SBJ/May 23-29, 2011/In Depth

From the ticketing trenches

We asked team executives about their ticketing strategies and the trends they’re watching. Here are highlights of what they had to say:

Q: What’s the most creative ticket plan you’ve generated recently and how well is it selling?

“For the 2011 season, we offered, for the first time, a six-game holiday plan from 11/15/10 to 1/15/11 and the results exceeded our expectations.”
— Chris Zaber, senior director of ticket sales and service, Pittsburgh Pirates

“Would have to say the 20-ticket voucher — save on service charges and use the tickets in any desired combination (two tickets to 10 games, four tickets to five games, etc.).”
— Jason Diplock, vice president of ticket sales and service, Toronto Blue Jays

“Our flexible partial plans. Through customer surveys, we have found that buyers are not coming to more games because of their busy schedules. They will buy multiple games, but only if they fit their personal schedules. What was interesting is that they’re willing to invest incrementally for this level of flexibility. Therefore, we developed a menu of flexible ‘pick em’ plans that allowed the buyer to pick the games that fit his/her schedule, while still keeping the integrity of our full-season tickets. We kept the integrity of the full-season ticket through increased pricing, diminishing benefits, and limited seat locations for the flexible plans. Doing so led to a tenfold increase in our half-season plans and an overall 50 percent increase in partial-plan revenue while still allowing us to generate 2,500 new season tickets sold.”
— Flavil Hampsten, vice president of ticket sales and database marketing, Charlotte Bobcats

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The Toronto Blue Jays are among teams offering fans more flexibility on their ticket plans.
“The most creative ticket plan that we generated this season was our ‘Tickets and a Turkey’ promotion. We offered either two lower-level seats or four Club 200 seats (upper level) with a $15 Lucky gift card (more than enough for a turkey) for $99. This package was available for two of our games in November that occurred right before the Thanksgiving holiday. This plan performed extremely well in helping us sell out these games, and this is something we will look to implement again next season.”
— Brandon Schneider, vice president of ticket sales and services, Golden State Warriors

“We focused on creative ways to drive attendance by utilizing a dynamic pricing model.”
— Eric Marglous, director of ticket operations, Houston Rockets

“We had a tremendous amount of success in our first year selling flex plans for the 2010-11 season. The feedback we received from our clients was that they wanted to get great seats for the biggest games, and wanted to be able to choose the games they attend. … This added flexibility led to a significant increase in partial-season-ticket plans sold from last season to this season, and afforded us the opportunity to expose prospective future season-ticket holders to some of the most exciting games of the season.”
— Bill Hanni, senior director of ticket sales, Washington Wizards

“In an effort to sell more full-season tickets last season we created a section and donated it to military personnel and their families. We did several fundraising initiatives to raise money to pay for these tickets and have them donated back to different military bases so soldiers and their families could come to games during the season. Every game we also do a military salute for this group to recognize their sacrifice. The whole program sold 150 full-season tickets.”
— Nat Harden, vice president of ticket sales, Nashville Predators

“Our VIP Locker Room Suite. This is more of an all-inclusive group experience, rather then a ticket package, but it has become very popular. Minimum of 40 tickets to a Kings game for $150 per person gives the group a VIP room next to the Kings locker room on our event level. The suite is all inclusive with food and beverage, great lower-bowl tickets, VIP credentials for access to the event level, and includes a meet-and-greet with our mascot Bailey or the Kings Ice Crew. The group receives a once-in-a-lifetime experience behind the scenes of Staples Center where they can see the team take the ice every period. This season we sold 31 of 41 games and only one suite is available per night.”
— Kelly Cheeseman, vice president of ticket sales and services, Los Angeles Kings

Q: What trends are you watching in ticketing?

