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Volume 24 No. 112

Events and Attractions

Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard was the featured interview on the opening day of the '13 Ticketing Symposium, and began by discussing his company's deal with the Yankees. Hubbard said, "Part of the issue is arbitrage, and at the end of the day, that's what is driving a lot of it. But it wasn't just that the Yankees wanted to get in there and make money. It was that the Yankees were being disintermediated from their highest-valued fans, their most passionate fans. I think they wanted to reclaim that relationship, and have that direct, one-to-one, brand-to-fan relationship. At the core, that's what it was about." He added, "In the secondary market right now, there is some market manipulation happening at the low end. Some providers out there that don't believe in price floors, but they definitely believe in fee floors. So, they are incentivizing high-volume, low-dollar sales, because they're agnostic as to whether a ticket is sold for a buck, or 10-15 bucks. ... I think there's some concern by content, that the market is being manipulated to force tickets being sold actually below what they're worth." Hubbard said of the company's current overall approach, "We try to solve three core industry problems: inefficient pricing, the disintermediation of the venue or the team content from the end fan, and the fan experience."

EVOLUTION OF DATA AND ANALYTICS: Hubbard spoke at length about Ticketmaster's growing business of live analytics and data processing, and compiling consumer information for specific events as opposed to simply driving the event's sales. He said, "It's about how do you fingerprint each individual person who comes through that venue, so that you can get more of them to come, and you can get them to buy more than 2.7 tickets on average." He added, "Our relationship with the NFL really created the underpinnings of this entire initiative. Because so many of those teams do not need help selling individual game tickets. They do need help getting to know every single fan who's walking through their venue on a given night." Hubbard said the live analytics arm of Ticketmaster's overall business is growing rapidly. "The measure is that for the first time in the history of our business -- the 38-year history of Ticketmaster -- their clients are actually writing us a check instead of the other way around," he said. "And then a lot of it, we're just giving away for free, because we should and because it makes the product better. That business is doing very well for us. We've got hundreds of clients today, creating millions of dollars in value in terms of how people allocate their marketing spend, grow their revenue, determine their cap-ex budgets, all the way on down."

LEARNING FROM OUR PEERS: Hubbard said the sports industry should take a cue from Kid Rock and others in the concert business in creating valuable fan experiences, thus making lifelong fans. He noted that Kid Rock is giving away two rows of the best seats at his concerts to fans who purchased seats in the lawn or the upper deck. Hubbard said, "He's doing some really creative things that are focused on building lifetime value of the fan. And as we all talk about dynamic pricing, and getting that price right, in the back of our heads, we need to think about, not how do we extract the most value tonight, but how do we extract the most value over the next month, over the next 25 years."

CONSOLIDATION EFFORTS: Hubbard said that among the current challenges for Ticketmaster is developing a service to combine its clients' primary and secondary ticketing services. He said, "If you Google your brand's tickets right now, it's a complete disaster. We are in a unique position to help solve that problem. I think a lot of the secondary market is built to cater to the broker community. That's not necessarily a bad thing. There's some brokers who are totally legitimate distributors of inventory. There's also some that are totally illegitimate arbitragers who are cheating to get those tickets."

LET'S GET CONNECTED: Hubbard said you can count Ticketmaster among the companies that stand to benefit from increased wi-fi capabilities in sports venues. He said teams, sponsors, vendors, consumers and others will all see massive gains once all stadiums are finally capable of offering connectivity to everyone in the arena. Hubbard: "They've got a boiling pot with a lid on it, and the lid is just rattling and none of the steam is getting out. There is chatter happening about how amazing the experience inside the walls of that venue is happening, that's literally not being allowed out into the public space. It's the cheapest marketing there is. Not to mention that there are platforms ready to plug into those networks on payment around marketing, around loyalty, around you-name-it, that just require that infrastructure. The only barrier left is venues making the incredibly important investment in the networks." Hubbard noted that mobile browsing accounts for 35% of Ticketmaster's online traffic, and that the company will sell "more than twice as many tickets via mobile this year" than it did in '12.

* On teams implementing social media sites into their ticket sales process: "I don't know that users of social today are aggressively looking at commerce. They're separating commerce from social in certain ways. It's an amazing awareness platform to drive commerce, but I'm not seeing transaction after transaction happen on Facebook."

