Recently hired Athletic Director Joel Nielsen quickly established his ambitions of reinviting the Kent State football program with a heightened focus on the team itself, fan experience and marketing.
Thus his brain child, the "90Ksu--Everyone Counts" Program, was born.
Roughly two months after the new program's inception, it was time to calculate it's progress with cold, hard numbers.
90Ksu is built on several platforms and encompassess several aspects of the football program that needed to be reevaluated and rewired.
First, it focuses on improving the experience of the fan, including opening up the parking lot three hours prior to kick-off for tailgating, providing a DJ and music in the Field house along with cheerleaders and other entertainment being added for the fans.
Executive Associate Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein emphasized if the product isn't up to snub, the progam won't succeed.
"Just asking people to buy tickets won't get it done, we have to provide an experience for the fan that's affordable, entertaining and a great value for college football on a Saturday afternoon," Said Kleinlein. "It's great to see the increased interest, and the community has turned out remendously, and because of this we're way ahead of ticket sales from years past."
Second, the football program itself.
The latter half of the 90Ksu title reads "Everyone Counts"--meaning it's the marketing department's job to increase interest and provide better entertainment, the fans' job to show their colors on Saturdays at the stadium, and Head Coach Doug Martin's job to bring home more W's than L's.
"We're driving this interest," said Kleinlein. "It's Doug Martin's job to ensure this product is what it needs to be on the football field."
KSU hasn't been to a bowl game since disco died, and a winning record has come few and far between. The Flashes are coming off a five-win season with All-MAC RB Eugene Jarvis set to return, quarterback Spencer Keith with a year under his belt and Div. 1-A's leader in interceptions Brian Lainhart spearheading a stronger defensive unit. If the hot-seat wasn't already hot for Head Coach Doug Martin, the added emphasis and focus on his program will act as the hot coals under his paper-thin chair.
Thirdly, football marketing, including everything from TV commercials and billboards as you enter Kent to the "90Ksu" logo appearing around campus.
Those involved with KSU communications and the 90Ksu Program will insist that all three aspects are being looked at evenly, but it's the latter of the trio that sits as the heart of the issue. To be simple--better marketing means better ticket sales.
Even with the increased volume of marketing directed towards, football, no "new" money has been spent.
Instead of shifting money from other aspects of the University, the way in which the existing budget was directed has been changed. For example, instead of print ads, billboard space was rented to reach more eyes in a more colorful way.
Due to the economic struggles as of late in this area of the country, the Kent football budget hasn't increased along with the increase of focus on the program. Per Alan Ashby, Director of Athletic Communications, the football marketing budget currently stands at about $105,000, with around 20% of that remaining.
Thus, creative ways of marketing have been used to market football while stretching each dollar spent.
When someone calls campus and is put on hold, they'll hear about 90Ksu and how to buy tickets. The 90Ksu logo also appears at the bottom of almost every Kent E-mail sent around campus. Many in the Kent State marketing department have gone around to local businesses in Kent, Stow and Hudson to ask if they can hang posters or schedule cards in their places of business. Tickets have even been sold simply by Ashby and others walking around with the 90KSU logo on their shirt, getting asked questions about it and taking orders.
All of those things have increased interest and ticket sales at minimum to no cost.
Preseason ticket sales are calculated as "Total Tickets," meaning every season ticket package sold counts as six, while obviously every single game ticket counts as one ticket sold.
Per the Kent State Ticket Office, 3,648 tickets were sold as of August 5, 2009.
With the 90Ksu Program's help, that number just one year later stands at 25,545.