Last week, sports business executives converged in Brooklyn to attend Sports Business Journal’s Sports Facilities & Franchises Conference and Ticketing Symposium. For the third consecutive year, SBJ held the two events back-to-back, focusing on facility and franchise content during the first half of the event and then honing in on ticketing topics for the remaining sessions.
I attended the ticketing portion of the event, which kicked off with a “state of the industry” panel that set the tone for the next 24 hours. During that session, Legends COO Mike Ondrejko called ticketing “the accumulation of data”. To me, this perfectly sums up the current state of the ticketing space. Thanks to technologies like digital ticketing, mobile, and robust customer tracking via CRM, the sports industry has evolved to a point where data is incredibly easy to obtain. We are not at a loss for data. The key for properties, though, is to figure out how to analyze and interpret that data to better understand and relate to their customers, and ensure that the value of their inventory is being appropriately assessed and maximized.
Admittedly, there are still individuals in sports business who don’t recognize the merits of devoting resources to the implementation, collection and (most importantly) analysis of such data. In the conference’s “Big Data Conversation”, moderated by SBJ’s Abe Madkour, Frank Wheeler (SAP) observed that “non-believers” often don’t understand the potential ROI of data-related spends. However, when data resulting from such efforts can be presented cleanly and simply, obtaining that universal buy-in becomes a much easier process, as data recipients become “addicted” to the information they’re receiving.
Another commonly mentioned topic was the concept of real-time precision marketing, and teams’ desires to establish a true 365-day relationship with their customers. These concepts relate back to both the effective use of consumer data and smart brand management. Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard pointed out the music industry, and Kid Rock in particular, as examples sports business ticket sellers should look to (and learn from) when looking for guidance on how to build fans’ lifetime value. “As we all talk about dynamic pricing and getting that price right, in the back of our heads, we need to think about not how do we extract the most value tonight, but how do we extract the most value over the next month, over the next 25 years,” said Hubbard.
Though technology and data-related themes occupied center stage for the majority of this event, Friday featured a more classic ticket sales discussion. Participants on the lively “Developing Sales Talent” panel, moderated by Bill Sutton, bantered about what they look for when interviewing potential sales candidates (passion, initiative, and the ability to self-start), the importance of “consultative selling”, and the increased role of technology in sales, with Lightning EVP Jamie Spencer identifying a robust CRM system as a crucial tool for reps to use to build strong relationships. All emphasized the importance of ongoing recognition for meeting incremental goals, whether in the form of a WWE-style championship belt, extra time off, or the title of “Sales Captain”.
Other fun facts and takeaways:
- The rapid emergence of digital delivery of tickets, and success of the large-scale digital ticketing distribution implemented at this year’s Final Four.
- The continued threat of the secondary market and how different teams/leagues are fighting back.
- The opportunity for musicians to improve ticketing practices by considering the variable pricing models in place in sports business.
- The quandary of identifying how fans are using their mobile phones “from purchase to event attendance”, and breaking in/adding value to that lifecycle.
- The importance of creating “value markets” in the sports business ticketing space.
- The ability for teams to successfully position dynamic pricing as a selling point to season ticket holders to increase timely renewals by guaranteeing that they’ve receive the lowest-offered price by renewing by a given deadline.
Overall, the Symposium was a fun, power-packed day of networking and education. Thinking about future iterations of this event, it’s likely that the collection and use of data will continue to be the major topic of conversation, especially as each property and team fights to find the key to becoming an everyday presence (and asset) in the lives of its consumers.
At Turnkey, Emily Huddell is responsible for overseeing all sales and service efforts for the company’s primary products, Surveyor and Prospector. She’s a proud graduate of Boston University and the UMass Amherst Sport Management MS Program.