* Hubbard's impression of the 49ers' new stadium project: "The way that they're thinking about that facility, and the technology behind, is going to move us a step ahead as an industry."

* On more transparent fee disclosures: "The fan, it turns out, low and behold, rewards you when you reduce the friction to buying. So when you tell him up front how much of his hard-earned money we're asking him to pay, he's more likely to buy. When you drop a bomb on him at checkout, he gets angry, and sometimes abandons."

Day two of the '13 Sports Facilities & Franchises Symposium began with a Metro N.Y.-themed discussion featuring Nets & Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark and Devils Arena Entertainment President Rich Krezwick. The Islanders are set to move from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center for the '15-16 NHL season, and Yormark hinted at possibly integrating the team's branding with the imaging of the Nets. He noted the Islanders have about 5,000 season-ticket holders, and that in a recent survey, 70% of them said they intend to retain their season tickets in some capacity when the team relocates to Brooklyn. Yormark: "At the same time, we need to introduce the sport and the game to a new fan base here in Brooklyn. How do you connect those dots? I think we're going to have to meet each other somewhere in the middle. The colors black and white are the new badge of honor in Brooklyn. The question is, can we weave that into their color scheme, and create a connection to the fans here in Brooklyn?"

ALL ABOUT THE BRAND: Building a distinct brand was a central theme in the discussion, with Krezwick likening the Devils' brand-building analysis to someone asking a friend how a first date went. If the response was, “Well, he was strong, he's a winner, and he has tradition,” Krezwick said, then the answer to the next question, "Will you go out with him again?" might be, “I don't know, maybe." But, Krezwick said, if the response was, "He was exciting, he was upbeat, he was so entertaining," the reply to the question of a second date would be, "Absolutely!” Krezwick continued, "So that's what we wanted to be. We wanted to be that second date, instead of just the first date." He noted the Devils this summer added a themed Carnival cruise experience, and said, "No one would expect to see that out of the Devils three years ago. It just wouldn't happen. But we knew we needed that element, and it's really worked. We have over 5,000 new season tickets in the last two years, and all the indicators are up double-digits."

CLEAN SLATE: While the Devils have worked to put a fresh shine on a 30-year-old brand, Yormark faced a completely different challenge in launching a brand from the ground up while moving the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn. "We started seeking our brand very early on in the process," he said. "We just didn't want this to become an overnight move, and I think building the anticipation here in the borough, although we weren't really sure when we would arrive, was the first key ingredient for us." Yormark added, "We are very conscious of our brand. Our brand in Jersey really wasn't relevant. We had an eroding fan base for years. The support really didn't exist in the last couple of years we were there. We realized early on that the brand we wanted to align with, mostly, was brand Brooklyn. It's iconic. It's global. It speaks to a boldness, a strength, a grittiness." Yormark also spoke of a "less is more philosophy" when it came to building in-venue sponsorships into the branding of the Barclays Center. "The coloration of sponsor messaging in the building is in line with the color of the building," he said. "We're very brand conscious, and we are going to go against the grain. We think we've developed the right platform to create a sponsor value and charge premium dollars for it. But the days of putting logos everywhere are over." Yormark added, "We're trying to position ourselves as a premium brand, as a premium platform. In order to do that we've got to be a little more disciplined."

BUILT TO LAST: Krezwick said, "I've preached for a long time that you need to plan and budget to be a .500 club. You have to. That's what the statistics tell us.” But he noted, "As important to me is being able to capitalize when you're winning. We saw that in the spring, in going to the Stanley Cup Final, and going through the playoffs, and just pushing as hard as we possibly could when the fish were biting. So you have to be poised, to capitalize and be spontaneous, and take advantage of that opportunity, but you certainly can't count on it." Yormark weighed in, "What we try to do is create a lot of equity behind brand Nets. Players come and go. One year you're up, one year you're down. So the question is, 'Do you create a brand and platform that sustains the winning and losing, the volatility of team sports, and really create a lifestyle brand?' You give people lots of different reasons to want you, not just wins and losses."

