New data analysis released by ticketing tech company Logitix showed that sports teams requiring proof of vaccination or negative tests to enter arenas and stadiums are having trouble selling tickets. In the NBA, the 15 such teams have seen a marked drop in the number of tickets sold on the secondary market, falling by more than 6% compared to 2019, according to the study. In the NHL, meanwhile, the 16 teams with similar restrictions have faced a nearly 25% drop in secondary market ticket volume compared to 2019.
While the vaccine and testing requirements surely have some counterbalancing effects in making certain fans more comfortable about returning to venues, Logitix’s findings indicate that force is relatively small.
The picture for teams without vaccine or test requirements, however, isn’t necessarily rosy. NBA and NHL teams in that situation have seen their secondary ticket sales volume drop by roughly 4% and 7%, respectively.
So while the requirements might be hurting sales numbers, they clearly don’t tell the whole story. Logitix also gathered data on the change in average ticket prices, which helps show how fan behavior has changed since 2019. While ticket sale quantity is down, average prices are up across the board (including a 22% increase for NBA teams without vaccine or test requirements).
“It is a continuation, but an exaggeration of what we’ve seen,” Logitix CEO Stuart Halberg said in an interview. “For the last three years, I would have told you that the low-demand events are getting lower, and the high-demand are getting higher. Now, this just adds rocket fuel to that.”
Dynamic Pricing Partners CEO Jonathan Marks said he’s seen similar trends in college sports, where tests have shown that price cuts don’t necessarily drive corresponding increases in demand.
“People are more discerning with their time,” he said. “You’re selling not against a wallet; with consumer savings at an all-time high, I firmly believe you’re selling against someone’s time. They’re deciding if it is worth it to go to this event or not. That’s what all of us as an industry really need to work through and solve.”
College programs saw the same difficulties overcoming vaccination requirements, Marks said, though there was improvement over the football season. And team performance still was capable of helping clubs buck the trend. The Chicago Bulls, for instance, have jumped out to a 14-8 start and have consequently seen the fourth-largest sales volume increase in the NBA this season, according to Logitix, despite requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Halberg was also quick to note that decisions around restrictions were not being made with ticket sales impacts in mind. Instead, teams are trying to sort out how to price and market their seats given the policies they’re working under.
At DPP, Marks is encouraging clients to survey and focus group their fans in the hopes of developing unique strategies that appeal to local supporters. ASM Global, which helps run 325 venues around the world, has gone a step further. The company has partnered with experience data firm Qualtrics to systematically generate information on fan sentiments and habits via a proprietary system.
ASM Global EVP of marketing Alex Merchan said the partnership comes after the company has put a focus on understanding fans’ thoughts about returning to venues. Whatever a place’s requirements might be, “communication becomes a critical thing,” Merchan said. “For us, the exciting part is continuing to just redefine the customer experience, making sure that our north star is that guest satisfaction.” Those satisfaction scores are now top-of-mind across the organization.
As teams try to evolve their strategies, taking into account necessary health considerations while trying to wage a war for consumer attention, one thing is clear.
“There’s a lot of things that have been done for many years,” Marks said. “But what we know right now is what’s worked for many years is not working right now.”