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Game One of The NBA Finals Didn’t Sell Out, and Why That’s OK With the Warriors

Was this a case of lower demand from fans or the Warriors betting on themselves?

TicketiQ Insights

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Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

*TicketIQ is a proud partner of Front Office Sports.

Mostof the chatter around the 2018 NBA finals has focused on the lack of novelty surrounding the record-setting fourth consecutive Cavaliers-Warriors matchup. 2018, however, brings at least one new and unexpected twist: last-minute buyers can get tickets directly from the team, even after tip-off

While fans and the front office execs alike have been conditioned to label  ‘not selling out’ as a failure, in the new world of ticket buying, it may be the best way for teams to compete against the secondary market.

Over the last 15 years, the Internet-driven secondary market–in addition to creating billion dollar businesses–has trained ticket buyers to wait. On sites like TicketIQ and Stubhub, last-minute shopping now accounts for as much as 50% of sales. When a team or show sells out weeks or months ahead of that last minute shopping, they’re essentially taking themselves out of the game at the very moment when it’s being won or lost, economically speaking.

Since the Cavs and Warriors first Finals in 2015, teams have been steadily taking back tickets from the same brokers that they’d been selling to for years. In addition to sports, some of the biggest acts in music have also changed how and when they sell tickets. For her Reputation tour, Taylor Swift, like the Warriors, sold tickets until the start of the event.

What the journalists who chided the Reputation Tour miss is that because of her ‘slow ticketing’ sales model, Taylor Swift made roughly $1 million more per show than she did for her ‘sold out’ 1989 tour.  With those kinds of numbers, not selling out is making more sense to promoters and teams than ever before.

It is somewhat refreshing to consider that in this new ticketing model, teams are essentially betting on themselves. Forward-looking organizations like the Knicks and Carolina Hurricanes have realized that the biggest risk lies not in failing to sell out, but in giving away their customers and any potential ‘market-based’ upside to the secondary market.

For lower-demand games like last night where teams make less money because tickets drop below face prices, fans end up winning. Patient fans in the Bay area paid as little as $315 on the secondary market for game one, which was $100 below the face price tickets available directly from the Warriors at 9:01 pm.

If LeBron and the Cavs can’t rebound from their tough OT loss, prices for game four in Cleveland might drop below $200, which would be the first time this decade that’s happened for an NBA finals game. It would also mean a rare NBA Finals loss for brokers in Cleveland.

If LeBron can avoid a sweep, prices for a clinching game 5 or 7 at Oracle Arena would skyrocket and equate to big profits for the Warriors. It would also call to mind one of the oldest adages in sports and business, and one that no athlete appreciates more than LeBron James: you’ve got to be in it to win it.

*TicketIQ is a proud partner of Front Office Sports.

TicketIQ is the leading ticket search engine that works directly with teams, venues and promoters and other sellers to deliver the best deals on tickets and a Low Price Guarantee.

Ticket Sales

How Teams Are Using Technology to Increase Ticket Sales

Companies like the Aspire Group and Semcasting provide teams with in-depth information, which has helped organizations increase ticket sales.

Bailey Knecht

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Beyond wins and losses, sports organizations have lofty goals, particularly when it comes to ticket sales. Teams are constantly working to build a loyal fan base and increase attendance, so to address this challenge, many have begun outsourcing to tech companies that help them expand their reach.

One of those teams is the Dallas Mavericks, who work with Semcasting, a data-as-a-service company that creates predictive models for potential customers.

“We are a compiler of databases,” explained Geetha Neelakantiah, vice president of business development and partnerships for Semcasting. “Some is public information we’re pulling in, some is survey information, some is a variety of governmental agencies that make the data public. What we do is we add our smarts because we have the tools to create inferences based on income and other data elements.”

Those inferences help develop a 360-degree view of the customers to analyze the best way to market to them.

Semcasting builds profiles by taking into consideration fans’ income, home values, interests and distance to the arena. The company also addresses Customer Trade Areas using Mobile Footprints, by mapping smartphone signals and identifying patterns and “hot spots” in the fan base.

SEE MORE: How Teams Can Use Social Video Franchises to Tell Unique Stories 

“Knowing who’s attending an event or game or retail location and finding them and identifying who they are, marketers are able to provide better programming to them so next time they come, it could be catered to those coming to the event so it’s more customized,” said Neelakantiah.

The Aspire Group is another organization that works with teams to optimize ticket sales and fan experience. According to Bill Fagan, chief operating officer for the Aspire Group, the main goal in ticket marketing is to retain fans.

“If we’re losing existing fans, ticket holders or donors or whoever, then we’re never going to grow,” Fagan said. “It’s very challenging to acquire new fans. Analytics indicate that if you’re not retaining at least 85 percent of your fans, you won’t get back to your previous year’s total.”

Finding and retaining fans is particularly important for teams that may be struggling to earn wins, Fagan said.

“Hope is not a strategy, and winning is not a strategy,” he said. “You can’t just hope that team is going to turn it around. You have to work twice as hard to retain people and make sure you don’t lose them. There’s nothing more important than taking care of the people that are attending.”

