If you’re a highly successful team (going to playoffs, great expectations, new facility, only show in town, etc.) you are probably doing well on the season ticket side. You most likely feel that things are looking great right now, and many of you have waiting lists to go with it. Others are struggling to get the numbers they want in season, and are happily selling groups to fill the void. Should either side worry about the season ticket future?
The answer is, both sides should – not necessarily worry – but should be planning for what the future of the season ticket holder looks like. The days of 81 games in baseball or 41 in basketball may be over. The die hard fan (a question for another day, but what does the die hard fan of your sport look like?) will buy no matter what. They enjoy the feeling of belonging and quite frankly, love the sport. All other obligations are dropped when the season begins. But what about everyone else?
Season ticket holders can be divided into multiple groups: die hard fans, corporate fans, occasional fans, place to be seen fans, and band wagon fans. As you can see, there are many that will drop off if the team isn’t doing well. I can tell you from experience, a waiting list is generally comprised of bandwagon fans that are excited with where the team is at and the great potential they are expecting. If the team has a bad year, and the future investment doesn’t look all that great, not only do you lose the existing bandwagon and place to be seen fans, but also the waiting list. I’ve seen waiting lists go from thousands to actually selling to less than 20.
What is it a new season ticket holder is looking for? In asking fans in cities I attend, here are some of the answers I have collected:
Flexibility. Those looking to join the team as members are looking for a bit more flexibility than most teams are willing to offer. Smaller packages, money invested with multiple usages, more unique access, beverage options, mixing areas instead of fully seated areas, and family packages that are geared to true family sections are a few of the requests brought to my attention. The answer is: determining what today’s fan wants as compared to what we told them they had to have before.
Something that no one else offers. That thing we ‘have to have.’ For years and years teams have offered a gift, a dedicated rep, a party…but what can we create that no one else offers in our community? What unique community platform can we provide? What sense of belonging and community can we create?
Different things for different ages. One size fits all doesn’t necessarily fit in sports and entertainment anymore. From older adults, to younger families, to teens, to millennials…everyone’s tastes are different. With our retention teams, why can’t we sell to various ages and have sections of retention teams focus on certain groups, thus making sure each category is happy and getting the best experience?
Pricing for real people. This one came through loud and clear. Pricing doesn’t necessarily have to be by seat, dynamic, or raised each year. Instead, pricing by category can fill our venues and grow our fan base. Those who truly love the sport and want to attend as many games as they can will want the best seats possible so they can focus. Those with companies will want the better seating options to focus on their prospects/clients. Families will want a more family experience and oh, by the way, a seat they can sit down in once in a while. Millennials will want areas they can have some tasty beverages and hang out, occasionally sitting. College kids want to mix and mingle. Each category should be priced accordingly, not priced extravagantly and, when it fails, feel the idea was bad. Different strokes for different folks… Granted, teams will say they need the revenue for player contracts. But have we out-priced ourselves for the fans of tomorrow?
Investment banks. People have told me “we are willing to put in $1500, 2500, $5000, etc. but we want to use it when and how we want.” What does this mean to us? This means that our fans want to be able to be investors and use their money at their discretion. Some days they may want a really good seat up close. Some days they may just want to hang out in a more social setting. They don’t want the same thing for every game.
Unique experiences. Instead of thinking gifts and the usual experiences, think: dedicated sports fan. Family. Millennial. Business. Casual fan. Each is different, so why do we try and give the same to all? Sound like work? Of course. But unless the team is doing exceptionally well and fans are flocking to the facility, or new and shiny, why aren’t we looking at the people themselves who make our product happen? Without them, we have no product. What can we do for each category?
What I’ve heard from fans across the country is that teams are selling to the masses…and it’s not the masses buying anymore. It’s individual categories with individual needs. How amazing would it be to focus our sales on categories with specific ‘looks’ and retention teams that are set up to service specific ‘looks.’ How often have we asked categories what their packages would look like and then try to create what is wanted rather than what we are selling?
Can you imagine what this can do to corporate sales? No longer would we have the ‘typical’ season ticket holder, but rather, categories of ticket holders. Different age groups that select companies could cater to. Companies that could even sponsor the specific areas to help us adapt.
Times change, and we must change with them. What is more important…fewer attendees at a much higher rate, or a filled house with varied rates? What can be added once attendees have chosen to come to give options to spend more? What can we do to let our fans feel – and rightfully so – that they are managing their own money?
2020 is around the corner. Will will we be changing our models to fit the times or will we still be trying to make everyone fit into our model?
Kathy Burrows, CEO (Chief Energy Officer) of Sold Out Seating.
Sales/leadership/retention training or strategic planning: contact Kathy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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