Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 26

Power Players

For any sports team, league, venue or ticketing company, filling seats remains as vital a proposition as it has for more than a century. But that’s where the similarities to yesteryear end. The ticketing business now stands as one of the most dynamic, fluid and quickly evolving segments of the entire sports industry, bearing very little resemblance to the landscape of even five years ago.

The arrival of mobile, high-end data mining, last-minute purchasing, blended markets, facial recognition and a bevy of other technologies has quickly transformed ticketing from a tradition-bound, largely paper-based practice to a deeply sophisticated digital enterprise.

The people and the companies represented here are just some of those who are at the forefront of these developments, ranging from veteran, team-based sales executives to upstart tech-driven players. We chose 35 entities to make up our seventh different Power Players list, and we have separated these executives into various groups to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their influence. Despite those classifications, however, all share one thing in common: These are the people changing the ticketing industry forever.

 

Primary/Secondary

Jared Smith, Amy Howe, Greg Economou, John Forese — Ticketmaster
Bryan Perez, Brian Peunic — AXS
Kim Damron — Paciolan
Joe Choti — Tickets.com
Russ D’Souza, Jack Groetzinger, Jeff Ianello — SeatGeek
Nathan Hubbard — Rival
Rob Sine — IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions
Scott Jablonski, Jill Krimmel, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Perkins Miller — StubHub
Brad Griffith — Gametime
Geoff Lester — Vivid Seats

Leagues

Amy Brooks — NBA
Ian Campbell — MLS
Rob Mulhall — NHL
David Wright — Minor League Baseball
Mark Plutzer — MLB Advanced Media
Chris Hardart — NFL
Kirsten Corio — U.S. Tennis Association

Analytics

Patrick Ryan — Eventellect
Jessica Gelman — KAGR
Russell Scibetti — KORE Planning & Insights

Tech Players

Junior Gaspard — Experience
Josh Manley — ReplyBuy

Premium Seating

John Collins — On Location Experiences
Mike Ondrejko — Legends / Chad Estis — Legends, Dallas Cowboys
Al Guido — Elevate Sports Ventures
Brian Learst — QuintEvents

Teams

Jake Reynolds — Philadelphia 76ers
Doug Dawson — Dallas Cowboys
Don Rovak — AMB Sports & Entertainment
Bryant Pfeiffer — Minnesota United FC
Tucker Kain — Los Angeles Dodgers
Chris Gallagher — Orlando City SC
Russ Stanley — San Francisco Giants
John Abbamondi — Madison Square Garden Co.
Brandon Schneider, John Beaven — Golden State Warriors

 

Photo: Ticketmaster

Jared Smith

President, Ticketmaster North America

Amy Howe

COO, Ticketmaster North America at Live Nation Entertainment

Greg Economou

Head of Sports, North America and Chief Commercial Officer

John Forese

SVP and GM of LiveAnalytics

Ticketmaster

The largest and most dominant player in the ticketing business remains just that. But thanks in part to this quartet, Ticketmaster is pushing forward with new products, such as its digitally based Presence system that tracks the chain of custody of each ticket, among other innovations. Smith (far right) is a 15-year veteran of Ticketmaster who ran point on the company’s deals with major players such as the NFL and NBA, among others. Howe, with the company and parent Live Nation since 2014, has two Ivy League degrees and a business consulting background and has been a key aide to Smith. Sports industry veteran Economou joined early last year and leads many of Ticketmaster’s relationships with teams, leagues and venues. Forese (far left) oversees the company’s still-growing push into data and analytics.


Bryan Perez (left); Brian Peunic
Photo: george w. deloache (perez); marisa garcia photography (peunic)

Bryan Perez

Chief Executive Officer

Brian Peunic

Senior Vice President of Sports

AXS

The Los Angeles-based AXS stands as one of the largest primary ticketing providers in the business, servicing more than a dozen big-league teams, including the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets, and operates the Flash Seats resale platform. By virtue of the company’s relationships at both T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, both the NHL and NBA championships were won this year in buildings serviced by AXS. Perez, a former senior executive with NBA Digital, Live Nation and Clear Channel Entertainment, has led the company since 2014. Peunic has been in ticketing for more than a quarter century and has been a key figure in AXS’s continued merging of primary and secondary ticketing into a single platform. Under the pair, AXS in just its sixth full year of operation last year generated nearly $2.7 billion in ticket transaction volume.

