SBJ/October 1-7, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

System allows fans to buy no-obligation tickets to bowl games

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Fans who want to go to the Discover BCS National Championship Game — but only if their favorite team plays in it — now have the chance to reserve tickets ahead of time without an obligation to buy the tickets if their team doesn’t make it.

Chicago-based Forward Market Media has developed an online ticketing system that enables fans to reserve face-value tickets for events like bowl games, where the teams aren’t announced until a month before the game. As part of the reservation, the buyer specifies a favorite team and pays a non-refundable reservation fee that ranges from $10 to $325, depending on demand for that team. That fee is in addition to the face-value price of the ticket ($375 for the championship game).

Fans won’t have to worry about getting stuck with tickets should their team not make it.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
If the specified team makes it, the buyer has access to tickets for face value. If the team doesn’t make it, the reservation expires.

As part of a new promotion that just launched, fans who reserve their tickets to the championship game and have their team make it also will receive a $75 travel discount from Orbitz for a hotel and flight package. More importantly for Orbitz, the company will develop a database for the thousands of fans who make reservations.

No. 1-ranked Alabama, as you’d expect, requires the most expensive reservation fee at $325 for tickets. No. 2-ranked Oregon’s reservation fee is $125.

That means an Oregon fan whose team makes the national championship game will have spent $125 to reserve the ticket and $375 to buy the ticket, for a total of $500. Tickets to last season’s national championship game on the secondary market averaged $1,815 and ranged from $500 to $1,000 in the upper deck.

Prices fluctuate based on demand for seats for that team in a given section. The Orange Bowl, as the host for the championship game, sets the reservation rates. The bowl keeps 75 percent of the reservation revenue, while Forward Market Media gets 25 percent. All of the primary ticket revenue stays with the bowl.

“It’s a supply-and-demand business,” said Forward Market Media CEO Scott McKibben, the former executive director of the Tournament of Roses and the Rose Bowl. “This process gives fans a chance to follow their team and pay face value for a ticket if they make it to the big game. Otherwise, they’d find themselves paying four or five times the face value for a ticket on the secondary market.”

Forward Market Media is working with all of the BCS bowls to make the ticketing system available. The company also has deals with the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and the Big Ten championship game.

McKibben also has his sights set on the college football playoff that begins in the 2014 season.

This season marks the first time that all four BCS bowls, plus the championship game, are using Forward Market Media’s ticketing technology. The promotion with Orbitz marks the first time the company has brought a sponsor into the mix, and McKibben said he hopes to do more of that in the future, whether it’s with a travel agency, airline, rental car company or hotel.

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