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Season Ticket Sales Change But They Remain Backbone Of Attendance

NBA and NFL ticket executives are bullish that season tickets will remain the bedrock of ticket sales for foreseeable future.

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Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The sports landscape is changing but expect season tickets to remain the backbone of professional sports attendance well into the future.

At least that’s the case in the NFL, where 85 percent of ticket sales are season packages, according to San Francisco 49ers Vice President of Sales and Services Jamie Brandt. 

“The NFL season ticket is still kicking, something we’ll see for a long time,” Brandt said at a panel on the subject at South by Southwest. “The communal aspect of the NFL [with just eight games]  is hard to generate in other leagues. We’re blessed in the NFL to have that tradition of every Sunday having the same 80 percent of the house being the same.”

READ MORE: How Teams Are Using Technology to Increase Ticket Sales

Writers from publications like The Ringer and the San Francisco Business Times have written about the impending death of the season-ticket model. Jamie Morningstar, senior vice president of ticket sales and services with the Milwaukee Bucks, says otherwise, and points to that narrative arising from some teams changing their sales strategies. Morningstar knows firsthand the power of how perception can impact sales. A few seasons ago, the Bucks experienced a decades-low in sales due to a failed strategy by the team to market season tickets as elite luxury items. 

“That backfired a bit,” she said. “Our biggest thing was recommitting to creating experiences that make season ticket holders feel like they’re part of the family.” Buoyed by improvement on the court, Milwaukee hit a record this season of more than 10,000 season-ticket packages sold.

Brandt believes that perhaps the season ticket’s greatest power lies in its emotional appeal. “Season tickets are a genuine link to an organization,” he said. “People aren’t looking to disassociate.” Meanwhile, the factors that most often cause fans to detach — time and affordability — each can be surmounted with flexibility. By providing more flexible plans, a team also creates a funnel for future season ticket holders. With that in mind, everything from pricing to length to how tickets can be transferred should be able to be customized. 

“You’re never renewing every season ticket holder,” Morningstar said. “We need to cultivate that dynamic so we have them in the building.”

That sense of belonging can also extend into promotional strategy. Eric Platte, Atlanta Hawks vice president of ticket sales, prefers a strategy of fostering community through exclusivity. This year, the team invited 10 to 20 Hawks season ticket holders for a pregame chalk talk with the coaching staff. The team also holds town halls with CEO Steve Koonin with 200 to 300.

“It’s just trying to find a way to differentiate season ticket holders versus general fan to build that FOMO,” he said. “You can’t buy that cool, unique experience.”

The next frontier could be buildings. Brandt was bullish on the seat license model often seen in new stadium and arena builds, which offer a bigger price upfront to help fund the construction but guarantee ownership of the season tickets at lower prices for however long the fan continues to buy them.

“A seat license has benefits that extend beyond the financial security of the team,” Brandt says. “It retains value and protects pricing long term while helping get that building built.”

With so many factors to consider, sales teams must be nimble and efficient. Morningstar stressed the importance of setting up a good culture while instilling a deep sense of accountability. It all sets up with a strong strategy to sell a vision of what team is — short and long term — outside of success on the court, at least in the Bucks’ case.

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

“Focusing on people and processes you have to prepare for the tipping point,” she said. “Over the last few years [the tipping point] is Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. The team has come together, a new building, all these little things, and for us, we were selling that story five years ago.”

But the one thing that should never get lost in the shuffle is the magic of the games themselves. As teams and leagues continue to compete with seemingly endless streams of content and increasingly selective media consumers, Platte said it’s important to sell the unscripted, live action with unknown finishes.

“Trae Young dropped 50 in a quadruple overtime game the other night,” Platte said. “People in the crowd will never get that again, 50 points from a 19-year-old kid. People remember that. That’s how we grow affinity.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

Ticket Sales

A Look at the New Foundation of Richmond Raceway’s Ticket Sales

Kraig Doremus

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Photo credit: Richmond Raceway

Richmond Raceway is leading the charge among International Speedway Corporation tracks with a new ticket sales strategy that includes growth and improvements to its ticket office and staff to better serve NASCAR fans. Richmond was also the first ISC track to shift to the new Tickets.com platform, which includes mobile ticketing technology.

One of the key modifications Richmond made was building out its ticket sales staff to have more dedicated support for inbound and outbound sales support.

