A 125-year-old company in Arkansas is expanding the buffet of possibilities for commemorative keepsakes from sporting events – and the next innovative one may be coming to a college campus near you.
To mark the grand opening of Baylor’s 7,500-seat Foster Pavilion on Jan. 2, Weldon, Williams & Lick and the university partnered to hand out limited-edition coins to fans who attended the men’s debut in the modern fieldhouse. The next night, they provided fans with a unique coin for the women’s team’s debut in the sparkling facility on the banks of the Brazos River.
The new Foster Pavilion logo was the centerpiece of the gold coins, with the date and opponent displayed on the back.
For WW&L, conceiving the latest innovative sporting event keepsake is the coin of the realm.
For generations – since hand-held paper tickets were all the rage before cell phones – WW&L has been the dominant player in printing sports tickets for the biggest events. Now in an almost exclusively digital age, the Baylor activation is the latest example of WW&L’s commitment to evolve by digging into its roots – it wants to put unique, tangible keepsakes in the hands of fans to cherish for posterity.
“The heart of it is Baylor and that fan,” Evan Gitomer, WW&L’s chief revenue officer, told On3. “We want that fan to feel like Baylor did something for them that is epic … Emotion is what drives this stuff. Emotion drives sports in general. But when you have this desire for success and something special happens, you do need some way to commemorate that. And that’s where we’re seeing this type of result. This type of success. And I only imagine that’ll continue to grow.”
WW&L has printed tickets for Super Bowls
WW&L’s long resume includes printing tickets for nearly every Super Bowl, six Olympic Games and several Final Fours, World Series and All-Star Games. At various times, they have printed tickets for all major theme parks and several national political conventions. You’d be hard-pressed to find a major college athletics program or professional sports team that has not, at some point, been involved with the company’s ticketing or other fan experience programs.
WW&L produced a commemorative ticket for this year’s classic Rose Bowl, which has already generated more than $100,000 in revenue. In MLB, in addition to selling out Globe Life Field for postseason games, the Texas Rangers generated some $200,000 in additional revenue in commemorative tickets offered by WW&L.
The company has had a long-standing relationship with Baylor – and it initially seemed like a commemorative ticket was the way to go to mark the opening of the pavilion.
But as both parties explored how to commemorate the arena’s opening, someone found a coin that fans received when Baylor’s football stadium, McLane Stadium, opened in 2014. [Another company worked with Baylor a decade ago on the football coin.]
Then it hit them: “When we open new facilities at Baylor, let’s do coins.”
“They wanted to create that synergy between what happened in football and what happened in basketball,” Gitomer said. “We want this to look like a series. I can hold up my football coin in one hand and hold up my basketball in the other. And it really makes me [fans] feel closer to the Bears in those instances.”
Keepsakes important to college fans
The activation highlights how WW&L strives to create commemorative keepsakes unique to a particular school, event or circumstance. As the legacy company continues to evolve, that innovation is a hallmark. In fact, in recent years it has created its own innovation and ideas department.
It also employs one individual who is tasked with exploring American culture – attending shows and events – to pinpoint distinct keepsakes. So, when a school like Baylor wants to elicit a particular emotion from its fan base, what’s the most appropriate activation?
WW&L leans on its experience and relationships as well as nimbleness and forward-thinking philosophy to find the ideal solution.
“It’s been amazing to see, whether it’s a team trying to drive more revenue, or just creating something that is memorable and just making something special for their fan base,” Gitomer said. “When they lean into it, and when they tell people about it, the return on that response is just through the roof.”
WW&L believes that fans of all ages still have the desire to touch, feel and keep a memento from a special sporting event they attended. Whether they now keep old tickets in a shoebox, a drawer or in a frame on the wall, Gitomer believes they immediately stir memories from an unforgettable no-hitter, a poignant Father’s Day outing or an opening of an arena.
WW&L strives to ‘go the extra mile’
In the early days, WW&L printed some 95% of the tickets for the Ringling Brothers Circus. Then they expanded to printing coupons for blocks of ice purchased before refrigeration rendered that practice obsolete. Then came the pivot to a host of other offerings, including printing tickets for every win, place or show at horse tracks nationwide.
These days, they continue to innovate, though they say the bedrock principle has remained unchanged: quality.
“We’ve learned that if we go the extra mile, and we lean into some of those relationships, it’s no different from shopping in Nordstrom or shopping at JCPenney, right?” Gitomer said. “You can get a shirt at either place. But if you’re going for a certain level of quality or a tie or whatever it is like you’re going there with purpose. We’re trying to be more of that Nordstrom versus that general department store.”