Tickets to success

What do you see as the biggest change coming to ticketing in the next year? And in the next five years?

 

PEREZ: In the next year, increased use of mobile and identity-based ticketing as teams look to further connect with attendees and personalize experiences.

In the next five years, the rise of more sophisticated airlines-style revenue, inventory and sales channel management

 

What market segment does the sports industry need to do a better job with in ticketing and why?

 

PEREZ: A revolution has started in premium seating and we need to continue to rethink that proposition in light of today’s more communal and experiential consumer.

 

What can sports learn from ticketing in other forms of live entertainment?

 

PEREZ: While sports generally leads in ticketing experimentation and innovation, the festival business provides an opportunity to learn more about allowing individual fans to use ticketing to customize their event experience (GA vs. VIP vs. camping, cashless, proximity-based communication, etc.)

 

What do you see as ticketing’s role in live entertainment’s battle versus the couch?

 

PEREZ: There’s no substitute for the thrill of attending a live event. By reducing friction for ticket buyers — including helping them organize with friends, purchase more seamlessly, customize their experience and enter the venue more easily — we can make the live experience even more magical.


Photo: sheri geoffreys

Kim Damron

President and Chief Executive Officer

Paciolan

With nearly two decades of experience in the ticketing business, Damron now leads the day-to-day operations for Paciolan, where she’s been since 2005 and which is now under Learfield ownership and again under its longtime brand name. Under Damron’s guidance, the company remains a major presence in collegiate ticketing, fueled in part by a deep partnership with StubHub for secondary ticketing, and she has aggressively pushed the company into emerging areas such as mobile and advanced analytics.


Photo: tickets.com

Joe Choti

President and Chief Executive Officer

Tickets.com

The MLB Advanced Media-owned Tickets.com isn’t a household consumer brand in the same way as Ticketmaster or StubHub. But under Choti (far left), MLBAM’s former chief technology officer, the company services hundreds of teams and venues and has sought to position itself as a full-service event technology company that happens to do ticketing, as opposed to a ticketing outfit now getting into technology. The last year has been particularly active for Tickets.com as the company signed pacts with 70 new partners — including a deal with Minor League Baseball that represented that property’s first national ticketing partner — and renewed nearly 40 more.


From left: Russ D'Souza, Jack Groetzinger and Jeff Ianello
Photo: andrew sapienza / seatgeek

Russ D’Souza

Co-Founder

Jack Groetzinger

Co-Founder

Jeff Ianello

Executive Vice President, Client Partnerships

SeatGeek

The New York-based company has been one of the most disruptive brands in sports ticketing over the past couple of years. It has grown quickly from a Kayak-like secondary ticket search engine into also a primary ticketer in deals with teams such as the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. D’Souza and Groetzinger co-founded SeatGeek in 2009 after a shared history in tech startups. Sports industry veteran Ianello, who came on board in 2015, leads the company’s partnerships after stints with the NBA and the Phoenix Suns.


Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown

Nathan Hubbard

Co-Founder and
Chief Executive Officer

Rival

The former Ticketmaster chief executive has returned to ticketing with a new software platform set to formally debut next year that blends identity-based seat sales with other areas such as commerce, data, analytics and building security. After nearly two years of stealth development, Hubbard has attracted more than $30 million in startup funding from a series of high-profile investors, and he has signed more than 10 pro teams across the major U.S. leagues and the English Premier League as clients. The identities of those teams aren’t yet known but will be closely watched within the industry.


Photo: L. Anderson

Rob Sine

President

IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions

Sine brings a professional-level sales force to the world of college sports, working with dozens of colleges, including Duke, North Carolina and Penn State, as an external sales and marketing agency to help move tickets. Leading day-to-day operations for the 6-year-old IMG-Learfield joint venture, Sine has steadily expanded the operation to encompass areas such as donations and premium seating.


