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Selling Not Just Tickets, the Journey of Anthony Beyrouti

Front Office Sports

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This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden

Anthony Beyrouti, Founder and President of VenueKings

Anthony Beyrouti is the founder and President of VenueKings, a ticket broker firm based out of Vancouver, B.C., Canada that specializes in concerts, sports and theatre events across North America. When he was in high school, he and a group of friends wanted tickets to their hometown team’s games. So, they called the team and bought some. There was a game no one wanted to go to, so Beyrouti ended up selling the tickets to someone and made a couple hundred dollars by accident.

“I thought, ‘Wait a second. This could be an opportunity.’ So, I decided to grow it from there.”

When Beyrouti started VenueKings, it began in a one bedroom apartment with one other guy. They slowly started adding people and, in turn, had to move offices a couple times to accommodate the growing number of employees. They now have more than 20 people working in their office.

“The idea, which people often forget is not to necessarily drive revenue, but to actually make money. We’ve been caught in a situation where we’re driving a lot of revenue, but we need to maintain the ability to make money so we can continue to do what we’re doing. As you continue to grow, things become harder, so we need to become more inventive and find new opportunities to continue to keep things growing.”

But like any entrepreneur, he faced challenges when creating VenueKings. Because Beyrouti was young when he started VenueKings, he didn’t really know what he was doing.

“I had to learn everything from the ground up at the beginning. On top of that, we didn’t have funding to grow the business. You have to make money in order to buy more stuff so that we could continue to grow. We had to help more people get to events, which was the only way we could grow. We can only do it if we take care of people and that’s what we did. People returned the favor by buying more tickets. It’s a cycle of creating opportunities for people; if you take care of them, they’ll allow you to stay in business.”

Being resilient is the quality he stressed helped him the most. When starting a business, people are going to tell you ‘no’ many times or that it isn’t going to work or believe in the purpose of the business.

“You can read about any successful person and they’ve heard ‘no’ a lot. You have to continually find ways to invigorate yourself to keep going, which is one thing we were able to do. It can wear on you, but you keep going.”

His favorite part of his job is giving people the opportunity to go to games they really want to go to and have fun. He also loves getting to travel and meet the teams he gets to see play.

“Something I was just working on was getting tickets for someone who wants to go to the Alabama vs. Ole Miss game, which I got to go to a couple years ago. It was the first time Ole Miss had beaten Alabama at home in a long time. They ended up storming the field and tearing down the goal posts. It was such a cool environment to see and something I’ll remember forever. Being able to help create experiences like that is always nice.”

Taking special take of his customers is how he competes with other ticket sellers like Ticketmaster and StubHub. He makes sure his customers never want to go anywhere else.

“You have to take advantage of what you’re good at. We’re not good at what they’re good at. Ticketmaster can say to someone the event is sold out so buy tickets from a secondary vendor here. We don’t have that opportunity. StubHub has the ability to go on ESPN and tell people to buy tickets on their site. You have to find unique ways to get people to buy from you and take the chance and when they take that chance you have to make sure you take care of them so they never want to go anywhere else which is what we specialize in.”

His advice for anyone starting a business is to stay away from inventory based business because banks don’t understand it, nor care for it. They believe the inventory is going to expire, but Beyrouti’s job is to sell the inventory. Banks are scared of inventory, which causes a lot of problems when companies try to scale up.

“You want something that doesn’t necessarily take more cash. You want the ability to sell more or do something more and not have more cash because you can always run out of cash. I would be selective in what you’re buying. There are multiple ways to create value for people and if you can do that you can do just about any business.”

We would like to thank Anthony for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors! You can connect with him on LinkedIn!

Marketing

Decoding 2.0: Receptivity Theory and the Power of Niche Sponsorship Strategies

New study unveils unique findings when it comes to sponsorships.

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Earlier this year, global lifestyle marketing agency MKTG and sister agency, marketing analytics company, SRi, released The Receptivity Story, as part of Decoding 2.0.

Decoding 2.0 is a unique study, as it acts as one of the few sponsorship-specific studies in the industry. To date, it is also one of the most intensive ones as well.

There’s a ton of great stuff here, but I’ll focus on a couple of my favourite findings, and one thought:

  1. Receptivity Theory
  2. Niche Sports
  3. Firm-Level Differences

Receptivity Theory

Initially unearthed in the original Decoding study in 2012, Receptivity Theory is the idea that, more than the passion associated with a property, the receptivity of fans towards branding is more predictive of sponsorship success.

While this seems like an intuitive finding, the industry, without the necessary data, could only use passion or exposure as a proxy for predicted success.

Really — what we are doing here is shifting the inflection point. Rather than having brands place a premium on number of passionate fans, we can now shift to a brand-specific view, where meaningful attention to branding is being measured.

Niche Sports

Through this study, SRi discovered that there are three types of fans: Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives. Niche sports, which suffer from a lower total number of fans, benefit from a greater percentage of Receptive fans.

From a sponsor’s perspective, the math here has always been simple: would you prefer to reach many, but impact a lower percentage? Or, alternatively, would you prefer to reach few, but impact a greater percentage?

What’s easy to determine is relative exposure at the extremes — i.e.: the NFL is clearly more popular than swimming. The middle is more difficult to measure, and even tougher, the relative willingness to pay of fans.

For instance, assume the following, for average brand X:

  • Sponsorship for Sport A will reach 1,000 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 1
  • Sponsorship for Sport B will reach 500 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 2

Under this scenario, if return is value, X would be indifferent between the two options at the same price.