In order to preserve those existing fans, as well as identify potential new fans, the Aspire Group uses a variety of tactics, ranging from conducting surveys to utilizing data aggregation technologies.

That technology is what allows organizations to draw conclusions based on existing information.

“What marketers are attempting to find is lookalikes,” Fagan said. “They say, ‘Here’s what our average fan looks like in their demographic and behaviors. Let’s find other people that behave in similar ways.’”

“Knowing that information — how often a person purchased with their demographic — helps identify other individuals,” Neelakantiah added. “It does give us more information about how a sports team is able to develop different marketing programs and increase sales on different segments.”

LISTEN: Rob Perez’s Journey From Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality 

In order for the team to deliver customized advertising to specific audiences, organizations like Semcasting aim to access the “unknown fan” — someone who has attended a game or visited the team website, but isn’t a regular buyer — an ideal customer for the team to zero in on. Once data is used to nail down the demographics of the “unknown fans,” advertising can be specially targeted to fit their needs and hopefully turn them into regulars.

According to a testimonial from Veronica Cantu, director of sales marketing with the Mavericks, the partnership with Semcasting has been beneficial.

“Thanks to Semcasting, we now have a deeper understanding of our fan base and clearer solutions on how to customize and optimize our engagement with them,” she said. “When our fans buy single tickets, season tickets or simply visit our website, Semcasting has helped us discern who those unknown fans are and where they spend their time, both online and offline.”

With the help of Semcasting, the Mavericks saw a 380 percent return on investment, based on a $25.30 cost per acquisition.

Looking ahead, Semcasting hopes to tie it all together by identifying the most effective forms of marketing, using attribution to connect sales back to the relevant marketing channel.

In a broader sense, the next step for data analysis companies is making fan identification resources more universally affordable and available, particularly for smaller market organizations with less manpower, according to Fagan.

“The challenge for entertainment properties is getting the right ROI,” he said. “Unfortunately, the resources might not be available to invest in the technologies, so there is an increased demand for third party, technologically-based affordable solutions… That’s where we put our heads, which is servicing the entire world of live event ticketing and understanding that an empty seat is a cancer to the brand.”

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College Athletics

Inside the University of Minnesota’s Creative New Rewards Program

Mike Wierzbicki and Ben Fraser join us for another episode of Shot Callers as they break down their loyalty program and the success they have found with it.

Front Office Sports

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Ticket Sales

Elevate On Campus Looks to Become New Player in College Athletics

The new initiative from Elevate Sports Ventures looks to bring another option to college athletic departments across the country.

Adam White

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Elevate on Campus

In the college athletics world, IMG Learfield has been synonymous with dominance in the ticketing space for the better part of a decade.

Whether that is a good thing or not can be left up to you, but starting this fall, another group is looking for some playing time.

Enter Elevate on Campus.

Led by Mark Dyer, Founder and CEO of Taymar Ventures and former senior VP at IMG College, Elevate on Campus is looking to change the way ticket sales providers service and execute for their college athletic clients.

“It starts with the fact that we are going to introduce a new model of the relationship between us, the provider and the athletic departments at these universities. The traditional model in this business was that consultants were paid commission on certain sales, and it had the effect of restricting focus and the areas in which the business could operate; it put consultants in a certain corner. After almost a decade in the business, we are completely changing the model and the relationship, making it much more of a partnership and enabling us to get much better aligned with the objectives of the athletic department with any particular season or sport.”

As someone who spent the better part of 10 years helping build IMG’s ticketing solutions, Dyer took a year off to build what will now become Elevate on Campus.

Along with the rest of the leadership group at Elevate Sports Ventures, Dyer sees an opportunity to come in and help schools find more efficient ways to sell their tickets at a time when fewer people are willing to shell out the money required to come to games.

With attendance down year over year for 30 of the 40 Power Five teams that opened their season the first weekend of September, Dyer and Elevate on Campus want to help reverse that trend.

“College football has probably never been more popular on TV.  The TV product generates tremendous ratings, interest, and attendance. However, attendance is a growing issue in the sports business overall and college basketball and football are not immune to that trend.  We estimate that 1.5 million seats go unsold in the college football season each weekend. There is room for a new approach to this market, to help the schools sell more seats and get more people on campus enjoying their approach.”

SEE MORE: Oakland A’s Focus on Group Sales Paying Dividends

What does this new approach look like? Being able to package everything that professional sports teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Sixers are using into an offering that is suitable and impactful for a college athletic department.

“The contribution that HBSE is going to be able to make for our client schools is far beyond anything that’s been offered before in the college space,” said Dyer. “When you think about  pricing, analytics and recruiting sales managers and staff, the latest and greatest in technology, this is a resource package that we will bring to bear in the college market with this new start-up.”

Dyer has already set a benchmark of being in business with 15 schools by the end of 2019, and with the University of Kentucky becoming the first school to sign on, they are already one step closer to that goal.

Like any business, Dyer is expecting bumps in the road, but he is leaning on the mission of the organization to guide them.

“We have a simple mission: to be the best provider in the space, as far as how many schools we have as clients – and the impact that we deliver for those clients. That’s the simple mission.”

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