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The Vegas Golden Knights 2018 Success Has Kick Started A New Era In Sports Business

The Las Vegas Golden Knights and their ticket prices are making NHL history.

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*This post is part of the brand new FOS Insights program. TicketIQ is a proud launch partner of the program. 

While technically not the first expansion team to reach the NHL playoffs, the Golden Knights are the first team to do so in the modern NHL expansion era, which began in 1991.  At 7/1 odds to win the oldest trophy in sports, their casino neighbors have also made them one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup–definitely a first. As a result, demand for Vegas Golden Knights playoff tickets are amongst the highest in the NHL. Having filled T-Mobile arena at 103% during the regular season, it’s been this way since October since #VegasBorn was born. Whether the Knights are still playing in the June desert heat, it’s a good bet that the gambling-friendly Knights uncovered a new model for driving demand to live sporting events.

Prior to the Knights, the NHL’s effort to bring hockey to the desert been hasn’t been the most successful. Now in their 21st year, the Arizona Coyotes moved from Winnipeg to Arizona in 1996, and have won a total of 11 playoff games in that time. That’s a pace of less than one playoff win each year of existence, well under the Knight’s current pace.  As a result, the ‘Yotes’ filled their Gila River Arena at a depressing 76% of capacity – one spot ahead of the league-worst Carolina Hurricanes.

While VGK’s 100%-plus attendance has been driven by several factors, it’s proximity to and acceptance of gambling may be the thing that other team owners notice most. Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, may be most interested for reasons I detailed in a Techcrunch article last year.

In an excellent article from late last month, Darren Rovell frames Leonsis as purveyor of a future gambling-infused game-day experience, where betting is as much a part of the appeal as beer and dogs. Time will tell how much of his vision is imagination versus real.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court’s pending decision on ‘Christie Vs. NFL’ will have a lot to say about who can do what, when. While parties are typically at odds in a lawsuit, this case on the potential repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992  (PASPA) has everyone aligned around the benefit of gambling to the bottom line, for both teams and state.

If PASPA is struck down, as is widely expected, Christie has said that New Jersey could go live with sports gambling ahead of the 2018 NFL season, at Monmouth race track. With at least four professional sports teams in the Garden state, and Leonsis just 200 miles down  I-95, the NJ-DC-PA corridor could become a hotbed of live sports gambling innovation. Depending on how it plays out, it could the first meaningful response to television that live sports have had in the 25-year battle against the couch.

The last time an expansion team qualified for the playoffs in 1979-1980, Wayne Gretzky was the NHL’s rising star. While the Oilers lost their first series that year to the Flyers, they would win enough of them to collect five Stanley Cups in the next decade. The Oilers also gave the NHL a bonafide mass-media star that would set the foundation for the league’s current $2 billion TV deal with NBC.

Amidst the current wave of inward-facing nationalism, the time for gambling-driven growth model appears nigh. Unlike the internationally-driven expansion efforts that have stretched out the NFL, NBA, and MLB to London, Mexico, and China, gambling-driven expansion will keep people close to home. More importantly, it will keep people close to their phones and the apps that will power a gambling-infused game day going at a piece of the $100 billion legal gambling marketplace.  

After a five-year rebuild, the Devils of New Jersey are back in the playoffs for the first time since Martin Brodeur retired with three Stanley Cups of his own. For their first-round games at the Prudential Center in 2018, the average price for a ticket is $242 which makes it the fifth cheapest first-round home series on the secondary ticket market, and $200 less than the Vegas Golden Knights.

If sports gambling is legal New Jersey next season, a Sportsbook at the Prudential center could take bets on games around the country and world, including the main live event, the Devils. For a marquee game like their first-round game, demand might be double current prices, drawing in demand from dollars that previously would have been lost to a Casino.  

For the Devils, the NHL and every other league, what’s most exciting – and as a long-time sports fan, slightly unsettling – is that they may not care who’s actually playing.

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

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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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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