makes between 60,000 and 70,000 calls annually, including calls placed both for the Predators and for other teams.

The Predators ceased outsourcing its telemarketing staff to the Tampa Bay Storm when its rival came under new management about a year ago. Predators agents also telemarket for the Peoria Pirates, a developmental team in the ArenaFootball2 league owned by the Predators' parent company. In addition, they outsource for the Mobile, AL, Bay Bears, a minor league baseball team, and the Missouri River Otters, an International Hockey League team in St. Charles, MO.

But Tamburrelli said his agents will focus more on telemarketing for the Predators in the future and at some point will cease outsourcing. With no plans to expand the telemarketing staff, "we won't have time to do that," Bouchy said.

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