From left: Scott Jablonski, Jill Kimmel, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy and Perkins Miller
Photo: hans kwiotek

Scott Jablonski

General Manager, NFL, NBA and NHL

Jill Krimmel

General Manager, MLB, NCAA and Other Sports

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy

President

Perkins Miller

General Manager, North America

StubHub 

The eBay-owned company still reigns as the biggest brand in secondary ticketing, despite years of challenges from various players, and the past two years have been marked by a series of company sales records around major sports events such as the Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup Final. Singh Cassidy, a longtime tech executive and entrepreneur, arrived last month as StubHub’s new president and will be a key figure in the company’s growing international aspirations. Miller, well known in the industry after prior stints at the NFL, WWE and NBC Sports, leads the company’s North American business. And Krimmel and Jablonski oversee StubHub’s critical league partnerships, notably large-scale pacts with Major League Baseball and the NFL.

Tickets to success

What do you see as the biggest change coming to ticketing in the next year? Five years?

MILLER: Fans will expect more from their tickets this year — not only the best selection at the best price, but ease of access (mobile!), better ways to share and buy tickets with friends and even more robust customer support. 

Looking further out, we will see far richer personalization for every seller and buyer. 

What market segment does the sports industry need to do a better job with in ticketing and why?

MILLER: Gen Z, women, and the LGBTQ community are all underserved audiences in sports. 

What can sports learn from ticketing in other forms of live entertainment?

MILLER: Offering complementary commerce alongside tickets. We know there’s demand for sports merchandise and memorabilia, which could enhance the ticket buyer experience.

What do you see as ticketing’s role in live entertainment’s battle versus the couch?

MILLER: We must do more than reduce the friction of going out by making discovery and planning easy. We must go beyond working with rights holders to ensure ease of access and the best pricing. Finally, we have a responsibility to effectively market events so fans recognize the value of “being live.”

Photo: gametime

Brad Griffith

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Gametime

A former Stanford volleyball player and a baseball operations intern for the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago White Sox, Griffith has been a major figure in creating the notion of last-minute ticketing and growing it into an industry force. For years, many teams prohibited resales in the final hours leading up to an event. But the advent of Gametime and its elegant, mobile-based platform allows fans to buy tickets right up to the start of a game, and in some cases, even after it begins. By creating that avenue for live events as more of an impulse buy, Griffith and Gametime have attracted a far younger audience and forced several competitors, including StubHub, to change their policies.


Photo: VIVID SEATS

Geoff Lester

Chief Commercial Officer

Vivid Seats

The Chicago-based resale company has quietly been one of the most active dealmakers in the industry, signing partnerships with the likes of ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the Preakness Stakes, Notre Dame and many others. The arrival earlier this year of Lester, who during a prior stint at StubHub helped construct many of that company’s largest pacts, signaled an accelerating ambition for Vivid.


Photo: nba photos

Amy Brooks

President,Team Marketing & Business Operations and Chief Innovation Officer

NBA

Under Brooks’ leadership, the NBA’s TMBO group has been widely considered the industry gold standard in best practices development and has generated league record-setting results in not only ticket sales and attendance, but other areas such as sponsorships and business analytics. Most recently, Brooks was a lead figure in the renewal of the NBA’s partnership with Ticketmaster, a deal aimed at keeping the league at the forefront of emerging ticketing trends and also boosting the WNBA and the G League. And the addition last fall of chief innovation officer to her title also gives her responsibility to help develop global business strategies for the NBA and signals her rising stature in the league’s hierarchy. 

Tickets to success


What do you see as the biggest change coming to ticketing in the next year? And in the next five years?

BROOKS: In the future, the digital ticket will be the jumping-off point to a variety of in-arena experiences from in-seat food, beverage and merchandise delivery, to seat upgrades, club access, augmented/virtual reality enhancements, and winning prizes and giveaways. In five years, we’ll start seeing the next-generation season ticket become a reality. This is the ticket that someone outside of our arena, cities or countries can purchase. It gives fans virtual, personalized virtual reality and augmented reality access to our game.  

What market segment does the sports industry need to do a better job with in ticketing and why?

