In recent years, the desire to “capture every dollar” has resulted in pro sports organizations increasingly segmenting their seating bowls (think: clubs with 10+ pricing levels). But Patrick Ryan suggested it would be in the best interest of most to adopt a “simpler ticketing manifest” as they look to bring fans back in a limited capacity. The Eventellect co-founder said, “Teams will want to make the process of attending a game as simple as possible on the front-end, because there’s going to be a lot of questions and headaches for the fan to endure on the back-end” (think: stadium ingress/egress). Placing limitations on ticketing options could help clubs boost the median price on tickets sold, thus resulting in some incremental revenue, and help them unload tickets in a tight window (valuable considering the fluid situations teams find themselves in). It would also provide the organization with some much-needed seating flexibility inside the venue, critical with so many season ticket holders being shifted around.
Our Take: As noted, there are several benefits to pricing every seat the same (or having just a general admission and premium option) in the current environment—none more important than “the need for clarity in communication with fans,” Ryan explained. “Teams will have to communicate many things [in a post-COVID world] (think: what time fans need to enter, what time they can leave, concessions that will or won’t be open). By making ticketing simpler, they can help aid their overall communication strategy.”
Said Ryan: “There’s a general thesis that tickets to sporting events will be more valuable than normal [in a post-COVID world] due to limitations on capacity and the pent up demand within certain segments of the population.” As a result, the ticketing executive believes fans will be more concerned with getting into the venue than on realizing “a differentiated experience based on location [in our ‘new normal’].” If that is the case, simplifying the seating map—and starting tickets at a more expensive price point—makes sense; it would be “a way to get people to increase their spend and to drive more revenue.” Of course, that doesn’t mean clubs are about to rake their fans over the coals. Negative PR aside, “in most of these scenarios teams are only going to be able to fulfill the needs of their season ticket holders, and they can’t really scalp their season ticket holders,” he said.
Because many season ticket holders won’t be able to sit in their normal seats in a socially distant environment, Ryan said “most teams are refunding 2020 or applying the money paid to 2021; and whatever tickets are sold for games this season will be considered a brand new purchase.” While logical enough (at least for the big five leagues with billionaire owners who can presumably afford to cover the losses), it’s a decision that is going to ultimately leave teams with far less time to sell seats than they’re accustomed to. In that scenario, “Clubs would benefit from having very few price codes,” he said.
As noted in last Friday’s story on NASCAR’s All-Star Race at Bristol, Speedway Motorsports had just two price points ($35 and $65). Their decision to simplify pricing was driven (pun intended) as much by the need to manually social distance assigned seats (because they didn’t use a mapping software), as it was the short timeframe they had to do it all (the race was moved from Charlotte with only a month’s notice). It certainly seemed to have worked. They managed to sell 25,000 tickets (which made it the most-attended U.S. sporting event since mid-March) to a mid-week race in the midst of a pandemic.
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