Sports Teams: What Is YOUR Process?


Everyone assumes that the secret to success of filling our venues is that  a team plays well or we have the best concerts.  While that may be true in select instances, it’s not the ‘secret formula.’  How did the Philadelphia 76ers have a waiting list of over 2000 fans and they hadn’t even gone to playoffs? How did the AZ Coyotes set revenue and ticket growth in their own venue when they had one of their worst records  ever in 2017-18? If nothing else, these examples show us how it’s not true that team performance or the best concerts is the only thing to make us successful.  The biggest majority of success starts with us, from ownership to each and every person that works in our venues.

The 76ers mantra of ‘follow the process’ became everyone’s comment.  The fact is there are so many teams out there, so many sales staff departments that don’t have a strategy, so how can they follow one? How many teams are truly dialing for dollars, calling single game buyers over and over, and so few working together to create a longer, more sustainable plan? Why are so many leaders hesitant to create a process and follow it? How many teams share their strategy with their staff so they understand the where, why, and how they are going? What are some of the things that get us to sold out status, or at least a more filled venue?

Ownership with a plan.  The plan starts from the top down and gets the staff buy in. What is the plan for the team, the venue, the changes from now till 5 years from now? Is the plan simply to turn a profit after a certain amount of time or is it a well thought out plan from department to department to team to venue? Is there a plan to build the team on the field/court as well as a plan to build the venue and the fans?  Successful teams have ownership who work with their executive staff who then share and build from ideas from all of the staff.

Staff that is committed.  How many of us as teams or venues feel our staff is totally committed, but if someone from outside asked them, we would find they are miserable? Are we including them in the decision making process? Are we encouraging their growth? Are we working hard to continue to develop them and help them raise up the ranks to keep them? Keeping a staff is much easier than retraining over and over and …

A committed staff will know what the plan is for the next 5 years.  They will know their role in it.  They will brainstorm year one and figure out how to achieve success so they will be able to move on to year two. They will take ownership of their small business if they know where the business is going.  They will move mountains for you and for the community to make sure there is a relationship between the fans and the organization.

Know your market.  How many teams have an executive staff that builds the box and wants the community to fit in? Success comes from knowing your market and what it will bear. Let your market grow with you, not make them fit into it.

Build the families.  We can sell for the moment, but what about the future? Baseball is concerned as not as many kids are playing baseball anymore. We look at basketball and kids are more concerned with who can dunk than knowing fundamentals.  Hockey is perceived as an expensive sport for a kid to focus on.  We as teams  need to be able to build families through pricing, experiences, opportunities.  Playing catch on the field, making shots on the court, open skate after a game…how do we best engage the kids and their families? How do we make it a truly ‘family’ environment instead of just saying we are? How do we incorporate kids into our game? How do we make families feel their investment in us is worth the money for every member?  How do we make games affordable enough that a family of 3 or 4 or 5 don’t feel like one game just cost them their vacation?

Pricing strategy.  Many teams charge what they feel ‘the market will bear.’  They continually compare themselves to what other teams charge, and where they fall in line.  What someone will pay in San Francisco may not compare at all to what someone will pay in Kansas City.  What someone will pay in NYC may not compare with what someone will pay in Cincinnati. What can your community afford? What is the pricing strategy in communities like yours? Do you have sections that are family affordable? Do you offer nights that encourage families and a younger market ?  What is your 5 year plan in pricing? Are we focusing on keeping our place and be competitive in the league in pricing or focusing on growing our market within our community? Every team wants to be ‘that’ team with deep pockets, but at what cost?

Build fans for the long term.  We can all make our money in the short term.  But where does that leave us in the long term?  Are we planning for 10 / 20 years from now?  Are we making our youth feel a part of our sport so that down the road they feel the need to continue their relationship? Are we family friendly enough that this brings a memory of happy times and something they want to do with their children as they grow?  Are we creating experiences that engage our fans so they want to return year after year? Are we ‘the place’ that people want to be a part of? Are we ‘the place’ that people can afford to be a part of? Do we have a good balance of business/community? What are our plans to build that balance?

 Focus on the community and the relationships within it.  Have we ‘built it and expect them to come?’ Or have we ‘built it and become a part of it?’  There is a huge difference between the two.  Are we really part of the community?  Yes, we can give turkeys at Thanksgiving.  Yes, we can encourage fans to collect for a cause.  Yes, we can send our staff to volunteer as part of their requirements.  But are our teams -both on the field and in the offices – out in the community physically? Are we building relationships? Are we an active part of what the community has to offer?

Make sure your plans are worthy.  We all have season tickets…are the perks an afterthought or a well thought out benefit? Are our group leaders felt to be worth more than a group leader appreciation night? Are our corporate sponsors more than just ‘big signs?’ Are we listening to their needs and creating unique ways to fulfill those needs? Are we simply selling our premium spaces or finding newer ways to utilize those spaces that are more premium friendly? Are our most important fans, those who consistently spend money with us, part of the process?

I totally agree that it’s important to field the best product we can.  But have we ‘built it so they can come’ or have we ‘built it and hope someone comes?’  Create a plan.  Include the team and the fans.  Build it together.  Engage them every part of the way.  Following the process is important; engaging the  fans and the community in the process is crucial.

Kathy Burrows, Chief Energy Officer, Sold Out Seating

Sales/Leadership/Retention/Supersizing Training:  contact:

Where can we meet up?  Contact me now to schedule a time to meet at any of the upcoming events…make sure you’re there!!!

May 12-13:  NAATSO conference in Orlando; Workshop 

May 19-21:  ECHL Meetings:  Keynote speaker and workshops in Las Vegas

June 30-July 3:  ALSD: workshops/round table in Chicago 

July 8:  First ever! Unique Sports Sales Summit in Las Vegas   EVERY team should be sending a rep or their sales staff! 

Have more sports sales questions?  Pick up a copy of Potato Chip Ticket Sales by…me!

Potato Chip Ticket Sales

*Process picture from


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