BROOKS: There is tremendous upside to the business-to-business environment. How are we cultivating and connecting the broader business community through pregame programming, unique experiences and providing a networking environment that is second to none? 

What can sports learn from ticketing in other forms of live entertainment?

BROOKS: Very few forms of live entertainment have succeeded in creating a lifestyle event within the venue that actually transcends the competition itself, such as the Kentucky Derby or Coachella. These events have become daylong or multiday events in which the experiences outside of the main event or events are tremendously compelling.  

What do you see as ticketing’s role in live entertainment’s battle versus the couch?

BROOKS: The in-game experience will always beat the couch due to the irreplaceable community experience it offers. Fans want to be there. However, we need to keep innovating to make the in-game experience the best it can be.

Photo: kleber santos

Ian Campbell

Director, Club Services

MLS

A nine-year veteran of MLS, Campbell works across the league to help individual clubs improve their ticketing operations. Those efforts paid off with MLS last year surpassing 22,000 in average game attendance for the first time in the league’s 22-season history. Campbell was a prominent figure in MLS’s league-level partnership with SeatGeek and has driven individual clubs to push boundaries in their own markets, such as Orlando City SC’s move to Ticketmaster’s Presence technology and the use of SeatGeek’s ticketing platform by Sporting Kansas City, the Seattle Sounders, the Portland Timbers and Minnesota United FC.


Photo: Rachel Seile

Rob Mulhall

Vice President, Club Business & Analytics

NHL

In 2006-07, the season before Mulhall started at the NHL, 10 teams — one-third of the league — failed to sell at least 90 percent of their tickets. In 2017-18, with the Vegas Golden Knights joining as the league’s 31st member, only six were below that same threshold and two-thirds of the league’s teams now sell at least 98 percent of their available tickets. Similar to the NBA’s TMBO activities, Mulhall has pushed a series of best practices and data-driven approaches around the league that has elevated the sport overall and set several league attendance records, including this past year’s mark for overall attendance.


Photo: ryan foose

David Wright

Chief Marketing and
Commercial Officer

Minor League Baseball

MiLB has an ambitious goal of expanding annual attendance for the affiliated minors from about 42 million, where it’s hovered in recent years, to 50 million by 2026. To do that, Wright has overseen an aggressive series of new initiatives, including a league-level ticketing deal with Tickets.com, a multiyear Hispanic outreach program called Es Divertido Ser Un Fan, a partnership with artificial intelligence company Satisfi Labs for the development of automated customer service chatbots, and another with technology outfit FIS to develop a new fan rewards program.


Photo: courtesy of mark plutzer

Mark Plutzer

Senior Vice President
of Ticketing

MLB Advanced Media

No sport sells more tickets than baseball, and Plutzer oversees its relationships with its various ticketing partners such as StubHub, Ticketmaster and Tickets.com. Under the leadership of Plutzer, who joined MLBAM in 2001 shortly after its founding, MLB has been a first mover on many industry developments including large-scale secondary ticketing, mobile delivery and, most recently, the widespread advent of subscription-model ticketing that moved more than 900,000 tickets across the league in 2017.


Photo: eric espino / nfl

Chris Hardart

Vice President, Corporate Development

NFL

There is arguably no part of sports ticketing being more closely watched right now than the NFL’s open ticketing framework, which allows customers to buy official tickets from a variety of sources without worrying about authenticity. The league’s operation includes a series of new deals with SeatGeek, StubHub and Ticketmaster. Hardart, who has been with the NFL for nearly three decades, played an instrumental role in constructing that framework as part of a special league ticketing committee and helped negotiate the trio of pacts. Hardart’s work is being counted on to reduce friction in football ticketing and aid in reversing a multiyear attendance decline for the league.

Photo: jennifer pottheiser

Kirsten Corio

Managing Director, Ticket Sales, Hospitality and Digital Strategy

U.S. Tennis Association

Corio helps lead ticketing operations for tennis’ U.S. Open, a two-week event that thanks to a burst of white-hot fan intensity generates up to $125 million in ticket revenue alone, more than many pro teams do in an entire year. Since joining the USTA in 2016, Corio has helped refine the premium seat and overall seating mix at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to simultaneously drive new revenue and keep the Open a must-attend for VIPs while still providing a range of more affordable options. Prior to her move to tennis, Corio spent more than 14 years at the NBA and was a key figure in the development of the team marketing and business operations unit.

