SBD/January 6, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bengals, Colts, Packers Eventually Sell Out Games, But Warning Bells Sound For NFL

Tickets for yesterday's Chargers-Bengals game officially sold out on Friday
The city of Cincinnati's business community "came through" in the end on Friday and helped sell out yesterday's Chargers-Bengals NFC Wild Card Game, ensuring local fans could watch the game on TV and sparing the NFL an "embarrassing blackout," according to Josh Pichler of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Kroger and Procter & Gamble "joined other companies and purchased enough tickets on Friday to close the sellout." The final word "didn't come" until P&G announced the sellout just after 3:00pm ET, with the company donating the tickets "to local military families." The Bengals' playoff tickets cost about 20% more "than a regular season ticket, a seemingly reasonable premium given the team’s success." All playoff ticket revenue "goes to the NFL, which also sets the revenue target each team must hit for home playoff games." Bengals VP Troy Blackburn said that the team's "target for Sunday’s ticket gross" was $6.1M. After accounting for season-ticket holders and fans who "bought select game packages, the Bengals calculated the price at which the team had to sell remaining tickets, and established the $86 and $96 price points." Still, last week's "drama," in which the Bengals, Colts and Packers all took until Friday to sell out their Wild Card games, "has potentially far-reaching implications for the NFL" and its TV blackout rules (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/4). Bengals PR Dir Jack Brennan said, "You’ve got a tough product to sell in a short time because until Sunday night we couldn’t tell people what time and day the game is. ... While I don’t think our tickets are as high priced as in some markets, there are less levers you can pull for a playoff game than during the regular season" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/4).

LAGGING AT LAMBEAU: In Milwaukee, Bill Glauber reports yesterday's 49ers-Packers Wild Card game was "the seventh-coldest game at Lambeau Field." The thermometer at kickoff "hit 5 degrees, a 10-mile-an-hour wind out of the northwest making it feel like 10 below zero." Fans "were dressed for the occasion." Some "lugged in sleeping bags and blankets," while others "laid down bits of carpet and Styrofoam on the concrete." There were "some empty seats in the upper reaches of the stadium" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/6). Packers season-ticket holder Jerry Watson said that one reason the team's Wild Card game did not sell out as quickly as hoped is because the team this season "eliminated the refund option" that allowed fans their money back if they bought playoff tickets early and then the team did not make it. Watson: "I’ve got to pay for season tickets sometime, but I don’t want to have to pay that at the end of December when I can wait for the end of May. The interest isn’t much, but it’s my money, and I want it. They want it, too. So we butt heads. There were seven of us in here talking on Monday, and none of us had sent the money in." In N.Y., Pat Borzi noted another possible reason for the slow sales is the Packers "added about 7,000 seats to Lambeau." Watson: "The dumbest thing that the intelligent people who run that place ever did was add 8,000 seats. We’ve got a bunch of millworkers in this town. People just don’t have the money" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/5). ESPN’s Darren Rovell: “For the first time ever, they said you have to give us a credit-card payment for all of the games, and you cannot get a refund -- it’ll be credited to your 2014 season tickets. In blue-collar Green Bay, that means something.” Former Packers exec and ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt said of the ticket-refund program, “It does seem (to be) a change. Again, a more business approach than the family approach that Green Bay has been known for. But that’s the NFL right now” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN2, 1/3).

COLTS CITE SHORT WINDOW: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz wrote of the three teams struggling to sell out, "It's an embarrassment for the NFL, which continues to handle postseason tickets in a way that makes it too difficult to sell out stadiums for the country's most beloved and popular sport." The NFL "overprices playoff tickets ... and leaves fans with too little time to get themselves together in order to make a purchase." Colts VP/Ticket Operations & Guest Services Larry Hall said, "This is what the league wanted: a 17th week that meant so much to so many teams. The problem is, we didn't know until halftime of the Sunday night game who we were playing and what date and time." Kravitz reported, "One issue I heard from fans is that by Dec. 12, the Colts required season-ticket holders to purchase seats for all possible home playoff games, which in this case" included the Wild Card game and an "unlikely AFC Championship Game." That is "a lot of money to spend before Christmas." Sports have "got to be the only business where the consumer gets blamed for poor sales" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/4).
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