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Volume 20 No. 41

In Depth

Jim Van Stone, who is the senior vice president of ticket sales and service at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, found some startling results upon reviewing ticketing research on his Washington Capitals clientele early last year. He also saw an opportunity.

Upper-deck seating at most arenas, including the Capitals’ home, Verizon Center, has long been more of a value-oriented product, a place to put fans who just want to be in the building, weren’t concerned about status, or didn’t necessarily have entertaining needs for business clients.

But Van Stone, looking at detailed demographic and income information on his fan base, found that a large amount of Capitals ticket buyers in the upper seating bowl held six-figure incomes. Furthermore, they were also among some of the team’s most ardent fans, as shown by a variety of additional measures such as merchandise and secondary market ticket purchases, team website visits, survey participation and other indices.

The Washington Capitals learned that some of their fans could spend more money to sit in the upper deck.
With fan interest in the Capitals also peaking, thanks to the continued ascendancy of star forward Alex Ovechkin and a series of high-seed playoff appearances, Van Stone and Monumental used that data to devise a new price structure in which upper-deck seats that previously sold for $14 each on a full-season basis nearly doubled to $27 each. Higher-priced inventory in the upper deck received similarly large increases.

Consumer and public relations pushback from the price hikes were minimal and ticket renewal rates stayed in excess of 90 percent. But much more critically, the upper-deck bumps have created more than $1 million in incremental, annual ticket revenue for the team.

“Going through the data, we were really surprised by the number of people who could definitely afford to sit in the lower deck, but were staying upstairs,” said Van Stone, who is now implementing similar analytics for less-in-demand Washington Wizards and Mystics tickets. “There were a variety of reasons for that. A lot of them like to see the plays develop from that vantage point. But it really opened our eyes into who our fans really were and what they want to buy.”

Two hours up Interstate 95, the Philadelphia Flyers made a similar calculation. Perhaps even more so than the Capitals, the upper deck at Wells Fargo Center was full of die-hard fans with good amounts of disposable income. As a result, the Flyers’ ticket pricing sheet for the 2011-12 season looks like a rainbow, with each individual upper-deck row carrying a different price point. A low-to-mid seven-figure sum of incremental revenue will be generated from the new, highly segmented structure.

“The analytics have made all this possible,” said Peter Luukko, president and chief operating officer of Flyers parent Comcast-Spectacor. “Before, you sort of put your finger in your mouth and held it up in the air.”

Such is the state now of data mining in the ticketing world. All across the sports industry, teams, leagues and vendors are rapidly embracing the power of high-end research and analytics to boost ticket sales, still the single-largest individual revenue source within several sports.

Using many of the same advanced consumer profiling methods long the province of other industries such as consumer packaged goods, airlines and automobiles, sports entities are now building detailed mosaics of their consumers. As a result, ticket sales efforts that not long ago were still something of guesswork based mainly upon recent team performance, economic conditions and prior purchase histories are now highly targeted, more efficient affairs.

“Big data is what the next generation is going to be all about in a lot of ways,” said Ted Leonsis, chairman of

The Philadelphia Flyers offered a wider range of ticket prices after studying data on their fans.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and Verizon Center. “I’m looking at this organization more broadly as a platform for the betterment of this community, and we believe the data and the insights we can learn from our various consumer touchpoints are going to affect every part of the business.”

Manifestations of what Leonsis calls big data are nearly everywhere around the ticketing landscape. Ticketmaster, long the dominant player in the business, recently started a new high-profile business division called LiveAnalytics in partnership with Ohio-based technology firm Teradata Corp. that will provide demand forecasting, industry benchmarking and other outputs. Many competing primary and secondary ticketing outlets such as Veritix and StubHub have their own growing analytics components.

Third-party providers of ticket analytics and lead scoring, meanwhile, such as Turnkey Sports & Entertainment and StratBridge, are experiencing their own mushrooming growth. And within the teams themselves, many clubs are hiring full-time data analytics staffers to help spot ticketing trends and make pricing and marketing recommendations. Monumental Sports & Entertainment themselves made such a hire earlier this month, bringing on Josh Brickman from Turnkey to be their manager of ticketing analytics.

“It’s now a really exciting time for sales modeling,” said David Highhill, product director for Turnkey’s ticketing analytics product, Prospector, and Brickman’s former colleague. “So many things that we do in our daily lives are now digitized and are easily trackable, and the technology is now there to help us really get into it. People understand the need now to collect data, but are still not exactly sure what to do with it.”

