Ticketing and Facilities – Five Hot Takes

This month (October 2017), sports rights-holders assembled in Atlanta for the AXS Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium to discuss changing customer demographics, new approaches to ticket sales and best practice in-stadium fan engagement.

SVP of Consulting Mark Thompson – head of the Two Circles office in New York – explains where insight around customer data is having a positive commercial impact for leading sports rights-holders across North America in these areas.

1) Impact of fan data no longer limited to gameday

Rights-holders agreed they are finally on the cusp of a major shift in focus away from using fan data to boost gameday revenues and experience, and towards building global audiences.

The US Tennis Association (USTA), for example, spoke of their desire to build relationships with the next-generation of attendees, and improve their digital content output to grow, and gain insight around, their international audience.

The NBA’s Orlando Magic went a step further, saying they are already providing for a different audience online than in the arena as they know that 80% of their Facebook followers are female. As a result, they are tailoring digital content on the platform to improve engagement.

2) Season tickets aren’t dead, but need some TLC

Recent industry media attention has focused on the death – or at least unbundling – of the season ticket, driven by changing trends in sports consumption and the continued strength of the secondary ticketing market. But many rights-holders at the Symposium disagreed, and showed how they’re making season ticket models work by being more flexible and offering new experiences – models that can be optimized through a deep understanding of what fans want.

The Symposium heard how fans of the NFL’s New York Jets, with their season-long mobile-ticketing subscription service Boarding Pass (pictured), receive their ticket only when they arrive at the stadium, getting to sit in a different area for every game. This new model has brought more people into the fold, and has utilization of over 90%.

3) Fans want differentiated experiences at every price point

No-one at the Symposium was in any doubt about consumers being ready to pay for flexibility and choice – and fan data gives rights-holders the ability to offer more personalised experiences.

In an example away from sport, Eric Philips of Delta Airlines explained how better customer segmentation improves customer satisfaction and spoke to Delta customers’ continued willingness to pay for value (flexibility AND unique experiences), especially at the higher end.

Back in sport, baseball has perhaps the best examples of this – with MLB teams using the ballpark as a gathering point for fans who want a more social experience – while NFL and MLS teams are offering an increasing number of premium options outside of suites, such as at pitchside. A detailed understanding of the fanbase – using insight around their demographics and purchase preferences – gives a rights-holder the tools to create the appropriate packages and price points.

4) Struggling with the secondary ticket market? Consider consolidating

Sports teams have seen the convenience and last-minute nature of the secondary market leave them vulnerable on lower-demand games and for lower-priced inventory. But there are ways to respond – and Mike Bucek of the Kansas City Royals noted how, five years ago, the Royals had relationships with 227 brokers. Now, having reduced this drastically, they work with only two.

As a result of having strong relationships with their two secondary ticket providers, the MLB team has leveraged the partnerships that give them access to data and advanced analytics around pricing and distribution, allowing them to get a better understanding of how the secondary market contributes to their ticketing business.

5) Tickets for non-sports events can drive tickets for sports events

As we’ve seen with many of our own clients, rights-holders are having to be increasingly proactive about their programming mix away from gameday, and their venues are often under-utilized commercial assets.

Mark Lamping from the Jacksonville Jaguars explained how the NFL team’s 6,000-seat Daily’s Place ampitheater has hosted 43 events this year – including Mary J. Blige and Bryan Adams concerts – and has plans for 60 in 2018. These non-sports events not only provide important extra revenue, but bring new audiences into the Jags fold and customer database.

Lamping said 65% of ticket-buyers for events at Daily’s Place have never bought a Jaguars ticket. At least not yet…

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