Previously, inbound calls would go through the Daytona call center, but over the past 18 months ticket sales calls come directly to dedicated account executives in Richmond.

The strategic goal is to offer more personalized, in-market support for consumer ticket sales.

With inbound calls coming to Richmond first, and the debut of the new Tickets.com, along with new ticket sales-focused track website in 2017, Richmond’s account executives are establishing a more personal relationship with customers.

“I think the main reason we did this was to get back to 15-20 years ago where you were talking to a group at Richmond, a group that knew about the track and its ins and outs,” said James Hall, senior director of ticketing sales and consumer marketing. “When people are buying tickets, they want recommendations. What better way to do that than to get info from someone who works at the track? Our RICHMOND NATION season ticket holders now have a personal ticket rep assigned to them, too.”

READ MORE: How NASCAR Stays Up to Speed in the Ever-Changing Digital Space

Richmond’s ticket sales account executives do not just reach out to consumers when it is close to race time or time for renewals for Richmond’s NASCAR race weekends. They also reach out every 60 days to stay in contact.

The staff sends handwritten notes to grow the personal touch and conducts a “thank you” campaign following the NASCAR season.

The campaign is not about selling, it is about showing gratitude to fans and asking for their feedback to continue to grow the fan experience. These efforts add more dimension to an already growing personal relationship.

“Our team knows the track, which truly helps make it a personal experience. Fans know what they’re getting and have a familiarity with our property before the race weekend(s),” said Hall. “We get them what they want, whether it’s a recommendation on the FanGrounds or a view of pit road.

In an effort to help its ticketing department from both a sales and training standpoint, Richmond has taken advantage of the new ticketing system, ProVenue via a partnership with Tickets.com, and also the ISC Sales Academy.

Tom Canello, managing director of customer engagement services for ISC, has been instrumental in rolling out the new system, which will eventually be implemented at all ISC tracks.

ProVenue is fan-friendly and allows ticket holders to use digital tickets; it also streamlines the renewal process. The ISC Sales Academy allows individuals to receive proper training before heading to an ISC track to begin a career in ticket sales.

Regarding Tickets.com and ProVenue, Canello stated, “We put a focus on analytical modeling that would make our outbound strategies more efficient. We wanted to implement an enterprise model knowing that some of our fans go to different tracks on a yearly basis.”

One of the best things about the ISC Sales Academy, according to Canello, is that it allows ticket agents to receive training on how to sell tickets and gain familiarity with the ISC properties before graduating to a full-time position.

“James and I came up with the idea of a sales academy in 2017,” said Canello. “Some of the issues that the tracks were having was finding and training personnel. The sales academy helps ensure that the tracks will be hiring a person ready for the job. We took some of the burden of finding people off the shoulders of the tracks. We brought in people with Minor League Baseball and NBA experience to help train sales associates so that they’re ready from day one at the track.”

Richmond has gotten great feedback about its new ticketing efforts from race fans, but also the NASCAR community. Richmond president Dennis Bickmeier believes the track has a better opportunity to control its own destiny regarding ticket sales.

READ MORE: How Top Brands Market Products Via Partnerships With NASCAR

“When we restructured, we really focused on three main ticketing areas: Outbound sales, group sales and a personalized customer service model,” Bickmeier said. “We know our facility better than anybody. We can answer questions, troubleshoot issues, and do whatever it takes to make the fans experience at Richmond fantastic. I like the opportunity to control our own destiny.”

An additional benefit that Bickmeier sees is having the ticket agents located just inside the front doors of Richmond’s administration offices. Hearing the phones ring and tickets being sold, according to the track president, is energizing.

“When the phones are ringing off the hook, positive energy filters its way through the office,” he said. “Our ticket sales account executives are on the frontline. It’s been fun to have the energy permeate through the hallways with the improved physical space built for the ticket sales team.”

Leave it to Hall to sum up the new foundation of Richmond’s ticket sales strategy best.

“NASCAR is a community. We get to call back fans personally after the race and continue our relationship with them to make their Richmond Raceway experience one they will not forget. We want them to continue coming back and marking our race weekends as a regular holiday on their calendar.”

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Ticket Sales

Social Spaces Rule the Day at Venues

Beyond just providing fans with another option in which to take in the event, these spaces have also created more sponsorship inventory.