The new fan profile

The Charlotte Bobcats two years ago were at a crossroads. Facing a slumping economy, growing fan unrest and eroding ticket sales amid five straight losing seasons, team executives began to embrace database-driven methods for their marketing and ticket sales. Feeling there was little more to be gained through traditional efforts, the team spent much of the 2009-10 NBA season simply collecting data.

The Bobcats continued to gather the information they and most other teams typically have done, basic data such as names, phone numbers, physical and email addresses, and ticket purchase histories. But that data was soon joined by website browsing and merchandise buying patterns and survey responses.

And the true mother lode of information came from Acxiom Corp., a data partner of Turnkey’s that provided a wealth of demographic information such as income ranges, the type of cars prospective ticket purchasers drive, home values, education levels, and the number of children they have. Acxiom, one of the largest and most influential companies many Americans have not heard of, pools the content from a variety of public and tax records, survey and census data, and commercially supplied material.

The Charlotte Bobcats have used data to create profiles for ticket sales prospects.
All of that information, in turn, is blended using proprietary algorithms to create a profile for each sales prospect. Fans are then segmented into various groups with names such as “Established Elite,” “Savvy Singles,” “Apple Pie Families,” and “Soccer and SUVs.” And those groups, in turn, were used to create far more targeted sales efforts. Leads are also scored on a one-to-five basis, five being the highest rating and most likely to purchase.

The result of the new fan profiling for the Bobcats was a 21 percent increase in season-ticket sales to more than 8,500 full-season equivalents and a seismic increase in sales close rates from about 0.5 percent of calls to more than 4 percent. A surprise playoff appearance and the installation last year of NBA legend Michael Jordan as team owner certainly helped boost the numbers. But after a disappointing, non-playoff 2010-11 season, renewal rates and new sales for next season remain ahead of previous years’ paces, even with the specter of a likely NBA work stoppage and higher lower-bowl ticket prices.

“We knew if we had any chance to succeed in this market, we simply needed more data,” said Pete Guelli, Bobcats executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer. “Two years ago, we were not in the database space at all, and now, it’s our primary means of reaching out. Being able to segment and cluster our customers has made us much more efficient.”

A different approach

At Ticketmaster, the embrace of big data is nothing less than a total mind-shift in how the company thinks and operates. Previously structured as essentially a software solutions company, LiveAnalytics represents a major step toward repositioning Ticketmaster as a full-service ticket sales and marketing entity.

Like its competitors, LiveAnalytics is blending purchase histories with website browsing behaviors, demographic data and other inputs, and developing specific algorithms to blend all that data and create sales prospects and demand forecasts. Early clients include the Los Angeles Dodgers and several other undisclosed MLB teams.

But only a few months into the effort, Ticketmaster has already learned that simply collecting and analyzing data is not enough. Presentation tools for time-strapped sales executives are just as important, if not more so, to turn that information into actual results. Because of that, LiveAnalytics is following an emerging trend toward “dashboarding” the new information.

“Presentation design is critically important. We need this data to not become another doorstop,” said John Forese, Ticketmaster’s senior vice president of data services and head of the LiveAnalytics effort. “So we’re putting a lot of emphasis on the ease and accessibility of the data.”

Dynamic future

The advanced ticket analytics are being used primarily for new season-ticket sales and retention efforts, each of which are traditionally administered by human sales representatives. But key next steps will come in two other areas: dynamic pricing that continues to rapidly grow in popularity, and automated sales efforts that will reach out to fans while browsing for tickets online.

Veritix is developing several analytics-based tools that will reach out to fans while on various team webpages and ticketing sites, either through pop-up ads, email offers or upsells directly on a team ticketing page. For example, a fan purchasing an upper-deck ticket from an Internet IP address located in a high-income ZIP code may receive an upsell offer for a lower-bowl or premium-level ticket. Such marketing efforts have been done for years by airlines, car rental companies and similar industries, but only now are gaining wide favor within sports.

“What we want is to be able to extend the same kind of elevated close rates we see offline with these tools and have them work even when a consumer is in a self-purchase environment,” said Sam Gerace, Veritix chief executive.

The data embrace is also a key step toward more widespread use of dynamic pricing structures. After early success by trailblazers such as the San Francisco Giants, dozens of teams are now dabbling in dynamic pricing, using analytics to help set daily or weekly prices schedules. Forese and LiveAnalytics are working with four MLB teams on an early-stage basis to create dynamic pricing models. Van Stone, after working for several years in more rigid variable pricing structures for the Capitals and Wizards, is planning to use dynamic models for both teams starting this fall.

“That’s the next big hope for us,” Van Stone said. “We’re looking at the business very similar to the airlines, and believe there’s even more incremental opportunity there.”