Photo: eventellect

Patrick Ryan

Co-Founder

Eventellect

Ryan and his Houston-based firm have been trusted advisers to dozens of teams — including the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros — and entertainment entities for more than a decade, helping them manage ticket distribution channels and develop pricing strategies. Under Ryan’s guidance his company also has been an active player in an accelerating industry trend whereby teams reduce their activity with brokers in favor of consolidated relationships with firms such as Eventellect. That was most recently typified by the company’s new, multiyear partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tickets to success


What do you see as the biggest change coming to ticketing in the next year? And in the next five years?

RYAN: Over the next year I expect to see the continued trend of the hottest events being hotter than ever contrasted with the colder events being even colder. That will continue to be highlighted and addressed via more sophisticated use of the secondary market by teams. Currently every league is becoming more focused on ticketing strategies and in five years we are going to really see those play out and there will be some clear winners and losers.

What market segment does the sports industry need to do a better job with in ticketing and why?

RYAN: I think fixing the “holes” in sections of stadiums where there are big price breaks is a bigger issue than some realize. There should be and will be a collective effort to better fill stadiums logically. Sometimes three price tiers are better than 30.

What can sports learn from ticketing in other forms of live entertainment?

RYAN: Live Nation’s $20 Summer Concert Ticket promotion is brilliant and one of the leagues should take a page from that playbook. Are they leaving some money on the table? Yes. But are they getting incremental sales? Yes. Are they getting people excited about the concert season? Yes. Are fans buying other tickets besides the $20 ones? Yes. Clearly the pros outweigh the cons in this promotion.

What do you see as ticketing’s role in live entertainment’s battle versus the couch?

RYAN: Ticketing has gotten more complicated in a lot of ways over the past 10 years. However, as technology improves there are ways for it to become simple again and that simplification will be key in fighting that battle.

Photo: eric adler

Jessica Gelman

Chief Executive Officer

KAGR

After mastering the internal business of data and analytics for the New England Patriots and parent company Kraft Sports Group, Gelman has sharply expanded the organization’s capabilities through its spinoff, KAGR. Since helping that unit get off the ground in 2016, she has aided a wide array of other sports and entertainment entities, including a partnership with Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. Gelman, also a co-founder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, has been an influential figure in the development of holistic fan profiles that boost revenue not only in ticketing but many other segments of the industry, from concessions to paid content.

Photo: scott aller / kore

Russell Scibetti

President

KORE Planning & Insights

With a deep background in customer relationship management and database marketing, Scibetti now advises dozens of pro team clients, including the Oakland A’s and San Jose Sharks, on using business intelligence to sell more tickets and deepen bonds with fans. Through frequent blog posts, op-ed columns and outside podcast appearances, Scibetti also has been an active industry voice on the accelerating use of data in sports business.

Photo: Robin Henson

Junior Gaspard

President and Chief Executive Officer

Experience

It’s now accepted industry practice that a ticket can do more than just provide basic venue access and include a series of mobile-based upgrades, even after an event starts. But a mere five years ago, that notion was still a long way from gaining full traction. Gaspard, one of the original employees for the Atlanta-based company, has been a key figure in establishing the notion of seat upgrades, as well as subscription-based ticket sales, and making both fundamental parts of how teams do business.

Tickets to success

What do you see as the biggest change coming to ticketing in the next year? 

GASPARD: The way the industry packages, prices and markets tickets will change dramatically through enhanced data and analytics and an emphasis on social platforms to market to unique fan segments. The one-size-fits-most approach is no longer working and fans are demanding flexibility and broader options with their ticket purchases.

What about for the next five years?

GASPARD: Subscription ticketing will dominate as the best way for teams and venues to fill seats while at the same time giving fans a better way to experience events.

What market segment does the sports industry need to do a better job with in ticketing and why?

GASPARD: Two segments: The “casual fan” who has the potential to become a new lifelong fan; and the “new” fan — those just out of college looking to develop or deepen loyalty.