EMPIRE STATE COMPETITION: With the opening of Barclays Center, the tri-state area now has three major indoor sports arenas that compete for major events. "I look at Jersey as a separate market from Brooklyn," Yormark said. "I think there's enough for everyone." Krezwick added, "On the sports side, we are completely separate, and frankly can support each other." But regarding the competition for music acts, he noted that the Rolling Stones and other shows have played multiple buildings in the market and sold out those buildings. "So I think it's complementary,” he said.

PREMIUM PRODUCTS: Selling suites is becoming more challenging, and Krezwick said, “We're all struggling with the same issue. It's a lot harder today than it was 10 years ago to sell a suite. Nobody's plunking down $300,000 and begging to get in the building." Krezwick said he is pushing a different sales tactic with the Devils when it comes to premium seating. "It's the consultive sell," he said. "For too long, we tried to sell things. We're transactional in that sense in selling things, rather than going into a meeting with a company and finding out what their needs are. Because they really might be better served to have ten season tickets, a dozen suite nights for their board meetings every month, and a couple premium seats because the president of the company loves hockey. We should be selling them that package. Sell them something they want to buy, instead of something we want to sell."

ALL-IMPORTANT CONNECTIVITY: Improving the in-stadium fan experience continued to be a hot topic at the conference, with Krezwick detailing the process of upgrading wi-fi capabilities at Prudential Center. He said, "We went from 60 antennas to 200 antennas in the building, and we can accommodate over 6,000 people now at the same time. We'll take that to 10,000, and eventually it's going to have to be 18,000, because everyone is going to want to access their portable device at the same time very soon."

The Izod IndyCar Series Long Beach Grand Prix each year "adds something to its menu of speed and entertainment to make the biggest event in town a little bigger and better," and this year's additions include "night racing, with Drifting events" set for Friday and Saturday, according to Bob Keisser of the Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM. LBGP President & CEO Jim Michaelian said, "We should get 170,000 for the weekend. If the weather is good, maybe 70,000 to 75,000 on Sunday. Saturday has become our strongest day with the concert and Drifting. We added another event to Saturday's lineup, so we'll see how things play out." Keisser writes it is "hard to imagine any race weekend being as packed as the one the Grand Prix schedules each year." Fans do not need to "know how to build an IndyCar engine to figure out that there's 37 hours of Grand Prix on tap this weekend." It is "intriguing to hear that one of the parties aligned with F1 CEO Bernie Eccelstone" in his reported interest in buying the Long Beach Grand Prix "is Grand Prix creator Chris Pook." Keisser writes Pook "exited years ago and has dabbled in other ventures, but I'm sure he looks at the terrain and sees opportunity on two levels -- one, getting back to F1, which was his race of choice when he launched the series in 1975, and two, making money." When the race was "sold to Dover Motorsports, Pook and friends made $98 million in stock and cash." The race today is "worth at least twice that with the comeback of IndyCar and the expansion of the race weekend under Michaelian" (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 4/19).

LONG BEACH PART OF LE MANS SERIES? In Pasadena, David Felton wrote the future of sports car racing in North America "became apparent earlier this year when its two premiere series -- the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Series -- announced their merger for the 2014 season." What is not as clear is "whether Long Beach will be part of that future." ALMS President & CEO Scott Atherton when asked if United SportsCar Racing would return for the '14 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach said, "We certainly hope so. ... It's a very important market for us." He added that the '14 schedule -- as well as TV details and title sponsorship -- should be "finalized by June or July, and will include between 10 and 12 events" (PASADENA STAR-NEWS, 4/18).

The FedEx St. Jude Classic, the PGA Tour's annual stop in Memphis, has created a new fundraising initiative that will enable the tournament’s 1,850 volunteers to solicit donations based on how many hours they work. The program is being called Hours of St. Jude and is sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Donations generated from the initiative will go to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “We are using the BlueCross investment to create a broader-based fundraising effort with the volunteers,” said Tournament Dir Phil Cannon. “We have no doubt that ... we will increase our yearly St. Jude donation.” Volunteers can go to the tournament’s website,, and register. Guests then go to the volunteer portion of the site, find their volunteer by name, and donate in the name of the them. “Volunteers will use the site to encourage their friends, neighbors, church members and people in their influence to donate in their name,” Cannon said. The tournament has generated more than $26M for the hospital since their association began in '70. As of Thursday, the volunteer site had raised more than $10,000 and it has been active for just a few weeks.