The Miami Dolphins put their own spin on retail outlet ticket sales after signing a deal with Duffy’s Sports Grill.

NFL fans visiting Duffy’s, the team’s official sports grill with 24 locations, can buy a ticket package for a Dolphins game that includes a bus trip to Sun Life Stadium and a pregame meal. In 2009, the first year of the program, the Dolphins Express program sold about 2,400 ticket packages. The number grew to just under 4,300 in 2010 after the tailgate meal was added, said Mark Tilson, the team’s senior vice president of sales and ticket operations.

Fans can buy those ticket packages by phone or from their table server at the restaurant. They are not available online. Last season, about 70 percent of Dolphins Express purchases were made at Duffy’s locations, an increase of more than 10 percent over the first year due to a boost in on-site advertising and wait staff aggressively pushing the deal, Tilson said. Last year, those ticket packages cost $129 for a lower-level seat and $79 for an upper-deck seat. As of last week, the Dolphins had not determined prices for the 2011 season.

At Duffy’s, the table server conducts the transaction and gives the customer a receipt, containing an email address to print his game ticket at home, and a bus voucher with information on the Duffy’s location to catch the bus to the stadium. Servers get paid a $5 commission for each ticket package they sell.

This year, pending resolution of the NFL lockout, the club expects to sell 10,000 to 12,000 ticket packages, Tilson said. The team is searching for a bigger meal space outside the stadium to accommodate up to 1,500 fans. The meal itself consists of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, soft drinks and bottled water. No alcohol is served but Dolphins Express patrons can bring their own adult beverages and set up their own separate tailgate space apart from the official function catered by Centerplate, the Dolphins’ concessionaire.

“It’s not only a great deal but you save money on avoiding the parking fee, which was $25 last season,” Tilson said. “The transportation piece alleviates a big headache for people. In Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, traditionally strong markets for us, it can be a 90-minute to two-hour trip to the stadium. It’s hassle-free.”

Sports fans don’t think twice about buying tickets online. Nobody knows the exact number, but roughly 90 percent of single-game ticket sales in North America are conducted via the Web, according to teams and ticketing vendors.

For the remainder of the ticket-buying public, however, a small slice of the population still would rather speak to somebody face to face when buying a ticket. For that reason, many MLB teams continue to provide retail outlets as an “over-the-counter” alternative to online transactions.

“It’s an emotional buy; it could be someone who has been saving up for a long time and they want to find out if the person selling them that ticket has been to the building and sat in that section,” said Jack Lucas, president of TicketsWest, a ticketing company tied to about 200 retail outlets in the Pacific Northwest and Western U.S. “So many people still want that experience of buying a ticket from a person, and retail sales is like that. It is a good way to support your overall ticket operation.”

The Cleveland Indians’ Team Shops had sold nearly 50,000 tickets through mid-May.
Tickets West, based in Spokane, Wash., has deals with three supermarket chains, King Soopers, Rosauers and QFC. King Soopers, a longtime partner with TicketsWest, has 125 stores alone that sell tickets for Colorado Rockies games at Coors Field in Denver. The Rockies have offered that ticketing option since the club’s inception in 1993, said Greg Feasel, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

The Rockies’ business at King Soopers accounts for 25 percent of TicketsWest’s total sales at the retail level, Lucas said. The Rockies sell two kinds of tickets at King Soopers: full-price tickets and promotional tickets. Customers, for example, can purchase four outfield box tickets at a discount when they buy $25 worth of groceries. The revenue is split between TicketsWest, King Soopers, the Rockies and Ticketmaster, the team’s ticketing firm at Coors Field.

For King Soopers, the deal makes sense because the supermarket gets a leg up on the competition by offering a service the others do not and it drives incremental grocery sales connected with the promotional ticket offers, Lucas said.

“Some people would have you believe retail outlets are old-fashioned, and people have been telling me it has been going away now for 20 years,” he said. “But one of the first things potential clients ask me is, ‘How many outlets do you have?’ It is still a topic of conversation.”

On their own, the Rockies operate six Colorado Rockies Dugout Stores in Greater Denver. In addition to buying merchandise at the stores, fans can purchase single-game tickets and season-ticket holders can exchange tickets they can’t use for other games.

The retail arrangements have paid off for the Rockies. At the Dugout stores alone, ticket sales early in the 2011 season have jumped 40 percent compared with 2010. Ticket sales at King Soopers stores continued to grow as well.

“Every year you would think that more people would continue to migrate online to buy tickets, but we have seen double-digit increases over last year from those outlets,” Feasel said.