What can sports learn from ticketing in other forms of live entertainment?

GASPARD: Sports can leverage new ways to appeal to a variety of different fan segments by using data as a way to develop more appealing ticketing options that foster increased loyalty and therefore drive attendance.

What do you see as ticketing’s role in live entertainment’s battle versus the couch?

GASPARD: To overcome the pull to watch from the couch, ticketing must provide fans with the ability to personalize their event experience in a way that is flexible and engages the fan all year long, not just on game day, making a memorable experience that cannot be had from home.

Photo: jim poulin / phoenix business journal

Josh Manley

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

ReplyBuy

Manley, who holds an extensive background in e-commerce, and the 6-year-old, Arizona-based ReplyBuy have forged a fertile niche of the last-minute ticketing space, using the ultra-fast speed of texting to create a simple, seamless way to reach fans and drive incremental ticket sales. Dozens of clients of Manley and ReplyBuy, which have included the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers, and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints, have reported large numbers of new and millennial buyers through the platform.

Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN

John Collins

Chief Executive Officer

On Location Experiences

Collins is a longtime industry executive who, while with the NHL from 2008-15 as chief operating officer, was a key figure in that league’s sharp rise in visibility and business activity, including the development of the Winter Classic and Stadium Series. In his current role, Collins has led a premium hospitality business covering some of the biggest events in all of sports, including the Super Bowl and NCAA Men’s Final Four. Collins over the past three years has led a steady expansion for the New York-based On Location, including last year’s acquisition of travel and ticketing company PrimeSport.

Tickets to success

What do you see as the biggest change coming to ticketing in the next year? And in the next five years?

COLLINS: The change that has been underway is to evolve ticketing from a point of basic entry to become a system of exclusive access and experience optionality. Over the next five years the most important aspect of ticketing will be how fans are able to leverage event access with their desired experience, whether that’s an NFL fan looking for access to Super Bowl weekend, a student group following their university team to the Final Four, or a music fan connecting with their favorite artist on tour or traveling to a music festival.

What market segment does the sports industry need to do a better job with in ticketing and why?

COLLINS: Data analytics across the rights holder ecosystem and secondary markets is fragmented and isolated. The customer experience can be elevated significantly by addressing some aggregation of user-accepted data.  

What can sports learn from ticketing in other forms of live entertainment?

COLLINS: Musicians have long understood fan engagement and activation. Even in the face of large-scale events, there are moments of access and intimacy that are second to none for fans seeking that experience. Using the ticket as a platform to create increased moments of this kind of fan access and experience around events will significantly add to the draw of the live event.

What do you see as ticketing’s role in live entertainment’s battle versus the couch?

COLLINS: It’s all about the experience. When fans discover that they can engage through an integrated platform that meets or exceeds all their experiential needs fans engage at deeper levels. If the system is fragmented, today’s buyers aren’t interested. Otherwise, there is too much attrition to other ways to watch the event itself.

Mike Ondrejko (left) and Chad Estis
Photo: legends (ondrejko); kelly alexander photography (ESTIS)

Mike Ondrejko

President, Global Sales

Legends

Chad Estis

Executive Vice President / Executive Vice President, Business Operations

Legends / Dallas Cowboys

The decade-old Legends, primarily owned by the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, remains one of the leading names in premium sales and venue hospitality, with newer top-tier clients including MLS’s expansion LAFC. Estis, also executive vice president of business operations for the Cowboys, holds a long record of successful premium ticket and seat license sales campaigns and new business expansions, and has mentored dozens of other leading industry executives, including Elevate Sports Ventures CEO Al Guido. Ondrejko has been a key figure in Legends’ growth over the past seven years, particularly on the college side with new and expanded relationships with Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC, among many others.

Photo: 49ers.com

Al Guido

Co-Managing Partner, Chief Executive Officer

Elevate Sports Ventures

The San Francisco 49ers’ president also has a very demanding second job as the day-to-day head of Elevate Sports Ventures, a partnership created this year among the 49ers, CAA and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. With the combined strength of three of the biggest names in sports business, Elevate is focused on premium seating, personal seat licenses and corporate hospitality sales and figures to be a significant force in the industry. During a prior stint with Legends Sales and Marketing, Guido also led successful seat license sales efforts for Levi’s Stadium and AT&T Stadium that were collectively worth more than $1 billion.

