Mark Attanasio, the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, has seen the team's fortunes change precipitously over the last few seasons. So much so that he may be willing to reduce season ticket prices in the future, hoping to sell more seats at the beginning of the season.
Season tickets ensure revenue at the beginning of the season. The seats are sold regardless of how well or how poorly the team does. While the Brewers are focused on selling as many tickets as they can, some instead understand the value of the resale market. The Brewers already offers a convenient mechanism for season ticket holders to exchange, transfer, and resell individual game tickets. After all, eighty-one games is a lot of games to attend in a season. However, when a team provides such a useful service to season ticket holders, potential walk-up or game-day ticket sales are cannibalized.
We agree that a strategy focused on the sale of season tickets, including renewal of subscription, is the right track for the Brewers, as well as any professional team. However, the way most teams develop their season ticket base could be reevaluated.
Season tickets provide a source of guaranteed revenue at the beginning of the season. Essentially, these are seats providing revenue to the team regardless of how well or poorly the team does. Unfortunately, the sale of season tickets is not yet independent from wins and the success of the team in previous years. For instance, the Angels have lost almost 50% of their season tickets since 2006, even with one of the best players in the game with two time MVP Mike Trout on their roster.
While the Angels’ problem is an extreme example, they are certainly not alone with this issue. As recently as a few years ago, fans would buy the season tickets in a group and split the games among themselves. If you have seen the honestly underrated movie Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, then this arrangement is exemplified in the first couple of scenes. However, fans are now less likely to pay upwards of $7,000 or more for season tickets and then worry about figuring out how to split the cost with friends, or worse, getting stuck with having to list unwanted games on StubHub or a similar ticket exchange at or below face cost.
While it may cannibalize game day sales, being able to help season ticket holders resell their tickets is essential to maintain their support. Partnering with secondary market sites limits the amount of potential revenue lost, however, the investment of keeping season ticket sales constant across all types of seasons should more than make up for any initial cost.
As mentioned, secondary ticket services like StubHub and Ticketmaster Ticket Exchange have become extremely popular recently, perhaps correlating with the decline of season ticket purchases. These sites allow fans to purchase whatever seats they want to as many games they desire. In many cases, picking and choosing great seats to individual events on the secondary market is the easiest and most cost-effective way to purchase tickets. As such, these services have completely revolutionized how everyday consumers buy tickets and in some cases have even become the primary purchasing method. While the team is obviously losing out on potential revenue, perhaps more damningly they are losing fan loyalty as well.
It is interesting to see how teams are dealing with this change in the ticketing marketplace. Some teams have actually seen a boost in ticket sales by welcoming ticket brokers and selling them huge blocks of seats. Unfortunately, this method of selling to secondary platforms has become more of a facade than a real solution. Unless teams are able to bring fans something more valuable and rewarding than just a seat at the game, season ticket sales will continue on this downward spiral.
Fan loyalty should be the most vital factor in the perseverance of season ticket sales. Maximizing revenue should be thought of separately from maximizing wins. Wins currently have an effect on season tickets, as shown with the Angels example from above. Therefore, treating it as more of a loyalty program would should shield teams from poor seasons. The smart teams should be those working towards giving their fans something more than just a ticket.
The Washington Nationals, for example, provide their season ticket holders with exclusive autograph sessions, an appreciation day, and even an opportunity to take batting practice at the park. There is a special entrance for season tickets holders to expedite the process of getting into the ballpark and there are even special lines for concessions. This program is even called the Red Carpet Reward Program! The Nationals’ philosophy is to improve the ballpark experience for their season tickets holders, offer them rewards, and increase their access to the players and venue. Unfortunately, in a sense, the Nationals have been quite good for the last few seasons. A test to see the repercussions of these actions will have to wait for a losing season.
The New York Jets provide a better example, actually, as they have launched a loyalty program and have had to already live through these losing seasons. Back in 2014, Jets fans received handouts introducing Jets Rewards, a new program to recognize season ticket holders for their loyalty and dedication to the Green & White. Through activities as simple as attending home games, watching or listening to away games on TV or radio, and participating in non-game Jets events, season ticket holders earned points which could be redeemed for prizes.
Rewards included unique benefits such as behind-the-scenes access and VIP treatment in addition to a wide range of merchandise. After three atrocious seasons, where the Jets went 19-29 with two last-place finishes, season ticket sales have actually been fairly consistent. Unfortunately, it’s the rest of the tickets in the stadium that aren’t being filled.
The Nationals and Jets are on the right track. The entire concept of rewarding season ticket holders is a burgeoning one and teams must go beyond loyalty programs in the coming years if they are going to regain the profits they are losing. StubHub and other similar services will continue to grow and gain popularity among consumers. People are still attending games in record numbers so teams have the opportunity to revamp this archaic process in favor of one that increases sales by bettering the entire experience for their fans.
What do you think? Do you like these loyalty programs or think that teams should stick with existing season ticket strategies? Let us know in the comments below!
The SaberSmart Team