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Volume 23 No. 23
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Schools share how they put ticket data to work, set right price

Arizona’s “bear down” pricing may gradually lower prices for select games until a baseline is reached.
Photo: getty images
Arizona’s “bear down” pricing may gradually lower prices for select games until a baseline is reached.
Photo: getty images
Arizona’s “bear down” pricing may gradually lower prices for select games until a baseline is reached.
Photo: getty images

At a time when many colleges are facing dips in attendance for key revenue-producing sports such as football and basketball, more of them are using insights from the primary and secondary markets to price ticket inventory for less desirable games or to get the most out of marquee matchups.

A total of 73 schools have deals with Paciolan and StubHub that provide real-time and historical data for tickets to guide pricing.

“Now that we’ve got both the primary and the secondary transaction data, we know when people are buying on the secondary market, how much they’re buying in both markets, and other demographics,” said Craig Ricks, senior vice president of marketing at Paciolan. “So this gives us, the client and the venues and the colleges unmatched visibility into demand in real time.”

The University of Arizona uses data from StubHub and Paciolan to put in its “bear down” pricing plan for single-game football tickets for the best available seats. 

“So, we’ll start off higher and when we get down, we’ll do two to three different bumps down in price until we hit what our baseline, single-game price would be,” said Christopher Celona, associate athletic director of ticket sales and CRM at Arizona.

Getting Schooled

Some 73 colleges now have deals with Paciolan and StubHub to monitor trends on the primary and secondary ticketing markets, providing a real-time look into what’s working and what might need a fresh approach.

For example, a ticket to a football game for the upcoming fall might start at $35 on June 1. That same ticket could be at $31 on June 22 and drop to $26 on July 13. 

“Now, we can go back up after that, but essentially based off of demand, what people will end up doing is if they want a specific seat, specific location, we’ve found through the data that fans are essentially willing to pay more for a game ticket earlier instead of waiting,” Celona said. 

Data from the primary and secondary ticketing markets showed Georgia Tech that the ticket three pack, a long-time staple of the business, was hurting the bottom line. The system makes customers buy tickets to two less in-demand football games to get tickets to a more in-demand game like Georgia Tech vs. Georgia. 

“That was kind of a pretty popular practice in ticketing to take a popular game and force customers to buy two less popular games because then we’re selling three games instead of one,” said Mike Castle, assistant AD for ticket sales and operations at Georgia Tech. “Well, what we saw was the evolution of the secondary market, people are buying that three-game pack, discarding the other two games on the secondary market because they didn’t want them in the first place, and only attending the highly popular game that was the anchor of the three-game pack.”

Tickets to those two less desirable games often oversaturated the secondary market, hurting Georgia Tech’s ability to sell its inventory on the primary market. 

“So by taking away that three-game pack, and treating that high-demand game as a single entity instead of part of a three-game package, we were able to increase the price and revenue on the high-demand game and protect the prices and revenue on those two other games that would have otherwise been brought down by the discarding of those games on the secondary market,” Castle added. 

The insights go beyond ticketing. Leading up to the Dec. 1, 2018, game between N.C. State and East Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium, N.C. State realized the staggering amount of money fans were paying in advance for parking passes on the secondary market, said Colin Hargis, senior associate AD of marketing and ticket services at N.C. State. 

“We had single-game parking passes being sold in the $300-$400 range,” Hargis said. In comparison, parking passes at Carter-Finley sell for $140 for the entire season, he said. 

“We’ve always known that our fans love the tailgating atmosphere, they love coming to Carter-Finley Stadium, and we knew that it’s a high priority for our donors and our season-ticket holders, but to see that specific insight of looking at how the general market was transacting was staggering for us, “ Hargis said. “It reinforced what we knew and assumed, but I don’t think anybody in our department understood that it was that much of a premium for certain people and certain lots for that game.” 

N.C. State did not increase prices for season or single-game parking passes after seeing the data from that 2018 game, but as the athletic department reviews its financial performance, the school’s approach to parking passes for certain lots could change in the future, Hargis said.