Photo: collin baker

Brian Learst

Chief Executive Officer and Partner

 QuintEvents

With more than two decades of experience in sports travel and event hospitality, Learst and the Charlotte-based QuintEvents have official relationships with a wide array of top sports entities, including the College Football Playoff, Formula One, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Derby and the British Open. A new deal with the NFL Players Association will allow Learst and the firm to develop exclusive events around individual players.

Photo: @sixers

Jake Reynolds

Chief Revenue Officer /
Senior Vice President,
Ticket Sales & Service 

Philadelphia 76ers /
New Jersey Devils &
Prudential Center
 

Trusting the 76ers’ process applies to the club’s business operations, too, and Reynolds has generated huge returns for the up-and-coming team. During his first full season in Philadelphia, 2013-14, the 76ers had the NBA’s second-worst average and total attendance and sold barely two-thirds of their available seats at Wells Fargo Center. This past season, the team had the league’s third-highest attendance on the heels of franchise-record season-ticket sales and a full season of sellouts. Reynolds was also a key architect in the 76ers’ historic deal in 2016 with StubHub that moved that company into primary ticketing, and in early 2017 he added a broader executive role within Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment that gives him oversight of the New Jersey Devils’ ticketing operations as well.

Tickets to success


What do you see as the biggest change coming to ticketing in the next year? And in the next five years?

REYNOLDS: As an industry, we’ve taken significant steps over the past few years in gathering data on our fans to gain a better understanding of who they are and their behaviors. The question has been: “Now that we have the data, how are we leveraging it to grow our business?” In the next year, I think you will see significant growth in how teams are utilizing the data they’ve gathered to operate more efficiently, price and target fans more strategically and increase the velocity of the sales process. 

Over the next five years, I believe we will continue to see a significant shift in the distinction of what primary and secondary ticket markets look like and how tickets are distributed across multiple platforms. As fans continue to become more sophisticated and hold the belief that “a ticket is a ticket is a ticket,” it will be interesting to watch how ticket markets will integrate and blend to create more open distribution and a seamless user experience. 

What market segment does the sports industry need to do a better job with in ticketing and why?

REYNOLDS: Millennials are a key factor to the continued growth of our fan base now as well as the future of our membership business. As millennials continue to take a nontraditional approach to how they’re consuming sports, both in-arena and at home, it’s important that we have the agility to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of entertainment. We are living in a world when people can have whatever they want whenever they want it, so it’s important to understand how their behaviors in sports consumption will shape their future tendencies.

 What can sports learn from ticketing in other forms of live entertainment?

REYNOLDS: Broadway has done a fantastic job of creating and monetizing unique experiences for their patrons. As sports teams become more strategic and sophisticated with pricing and maximizing revenues, finding innovative ways to create incremental revenue streams will be paramount to growing the business through nontraditional avenues.

What do you see as ticketing’s role in live entertainment’s battle versus the couch?

REYNOLDS:  With the constant evolution in technology, the at-home experience continues to get more sophisticated and “real,” which pushes us to continue to innovate and improve the holistic in-arena experience from the game presentation to food and beverage offerings. With consumers having unlimited options and the live entertainment experience being challenged, a ticket to these events needs to serve as a fan’s pass to creating “can’t-miss” memories and experiences that expand beyond court or ice.

Photo: kelly alexander photography

Doug Dawson

Vice President, Ticket Sales and Service

Dallas Cowboys

Dawson runs point on ticketing for one of the most popular and valuable brands in sports, and what is by far the NFL’s annual attendance leader with an average of nearly 93,000 fans per game. In addition, he was a key figure in the club’s construction of its new multiyear partnership with SeatGeek, a deal that also covers other events at AT&T Stadium and The Star, the club’s practice facility in Frisco, Texas, and marks the most notable move by any NFL team away from Ticketmaster for primary ticketing.