“Secondary market selling, variable pricing and new ticketing system platforms.”
— Chris Zaber, Pittsburgh Pirates

“Mobility and ticket liquidity: impact of smartphone on subscriber account management and in-game experience, i.e., mobile wallet applications in-stadium, personalized content feeds in-game. Dynamic pricing and smart cards are others.”
— Jason Diplock, Toronto Blue Jays

“Dynamic pricing. We are embracing this concept on a seasonal basis and we are interested to see how it will impact our business over a full year.”
— Flavil Hampsten, Charlotte Bobcats

“One of the biggest new trends right now is the idea of dynamic pricing. We have variably priced our tickets for years,
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The Los Angeles Kings have found success with a plan that gives fans an up-close look at players taking the ice.
and do some of our own dynamic pricing through discounts we offer throughout the season based on changing demand for our games. With that being said, we are in the process of evaluating a more formal and all-encompassing dynamic pricing model, and we may look to implement something this season or next.”
— Brandon Schneider, Golden State Warriors

“Dynamic pricing and paperless ticketing as a method to collect data and utilize within an integrated CRM to create relevant ticket offers/packages for consumers.”
— Eric Marglous, Houston Rockets

“A number of professional teams have rolled out dynamic pricing to varying degrees over the past two to three seasons, and it’s very interesting to see how it’s being utilized, as well as how it’s being received by the fans.”
— Bill Hanni, Washington Wizards

“I am seeing more tickets being sold in the secondary market and this becoming more and more the primary source to purchase single-game tickets.”
— Nat Harden, Nashville Predators

“Dynamic or optimal pricing for sure. This is something we started two seasons ago with our partners StratBridge and I think more teams are going to get heavily involved in this. Key will be how the ticketing companies adapt to this to meet their clients’ needs. As we change to meet the demands of the price-conscious consumer as well as to hit aggressive revenue goals, teams and events need to show flexibility and realism to hit goals.”
— Kelly Cheeseman, Los Angeles Kings

Q: What are consumers demanding more of when making ticket decisions?

“Add-ons/packaging, VIP/exclusive options and electronic (bar-coded) parking.”
— Chris Zaber, Pittsburgh Pirates

“More flexibility — 81 is a lot of games and a lot of tickets: Let me transfer or forward them, let me sell them, let me exchange them for better or more seats to a single game. Make my season ticket do more than let me into the games — make me feel like an exclusive member of a club that’s entitled to unique behind-the-scenes experiences.”
— Jason Diplock, Toronto Blue Jays

“Value. Of course that can be subjective so we are constantly evaluating and adjusting customer benefits. One example based on our season-end season-ticket holder survey was the spend at the concession stands. Therefore, as a renewal driver, we added in a food and beverage credit to alleviate that objection. (Examples: more price points, more delivery options, more unique experiences, add-ons such as parking or concessions, etc.)”
— Flavil Hampsten, Charlotte Bobcats

“We have a lot of success with using unique experiences in leveraging sales, and even more so in building relationships with our current customers. Everybody wants to feel like they are getting something that nobody else is receiving. We provide season-ticket holders with a variety of experiences such as:
Courtside shootaround: The ability to sit on the floor to watch players warming up pregame.
Pre- and postgame press conference: The ability to actually attend press conferences with coach Keith Smart.
Meet-and-greets with players
Exclusive events with players: We typically hold two or more events per year with the whole team in attendance.”
— Brandon Schneider, Golden State Warriors

“Easily find and purchase tickets through the team/arena website; ability to easily and safely transfer tickets via paperless method of delivery to friends/clients; ability to resell their tickets through safe team-endorsed methods; personalized ticket offers.”
— Eric Marglous, Houston Rockets

“The biggest demand we are seeing from our fans is to show them real value in our ticket plans and packages. In some cases, that comes from flexibility in selecting games and seat locations. In others, it’s added elements such as all-inclusive food and beverage packages or gift items.”
— Bill Hanni, Washington Wizards

“Consumers want more flexibility when purchasing their ticket packages. We offer a flex plan that allows the consumer to mix and match locations while choosing the games that they want to attend. This is our most popular partial season-ticket package because of the flexibility it offers.”
— Nat Harden, Nashville Predators

“In our experience it has been a combination of a number of things, but most of all flexibility, service and added value. When customers are paying a premium to see a sporting event in today’s world, they no longer will just pay the top price to get the best seats. Common questions include — What else is included with that? Can I exchange or resell games? … Experiences like Zamboni rides, shots on goal, picture on the ice or field go a long way to generate a renewal or new client.”
— Kelly Cheeseman, Los Angeles Kings

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