Kroger Field is among the University of Kentucky venues where Elevate On Campus will handle ticketing. (Courtesy Elevate On Campus)

Elevate Sports Ventures has formed a joint venture with veteran sports marketer Mark Dyer to sell tickets in the college space. The new company, Elevate On Campus, has signed the University of Kentucky as its first client with a focus on selling football tickets, Dyer said.

Dyer, founder and CEO of Taymar Ventures, is president of Elevate On Campus. He was among the founders of IMG College Ticket Solutions, which became IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions in 2012 after Dyer sold half the company to Learfield Sports. Dyer has a strong relationship with Kentucky dating to his tenure with the old Host Communications in the 1990s. At that time, Host held the SEC school’s multimedia rights.

Now, as head of Charlotte-based Elevate On Campus, Dyer’s new firm will compete for college business against IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions, The Aspire Group and Legends, among others.

Elevate Sports Ventures launched in February. Its investors include the San Francisco 49ers; Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils; Ticketmaster/Live Nation; and Oak View Group, which is also parent company of VenuesNow.

Dyer left IMG College in August 2017 to form Taymar Ventures, a one-man shop. He was in search of a business partner and found one after initially discussing opportunities with Dan Shell, a former colleague at IMG College who is now head of OVG Collegiate, which handles sponsorship sales for clients, and Tim Leiweke, OVG’s CEO.

Leiweke referred Dyer to Al Guido, Elevate Sports Ventures’ CEO, and they signed a deal after about three months of negotiations.

The agreement was signed soon after Kentucky selected Taymar Ventures, Dyer’s company, to outsource ticket sales. Dyer said school officials were aware that he was in serious discussions with Elevate Sports Ventures and he had made reference to the potential joint venture during the RFP process.

“I had a vision … that if I was going to get in the ticket sales business again in the college space, I wanted a partner that would add tremendous value to what we could offer the schools and align us better in terms of services,” Dyer said. “We’re going to take full advantage of what the Sixers and 49ers offer, and OVG is going to make a real impact on the facility side.”

“They’re seeing the same thing other sports are seeing with (a big drop) in live event ticket sales,” he said. “We did a study over the last few weeks. The good news is the college football product has never been better. Television ratings are great, the playoff is great, but there are still 1 million unsold tickets on most weekends. That means there’s a big opportunity out there.”

Elevate’s deal with Kentucky kicks off Sept. 17 in Lexington. The company will be paid a management fee to run ticket operations, providing greater flexibility for selling tickets for basketball at Rupp Arena, football at Kroger Field, baseball at Kentucky’s new $50 million ballpark opening in 2019 and all other sports.

“Traditionally, schools would pay us (at IMG College) a commission on what we sold and we would pay commissions to the salespeople,” Dyer said. “We’ll still do that, but it’s more fee-based with bonuses built in on meeting certain objectives. It allows us to turn on a dime on the priorities that the athletic department has, and instead of focusing strictly on new business, we’re going to focus on the entirety of their customer portfolio, [including] all their renewal accounts.”

Dyer hired Joe Rickert as a vice president for Elevate On Campus, and he will serve as general manager of the Kentucky account. Rickert, a Kentucky graduate, was most recently manager of ticket sales for the Atlanta Hawks. He will supervise a four-person sales staff at the Kroger Field box office.

“Football will be a priority for us if you look at our plans and strategy and execution on a year-round basis,” Dyer said. “I don’t anticipate that we’re going to have men’s basketball season tickets available, but [23,500-seat Rupp Arena] is a big building and if there’s some inventory for nonconference games against opponents (without) marquee value, our group there will be on top of that.”

Dyer plans to relocate from Dallas to Charlotte, which he selected for the home office because the airport is a major hub and it’s easy to recruit executives to come live there, he said. Plus, Dyer has several business relationships in Charlotte after having run the Charlotte division of NASCAR from 2002 to ’06.

For sales training, Elevate On Campus plans to use Harris Blitzer’s office in Camden, N.J., which sits next to the Sixers’ new practice facility. Dyer spent a day visiting the firm’s headquarters there and said he was impressed with the operation.

“Al Guido has an ambitious growth plan for Elevate, and we’re all very much cut from the same cloth in all the work we’ve done so far,” Dyer said. “We’re both startups, and it’s fun to be part of something with that energy level in it, and that’s what we’ll bring on campus.”