In Cleveland, the Indians’ six Team Shops in northeast Ohio are flourishing after the Tribe surprised all of baseball by becoming the first club to win 20 games in 2011. As of mid-May those retail outlets had sold nearly 50,000 single-game tickets, a 33 percent increase over the first six weeks of the 2010 season, said Curtis Danburg, the Indians’ director of communications and creative services.

“Because of the hot start and our low season-ticket base, our walk-up crowds and ticket office lines have been difficult to handle, so we’ve really been pushing the message to buy in advance, which I think has assisted our Team Shops,” Danburg said.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Twins have sold single-game tickets since 1987 at three Twins Pro Shops strategically placed in suburban malls. Besides the convenience of the locations, fans can enjoy that “feeling of connectivity” and save a few bucks on ticket charges, said Twins President Dave St. Peter. The Twins charge a $1 fee per ticket sold at the pro shops compared with $3.25 charged for every ticket bought online through, the team’s ticketing firm.

The number of tickets sold at those outlets decreased last year compared with 2009 due to the high number of season tickets and group tickets sold for games at Target Field, the Twins’ ballpark that opened in 2010, St. Peter said. Last season, Twins fans bought 35,336 tickets at the three pro shops after purchasing 85,300 tickets from those outlets in 2009. Delaware North Sportservice, the Twins’ food and retail concessionaire at Target Field, took over the pro shops last season and the club expects the firm to sell the same number of tickets it did last season.

The drop in sales does not diminish the importance for the Twins to keep those pro shops open as a key part of their marketing and outreach efforts. “The stores ultimately provide incremental points of contact with our fans,” St. Peter said.

In New York, six Yankees Clubhouse stores now operate in Manhattan that sell single-game tickets for Yankees games. The latest location opened in April in Times Square. Lids Sports Avenue operates all six stores on behalf of the Yankees with three locations within a block of each other in the heart of the city’s tourist district.

Much of the stores’ target audience is first-time visitors to New York who would like to attend a Yankees game and need “hand-holding” to get them safely to Yankee Stadium, said Marty Greenspun, the team’s senior vice president of strategic ventures. Without disclosing numbers, all seven outlets do “extremely well” in ticket sales, he said.

Separately, Modell’s Sporting Goods’ Times Square location sells half-price tickets for day-of-game sales after signing a deal with the Yankees late in the 2010 season.

Fred Rosen jumped back into the ticketing business in October, joining Outbox Enterprises, a Canadian company co-owned by Outbox Technology and Cirque du Soleil. In February, AEG became an investor in Outbox after Rosen negotiated a joint venture with the Los Angeles sports and entertainment firm. From 1982 to 1998, Rosen was president and CEO of Ticketmaster, transforming a small startup ticketing company with under $1 million in annual sales into one of the world’s most powerful brands with more than $2.4 billion in sales. Outbox’s business model, similar to Paciolan, New Era Tickets and other smaller ticketing firms, is to provide a “white label” solution that allows facilities to brand their own ticketing system with greater control and flexibility to sell tickets.

What made you decide to get back into the ticketing business?
ROSEN: I thought the marketplace was right. I thought that there had been a lot of changes in the business, there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the current provider[s] and I thought that market conditions would lead to an opportunity to build another business.

How has the business changed since you were at the helm of Ticketmaster?
ROSEN: Well, first of all, the needs for big distribution systems are gone. You don’t need outlets, and to a great extent you don’t need phones. It’s primarily an Internet-based business. Underneath it all, I believe that what the Internet allows you to do and requires you to do, is be in direct contact with your consumers. So, that makes the need for a third-party distribution service significantly less.

What are your strategies for the sports market?
ROSEN: Fundamentally, every team is a brand and the more the teams can deal directly with their consumer and their websites, the more interesting it becomes for ways they can reach out to their base. The teams that do well, it’s functionality, it’s the ability to be in daily contact with your consumer to create merchandise offers for them or to create special packages for them. I’m not a big fan of discounting and my view is that you create added value for people. The system gives you the freedom and functionality to do that without going to a third party. What it does is it empowers your marketing people to be much more proactive in how they reach the consumers.

What does AEG bring to the table to help launch this joint venture?

The former Ticketmaster CEO wants to help teams and facilities take greater control over how they sell tickets.

ROSEN: In the next 18 months, all of their buildings will turn their ticketing over to us, so they bring a huge amount of inventory that already makes us the second-largest ticket company in the world [in terms of convenience fees], or in the U.S. certainly. They own teams, they own facilities, they have a lot of smart people there and a hell of a marketing staff.

