SBJ/Nov. 4-10, 2013/Opinion

Three alternatives are proving successful for team ticket sales

Selling and buying have always existed in one form or another. As society has developed, and as technology has evolved and influenced everything that we do, we have always searched for the next best way to reach our customers and sell more effectively. While telemarketing is still alive and effective, it needs to be augmented by other channels to effectively maximize ticket sales.

In writing this column, I reached out to Murray Cohn, vice president of team ticket sales with the NBA, who is charged with assisting teams in their sales campaigns. The NBA has long been at the forefront of creatively finding new channels to drive ticket sales. Here are three examples Cohn shared that can help teams and leagues improve their sales results.

Costco

Did you know that Costco is the seventh-largest retailer in the world with 638 warehouses, which includes all international locations? There are more than 70 million member cardholders, and 94 percent of them own their own homes. Costco features a wide variety of vouchers, tickets, gift cards for restaurants, resorts, sporting events, movies, spas, local attractions and more in Costco warehouses and online at Costco.com
Gretchen Kim, Costco’s wholesale nonfoods ticket and gift card buyer, said that the retailer has partnered with 21 NBA teams to offer ticket and voucher programs for Costco members at a discount.

Partnering with Costco provides the NBA teams with a national brick-and-mortar retail program that complements its online relationships with Ticketmaster and other online vendors, which is essential when trying to attract new buyers and expand the fan base through sampling. As we all know, sampling is most likely to occur when a customer perceives the opportunity to try something new as an affordable option.

Selling on-site

Since many companies have initiated nonsolicitation email policies, one alternative is going to the company or organization and selling on-site. The Cleveland Cavaliers have had tremendous success in this area. “Selling on-site is such a powerful tool for us. It allows us to get in front of unique buyers that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to,” said Mitch Ried, the Cavaliers’ senior director of business development. “The companies we work with love this as well because it is a great added benefit for their employees when so many other benefits are getting cut.”

The Atlanta Hawks have also made this a key part of their group business plan, said Eric Platt, senior manager of group sales. “From our corporate partners to conventions, we have found these opportunities imperative to hitting our group sales goals. The item we’ve found most important is [that] our contact with each targeted group must clearly communicate what our offer is and when we will be there. Once we’re set up, we liven up the atmosphere by raffling off autographed items and bring our mascot and cheerleaders,” he said. “At one convention event alone we did $50,000 in new business.”

GovX.com

Many teams and entertainment venues have wanted to offer continuing discount programs to military members and first responders. The problem has been verifying the person’s right to purchase; the process can be embarrassing, and even offensive in some cases. San Diego-based GovX has provided an online solution to that problem by providing a free registration process for active and retired veterans and reserves and first responders. Tony Farwell, founder and president of GovX, said that in addition to providing discounts, “We have joined with our team partners to donate close to 20,000 NBA tickets to military service members, first responders and their families during the NBA’s Military Appreciation Month in November” and throughout the season.

The Spurs use the GovX platform to improve ticket offerings to local members of the military.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
Cohn said the program works best when a team assigns a group sales representative to GovX’s “Boots on the Ground” program to work with national partners to drive more sales. GovX is partnering with nearly 20 NBA teams “who have stepped up in a meaningful way to thank and honor those who protect and serve our country and communities.”

Frank Miceli, senior vice president of sales and franchise business for Spurs Sports & Entertainment, said the club believes that GovX can help deepen its relationships with the local military, government and first responder personnel. “Ultimately, we believe that the increased security and verification process that the GovX platform provides will allow us to enhance both the volume and quality of our exclusive ticket offerings to our ‘Military City, U.S.A.’ community,” he said. “Obviously, our goal is to increase ticket sales but, more importantly, we want to be able to do that in a way that provides a maximum, exclusive benefit to our military and government family.”

These ideas can certainly add strength to every team’s efforts to diversify their sales process by connecting with new demographics, providing enhanced benefits through local business partners and offering secure online discounts to military and first responders.

And for all of you that served, have a happy Veterans Day and thank you for your service.

Bill Sutton (wsutton1@usf.edu) is the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida, and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.

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