Alumni-led Marketing Team Bolster Record Ticket Sales

August 24, 2018

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The new Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land has some of the highest ticket sales in the world according to Pollstar—a trade publication for the concert industry. And those efforts are led by two TLU alumni. Since the venue opened in January 2017, Marketing Director Andrew Huang ’87 and Marketing Manager Elisa Wellnitz Hrachovina ’14 have created a strategy that’s propelling their sales to the top.

Located just 22 miles outside of Houston, the Smart Financial Centre is a state-of-the-art, indoor performance venue located just 22 miles from downtown Houston. Because of the facility’s unique design, they’re able to host a wide range of events including national music, comedy artists, family shows, theatrically-staged Broadway productions, and cultural and performing arts attractions.

Huang and Hrachovina previously worked in marketing together for the Houston Galleria, but actually met on campus when Huang was a member of the TLU Board Of Regents.

“I was introduced to Elisa during an event and she seemed like a real go-getter,” Huang, a music major said. “When I was looking for someone to help with marketing at the Galleria I thought of her. We worked there together for about a year and a half at Galleria before moving to the Smart Financial Centre. Once we began working there, our main goals were to get the building online and develop brand identity.”

That brand identity is now responsible for some of the best ticket sales across the globe.

“The way Pollstar works is that different theatres, arenas, and amphitheaters all submit their ticket sales so they can track how we’re doing. For 2017 we were 12th in the world. By mid-year we were fourth and ahead of the Toyota Center. We opened the building with Jerry Seinfeld doing two shows and it has been great ever since. Our job is to sell tickets and make sure people come to shows, so it has been an amazing success story.”

Huang says their approach is very strategic and they rely heavily on digital promotion via social media, Spotify, and digital ads. Hrachovina not only helps lay out the marketing budget, she also manages the website, handles presales and the email database while also working with companies like Ticketmaster on campaigns and Search Engine Marketing.

They’re also a part of the process to decide which acts to bring, including comedy legends like Steve Martin, Dave Chapelle, Jon Stewart, and Chris Rock.

“We have a really diverse programming strategy,” Huang said. “We have a large Indian and Asian residency here so we make sure to book performers that appeal to those groups. We’ve hosted everything from classic rock to country to comedy. Our urban and Latin shows are also really big hits. From a marketing standpoint, we’re able to host so many types of artists because we can literally change the configuration of the house. We have walls that move in and out and we’re able to make the venue look smaller or have different seating configurations. This allows us to look at a range of artists from those who can sale 2,000 tickets versus 6,500.”

Hrachovina says the opportunity to get into marketing stemmed from a Public Relations course she took taught by Sarah Story, vice president for admissions and marketing. Although her major was theology with a focus on youth and family ministry, Hrachovina said one of the great things about TLU is the opportunity to take so many different types of classes.

“One of the things I love most about TLU is the diversity of courses you can take because it’s a liberal arts university,” Hrachovina said. “I had to take nutrition courses and math classes. I was really able to fine tune what I liked and didn’t like. My senior year I took a PR class and a marketing class and I realized I really like it. No matter what field you decide to go into, TLU sets you up for success after graduation.”

She also admits she knew she wanted to attend TLU since the fifth grade because she had always heard about how great the university was.

“Going to TLU was the culmination of a dream for me and it made a huge impact on my life,” she said. “To also have professors who I could talk to about my future and goals was so beneficial. I was part of several campus organizations and I worked in the admissions office so I was always put in situations where I met lots of alumni.”

That community aspect is something Huang identifies with as well.

As someone who also went through the TLU experience, I always want to help younger alumni,” he said. “TLU is a special place. In addition to Elisa, I met another alumnus at a Houston Baptist University basketball game about 15 years ago and she was someone I wanted on my team. I hired her and then she moved into a very successful marketing career built off of that connection. It’s really important for me to pay it forward. People took a chance on me and I want to do that for others.”

Marketing Staff

Sarah Story
Vice President for Admissions & Marketing 

Ashlie Ford
Director of Marketing & Communications

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