How will Outbox distinguish its product?
ROSEN: It’s really simple. If you have a direct line to the consumer, you can do a lot more than having a third party control the system. Here’s the truth: Everybody’s website becomes infinitely more valuable when you do transactions in them. I think all the teams know that, I’m sure the leagues know that and the fact of the matter is there is no reason there should be any third party between you and your ultimate customer.

The use of social media to expose discount ticket offers in sports continues to grow at a rapid rate as teams target those websites to sell tickets for the least desirable seats and games at their facilities.

Groupon alone, the largest of these half-price sites, has partnered with more than 70 big league teams and 30-plus colleges to help them find buyers for unsold inventory. Since Groupon launched in 2008, it has drawn more than 70 million people to sign up and receive the company’s daily offers sent via email. More than 900 separate offers are sent out every day worldwide, according to Jim Sofranko, Groupon’s vice president of business development and a former marketing executive with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Living Social, Rue La La and Travel Zoo are three other discount sites that teams have used to sell tickets. In general, the teams share 50 percent of the revenue from every ticket sold through those sites with the companies running the discount offers.

Boston College has worked with Groupon for three years to sell tickets to athletics events.
Groupon is expanding its presence in sports and entertainment after forming GrouponLive, a joint venture with Live Nation Entertainment. As part of the deal, all sports ticket offers move over to GrouponLive, a separate outlet for both Ticketmaster and non-Ticketmaster venues. Arenas and stadiums that are Ticketmaster clients will have a smaller share taken from tickets sold through GrouponLive compared with non-Ticketmaster facilities, said Jared Smith, Ticketmaster’s chief operating officer.

Teams and schools participating in half-price offers see value in selling a ticket at a discount to a casual fan who may be buying a ticket for the first time. The idea is to get them through the gates with the hope that they will enjoy the game experience and buy tickets to more games, and ultimately turn into a season-ticket holder.

Texas Christian University Athletic Director Chris Del Conte describes those patrons as the “T-shirt fan,” the guy who wears Horned Frogs purple but is not an alum and prefers to watch the school’s football games on television instead of attending them in person.

To attract more of those individuals to help fill Amon G. Carter Stadium for two key dates in 2010, TCU signed a deal with Groupon, offering $30 upper-deck seats for $15. Fans had the option to buy tickets for one of two games: Air Force in late October, or San Diego State in mid-November, TCU’s final home game in the old stadium before it was slated for a $150 million renovation. The Groupon deal resulted in 999 tickets sold for Air Force and 1,896 tickets sold for San Diego State, said Scott Kull, TCU’s associate athletic director for external operations. Both games ended up as sellouts.

The school ran both offers for a 24-hour period on Oct. 11, about two weeks before the Air Force game, Kull said. It was important for TCU to have a full house for the final game in the “old” stadium configuration and the Groupon promotion helped make that happen.

“We wouldn’t want to offer those deals for every game because it would end up hurting season-ticket sales,” Kull said. “But it is a great branding opportunity for those who have never attended a TCU game to come in a lower price commitment.”

Boston College athletics has worked with Groupon for three years now to sell tickets for football and basketball games on campus. Last fall, the school sold a combined 2,700 half-price tickets for two nonconference games against Weber State and Kent State. To satisfy football season-ticket holders who may turn a cross eye to the lowball discounts, Boston College offered them a choice of two free end zone tickets for one of those two games, said Jamie DiLoreto, associate athletic director of external operations. Those tickets carried a face value of $15.

“We developed it over the last few years with our philosophy to ensure our most loyal fans have the best access to benefits,” DiLoreto said.

Texas Christian University used Groupon for two football games this past season.
Big league clubs also tread that fine line between finding the right ticket price to attract new business and at the same time protecting their best customers, the season-ticket holders. The Philadelphia 76ers tested Groupon for three games during the 2010-11 regular season and generated more than 1,000 new leads that team marketers can contact with an opportunity to purchase partial season-ticket plans, said Lara Price, the team’s senior vice president of business operations. Price would not disclose how many Groupon tickets were sold.

In Charlotte, the Bobcats sold 10,000 upper-deck tickets through Groupon and Living Social half-price deals for three games this past season. The Bobcats tested the concept on a limited basis before getting more aggressive by offering discount tickets on both sites. Those seats were marketed as group sales and the total represented 10 percent of the team’s 100,000 tickets sold in the group category, said Pete Guelli, the Bobcats’ executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer.

Bottom line, those seats most likely would have gone unsold without doing the Groupon deals, Guelli said. Of the 3,000 individuals purchasing those half-price seats, 1,500 showed interest in attending more games with the possibility of buying season tickets, he said.

“It’s not just about ticket sales and revenue but data capture as well,” he said.

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

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,

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