Photo: kara durrette

Don Rovak

Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service

AMB Sports & Entertainment

For many years, Atlanta carried a reputation as a mediocre-at-best sports city. But under Rovak’s guidance, the expansion Atlanta United FC set a series of MLS attendance records last year at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including a full-season total of more than 819,000 and a single-game high of 71,874 fans last October, a mark it surpassed in this year’s home opener. The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, under Rovak also solidified their hold in the city and were just one of nine NFL teams to increase attendance last year.

Photo: Mike Shields

Bryant Pfeiffer

Executive Vice President and
Chief Revenue Officer

Minnesota United FC

Pfeiffer is a senior leader for one of MLS’s most successful expansion franchises. After debuting at that level in 2017, the club is planning to move into a new 19,400-seat stadium, Allianz Field, next spring with a waiting list for tickets already in place. But prior to joining the club last year, Pfeiffer was also known as the “Godfather” of MLS’s National Sales Center in Blaine, Minn., a facility that over the past eight years has offered a first-of-its-kind, intensive training course for early-stage professionals on ticket sales methods. The facility under Pfeiffer’s leadership placed hundreds of account executives with MLS clubs.

Photo: john soohoo / los angeles dodgers

Tucker Kain

Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of Guggenheim Baseball Management

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have been MLB’s attendance leader each of the past five seasons, every full year of the club’s current ownership, and they are poised to do it again this year. Having baseball’s largest stadium and a team that has won five consecutive NL West titles certainly helps, but Kain’s analytical background has also been a significant advantage for the club. He has been the leader behind a series of moves, including a recent large-scale deal with Eventellect that reshapes how the Dodgers manage their local resale market by eliminating their outside broker business.

Photo: mark thor

Chris Gallagher

Chief Revenue Officer

Orlando City SC

Now in just its fourth season of existence, Orlando City SC has, under Gallagher’s guidance, firmly established itself as one of MLS’s annual leaders in ticket sales and attendance, as the club ranks fifth in the latter category through June 10 after finishing fourth in 2017. But Gallagher’s technological push for the club’s ticketing has arguably been even more impactful, as Orlando City was one of the leading early adopters of Ticketmaster’s Presence system, a move that has yielded vast amounts of data and the identification of new fans while decreasing fraud and providing a boost in the development of identity-based ticketing.

Photo: suzanna mitchell

Russ Stanley

Managing Vice President, Ticket Sales and Services

San Francisco Giants

In his nearly three decades with the Giants, Stanley has been a longtime thought leader within sports ticketing as well as a trailblazer on many industry innovations, including secondary and mobile ticketing, dynamic pricing and the use of analytics. He also oversaw a 530-game sellout streak at AT&T Park that lasted nearly seven years before ending in 2017 and stands as the second longest such streak in MLB history.

Photo: zack lane / msg photos

John Abbamondi

Executive Vice President, Ticketing, Suites & Corporate Hospitality

Madison Square Garden Co.

Abbamondi carries one of the largest portfolios of any ticketing executive in the industry, overseeing sales and service at one of the country’s most famous and visited arenas for MSG’s entire collection of sports and entertainment properties, including the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers. Abbamondi has been long thought of as an industry thought leader and also honed his collection of best practices during a prior stint in the NBA’s team marketing and business operations unit. Prior to his sports industry career, Abbamondi was a U.S. Navy flight officer for nearly a decade and conducted 40 combat missions over Iraq.

Brandon Schneider (left) and John Beaven
Photo: golden state warriors

Brandon Schneider

Chief Revenue Officer

John Beaven

Vice President, Ticket Sales and Services

Golden State Warriors

Backed with three NBA titles in the last four years, Schneider (left) and Beaven oversee sales for some of the most coveted tickets in all of pro sports. Season-ticket sales have been capped for years with a lengthy waiting list and secondary ticket pricing has soared into the thousands of dollars per seat for key games, all of which has influenced a heavily data-driven approach for pricing and distribution. The duo’s work is also now a critical part of the nearly $2 billion in contractually obligated income already pegged for the forthcoming Chase Center, the Warriors’ new home in San Francisco, which is scheduled to open for the 2019-20 season.