As of Jan. 30, the various secondary ticketing marketplaces (think: StubHub, SeatGeek, Vivid Seats) collectively had sold fewer than 750 seats to this week’s Super Bowl. While the game’s limited capacity has certainly had a negative effect on sales volume, the number of resale transactions on Super Bowl tickets has been trending downward for the last five years. Ticketing insiders say that 60% to 70% of all of the 2017 Super Bowl tickets in Houston were sold on a secondary market exchange. This year, it is believed no more than 20% of the 17,200 seats in Tampa on sale to the public will hit the resale market.
Our Take: The number of secondary market transactions has plummeted in recent years as On Location Experiences (the NFL’s official hospitality partner) has moved more and more of its inventory to its own platform (a higher yielding distribution channel). On Location acquired PRIMESPORT—and its Super Bowl inventory (the company had relationships with NFL clubs)—in December 2017. Since that time, the once under-the-radar OLE brand has grown its profile, resulting in more fans buying packages from the primary seller each year. As OLE’s need for distribution partners has declined, so too has the number of tickets making their way to the exchanges.
Last year in Miami, a small percentage of OLE’s total Super Bowl ticket distribution was sold on secondary market exchanges. This year, the number of packages to hit resale platforms will decline even further. With fewer seats to sell (see: reduced attendance), OLE is pushing the bulk of its inventory through its own site (some inventory is also be available on Ticketmaster, the official marketplace of the NFL). While OLE declined to comment on its Super Bowl approach, a source familiar with the company’s thinking said, “If you have a direct-to-consumer channel and can sell nearly all of the inventory that way, why would On Location want to share the proceeds?”
There are also questions about how much value the secondary market could offer OLE right now. With so few sporting events to attend (as most still do not have fans), it is not as if consumers are actively engaged on the exchange platforms. Patrick Ryan (co-founder, Eventellect) added that the static 18%-25% service fee charged drives consumers to more efficient outlets. “One of the things we’re seeing in the evolution of the secondary market is that a 20% service fee, while it works in some cases, really adds up when you’re talking about thousands of dollars in Super Bowl tickets. Therefore buyers are either finding more efficient channels (old school brokers, smaller marketplaces, etc…) or they are opting into OLE packages due to all the extra perks that come with their tickets.”
Much of the ticketing inventory that hits the secondary market in a typical year comes from the teams themselves. Non-participating clubs gets 1% of seats (the host team gets 5% and the two Super Bowl participants split about 35%, the league controls the balance) to do with as they wish—including offering them up to sponsorship partners. So, in a year where corporate America has taken a pass on the game, one might assume there would be more club inventory hitting the secondary market than usual. But that has not been the case. While NFL teams may be unloading a greater percentage of their allotment this year, due to limitations on attendance, each club received in the neighborhood of 30 tickets, and thus far fewer team-issued tickets are being resold.
A similar dynamic is playing out with the players’ ticket allotment. In a normal year, every NFL player has the option of buying two tickets to the Super Bowl. Many will take them and then resell them at a profit on the secondary market. With few events/parties in Tampa, it would be reasonable to assume more players than usual would be looking to flip their seats. However, NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said due to the attendance restrictions, “This year, only the eight division winners had [the] option [of buying tickets].” As a result, there are far fewer player tickets expected to be had. It should be noted the lack of secondary market sales to date is not tied to the reduction in player inventory. Player tickets typically don’t hit the exchanges until the seats are picked up in the Super Bowl city, typically the Thursday prior to the game.