Scenarios like these are where receptivity is powerful. It provides perhaps one of the best estimations of reach — just because your branding is at a baseball game, does not mean that everyone will see it!

In addition, it lays the groundwork for potentially being able to measure predicted value of sponsorship, or “willingness to pay” — which would vary, whether you are a Receptive or Non-Receptive fan.

Borrowed from economics, willingness to pay is the idea that each consumer has a maximum price that they are willing to pay for a good. For this application, I will treat attention as price — the scarce resource.

Thus, the equation becomes closer to this:

Where i would act as categorical variable for category of fan. n would represent number of fans falling within the given category. Return would represent willingness to pay.

Because fans are heterogeneous, the brand will experience a different return for each “unit view” — meaning that even if one person’s receptivity differs from another, there will be subgroups within categories of fans, separated by willingness to pay. While we can assume that the return from a Receptive fan will be greater, meaning that variable return exists, we would still be uncertain as to the degree that this exists.

Importantly — this study clearly shows a greater percentage of surfing fans falling under the “Receptive” category than the NBA, but does the willingness to pay for Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives differ between the two sports? It’s still early, and there will be ongoing studies, but these are questions that immediately come to mind.

One interesting note: if receptivity proves as powerful as this study suggests, it may become an arbitrage opportunity for the first brands who successfully adopt it. And, while the long-run equilibrium should theoretically be one in which all brands adopt this strategy, it may take some more time for sponsorship to get there — meaning that the early adopters could reap massive gains.

In speaking with Julie Zdziarski, VP of SRi:

“Brands do recognize that the scope is much smaller. But the key piece here is that the smaller sports are more lifestyle focused… they’re a more intimate environment”

Firm-Level Differences

Plenty of this is dependent on the firm, as well. In my earlier example, I assumed that a fan’s assigned value for branding (or willingness to pay) being greater was always a good thing.

For some firms, this isn’t necessarily true — and in fact, many firms pursue strategies in which they are unconcerned about reaching high-value customers. This leads to an advantage in number of customers, rather than one in revenue per customer. Think Google, or the telcos.

For these firms, receptivity still matters. Even if you want to be everywhere, you want to be sure that people are noticing you. But what matters less is the degree to which fans are willing to pay, whether they are Receptive or not.

Good Data Is Always Good

In an industry that suffers from a dearth of public data and dispersed data sets, this study acts as one of the true landmark pieces of research.

But here’s the thing: marketing data is tough, and it will never be as easy as it is in industries like finance to find information. And that’s why stuff like this is important.

To be sure, firms like MKTG enable people like me, who study the industry, to make better and more informed analyses, but it also benefits companies and other stakeholders. And understanding the consumer does more than just help brands make money — it provides consumers with an opportunity to gain more as well: leading to (hopefully) an optimal outcome.

It’s still early days, but MKTG has promised to release more stories in the future. When it comes to research and available data, sponsorship looks more promising than ever.

 

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Building Brands Through Content

A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

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A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

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College Football Playoff Turns to Exclusive Packages to Deliver for Fans

The Playoff Premium service gives fans the chance to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

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*The College Football Playoff is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

Next to the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff National Championship has become the most sought-after ticket and eagerly-anticipated game day experience in football.

With a showdown of this magnitude comes the opportunity to deliver activations fans can’t get anywhere else. To do this, the College Football Playoff has turned to Playoff Premium, a service that creates unique experiences including everything from sitting in a game day suite, to pregame hospitality, to the opportunity to go on the field after the final whistle blows.

According to a 2017 survey from Populous and Nielsen, two in three fans want a unique experience and are willing to pay extra for it. Given that immense demand, the CFP knew they had to, at the bare minimum, give fans the option to receive more. Playoff Premium was born.

“When the College Football Playoff was created, there was a conscious effort to make sure that we had a product that could accommodate fans, whether they were individuals or part of companies that wanted to come and have a more than normal experience at our National Championship game,” said Alfred White, Senior Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. “That’s Playoff Premium – exclusive packages that allow fans to experience the weekend of activities in new and exciting ways.”

Last year in Atlanta, packages sold out quickly.

“Last year was very successful for us. Our packages sold quickly,” White said. “Unfortunately we had to turn potential buyers away. There is only so much inventory and the demand for this game is now off the charts. College football is more popular than ever and fans want to be there when the confetti cannons go off.”

The momentum should only increase as the College Football Playoff National Championship heads west the first time.

“I’m excited to have a game purely on the West Coast,” White said. “We’ve gotten a great response already. The Bay Area and football — what better way to start the New Year.”

With a new coast comes a new set of challenges, but also a new set of opportunities — the biggest being able to deliver experiences tailored directly to the location of the game. Among the unique offerings this year, a gifting suite that will look similar to what the players experience during the week leading up to kickoff.

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“Our top-level package holders typically get a gift bag as part of their purchase,”White says. “This year, we’re going to do a gift suite. When our clients are at the game or at their pregame hospitality, they will be able to go to a designated area and there’ll be multiple gift options that they can choose from. We will have a point system and everyone who buys a package will be given a certain amount of points to ‘shop’ with.”

Once in a lifetime opportunities are always prized. With the CFP doubling down on its Playoff Premium service and its capabilities, expect to see the continued growth of moments that allow the fans to get closer than ever before to one of the most iconic events in all of sports.

*The College Football Playoff is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

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