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Photo via Richmond Raceway

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Everywhere you look, a new social space is popping up at a venue. Beyond just providing fans with another option in which to take in the event, these spaces have also created more sponsorship inventory.

Opening Chaos Corner last year, Richmond Raceway saw great success in attracting fans with options such as cheaper concession prices.

Ahead of this year’s season, we caught up with Dennis Bickmeier, President of Richmond Raceway to see why the track has turned to social spaces, why options are important, and why Larry’s Hard Lemonade came aboard this year as a sponsor of Chaos Corner.

On building social spaces…

“When we started the design process, I wanted to do something similar to what we were beginning to see in other sports. Party decks were creating a social atmosphere and more of a gathering during sports events. We designed our party deck without fixed seating and levels deep enough for barstools and standing room space to congregate during the race. It was important that this area be in the middle of the action, so you can see and feel the race. From the infield to grandstands to the midway, we have areas that are essentially built around socializing.”



On offering different experiences…

“It is important to make sure we have a variety of offerings and strike the right balance between price point and experience. When you look across the spectrum of who is coming to our races, we have everything from first-time attendees or casual fans to long-time avid fans and season ticket holders with each group having different wants and expectations for their race-day experience. It is up to us to provide the menu and let them make the selection that is the best fit for the experience they want. Once they decide, then it is up to us to deliver.”

READ MORE: Richmond Raceway Takes Unique Approach to Fan Engagement With Seven-Day Trip

On creating new inventory…

“My view is it’s a two-way street. There are times, like with the Chaos Corner, when we knew it was something we wanted to do, and then worked to find a partner or brand that aligned with that experience to help us bring it to life. There are other times, and you see this a lot with promotions, whereby in our discussions with a sponsor, and understanding their objectives, that we hit on something that we can build together from scratch.”

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

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Ticket Sales

SeatGeek and Cargo Bring Tickets to the Backseat

Thanks to a new partnership, passengers who find themselves in Cargo-equipped vehicles will have the chance to get exclusive pricing on tickets.

Adam White

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Image via Cargo

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Next time you hop into an Uber or another ridesharing service, you might have the opportunity to load up on snacks, drinks, and even tickets to the biggest sporting event in town.

Thanks to a new partnership between SeatGeek and Cargo, passengers who find themselves in Cargo-equipped vehicles will have the chance to get exclusive pricing on tickets for concerts, sporting events, shows and other live events in the area in which they are traveling.

We caught up with Jeff Cripe, Founder & CEO for Cargo and Lee Moulton, Director of Partnerships for SeatGeek, to see how the deal came together and what it means for both parties.

On being more than a ticketing platform…
Moulton: “At our core, SeatGeek is obsessed with leveraging technology to make the experience of discovering and attending live events seamless and enjoyable. Enabling ticket discovery and commerce in relevant contexts such as during an Uber ride is just another way we are applying technology to serve consumers. Consumers are demanding that the apps and platforms they use are dynamic and adaptable. Our partnership with Cargo is a great example of contextual commerce at its best.”

On integrating teams…
Moulton: “We are currently working with various teams and sponsors to create special in-car offers for consumers. This will include offering last minute deals on tickets, being able to get complimentary rides to games and much more. Stay tuned!”

From chips and crackers to tickets…
Cripe: “Riders’ default behavior in rideshare vehicles is to shop, browse the internet, listen to music, and play games. Cargo’s long term ambition is to support all of that digital behavior, and we are thrilled to kick off our digital product marketplace with SeatGeek, whose data shows that ticket-buyers match up with Cargo’s core demo and are often traveling, via rideshare, within active Cargo cities.”

On brand integrations and custom offerings…
Moulton: “The possibilities are endless. You can imagine that buying a RedBull in the Cargo app could unlock a promo code to get discounted tickets to your next event. You can also imagine a rewards program where buying a certain number of products from Cargo can be used to redeem a ticket.”

Cripe: “Our brand partners have already reached out to sponsor ticket giveaways to riders and drivers, append physical product samples to relevant ticket offerings, and more. Success for us is creating a compelling ecosystem inside of the vehicle that generates value for our four key constituents: drivers, riders, rideshare companies, and brands. Blending the physical and digital products we offer will be a big part of that.”

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

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