Article 2: Stop Creating Solutions for the Wrong Problems

Mike Guiffre
6 min readJun 22, 2019

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  • Editors Note: this Article #2 of the 7 part series. To view the individual sections, click on the subject links in the first section below.

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7 Part Series: Attendance is not just an MLB Issue, but how do we Fix it?

There has been a lot of media focus on the declining attendance of MLB recently, some fair and some not. And while attendance is sliding it is hardly an MLB only issue other than it being the most visible due to large stadiums and the number of games. Many leagues, teams, concerts, and events are struggling to sell tickets as well.

You can look at many data points across the sports business landscape and see a myriad of varying conclusions as to why:

  • Ticket price
  • Ancillary costs
  • A changing consumer landscape
  • The ability to watch from home on a sick, affordable flat screen TV
  • *gasp* Those evil millennials

However, a lot of those data sets either do not tell the entire story and point to why attendance should be increasing and not the other way around. It is possible to maximize revenue by creating scarcity with affordable tickets. You can manage brokers strategically. Millennials, ironically, covet experiences amongst many other false assumptions. TV/Content drives attendance through brand awareness. And lastly, Fantasy Sports and Gambling are driving even more marketability and awareness.

The data points to more consumer interest. So why are ticket sales failing, and how can we quickly address it? Let’s examine five reasons why and define strategies to help. Plus, two sports business relatable bonus tracks on customer LTV and innovation using real-world examples:

  1. Create Scarcity
  2. Find Solutions to Real Problems
  3. Embrace Modern Content
  4. Market Specific Resale Strategies
  5. Non-Revenue Shared Operating Income

Bonus Tracks:

Innovation goes Beyond Tech: What Sports Business can Learn from Sheetz

Customer LTV: What Sports Business can Learn from Buick and Toyota

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Article # 2: Creating Solutions for the Wrong Problems

Suite sales are not dying. Millennials are not social but like sports.
Suite sales are not dying. Millennials are not social but like sports.
Suite sales are not dying. Millennials are not social but like sports.

One of my biggest pet peeves in the industry is over time we have made too many assumptions. We have more data and infrastructure than most other industries. However, the ideology and copy cat aspect of ticketing strategy can lead to poor decision making and long term planning. Let’s take a look at two examples:

Suite sales are not dying. They are as strong as ever. The market has simply shifted. A full season lease may be harder for various reasons such as more events, the tax law, or businesses merely becoming savvier and more budget consciences.

That does not mean we need to make wholesale changes to our industry. It only means we need to work harder and smarter. The current solution I am referring to is the shift from suites to smaller all-inclusive areas. These sell for less revenue, include more expenses, and drive almost zero ancillary spends as they are all-inclusive.

Myself, along with Jared Frank,EVP at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors, took an in-depth look at these renovations. While some make sense in older buildings that overbuilt suites, cutting out revenue and more specifically non-revenue shared income (see article #5) can have adverse long term effects. Just as we are training customers to wait, we are teaching our corporate customers to spend less.

The real solution is to strategize, market, and sell suites better. Creating cheaper products with less spending capabilities that are easier to sell is building a solution for the wrong problem and potentially harmful long-term.

The second misconception is pretty much anything strategized to Millennials or Generation Z when it comes to ticketing, including social areas or subscriptions. The reality is we are missing a golden opportunity as Millennials, and younger generations covet experiences to the tune of 4 times the spending compared to a decade ago. The difference is Millennials want uniqueness through FOMO, not the social aspect.

Eventbrite and McKinsey both did studies involving the younger generations and live events. While the results are not surprising, the way the entertainment industry has reacted to them is.

From the McKinsey article, Millennials consume about as much sports content as Generation X, just in a different and more readily marketable fashion (Digital and Social Media).

Yet, we have not changed our strategies enough to align with how the secondary ecosystem can aid in this fashion (see article #4).

  • Millennials and Generation Z are not social. How anti-social are they? They do not communicate in person and before getting married all but stopped having sex. Our solution is to create and market social products they do not want in fashions they are not interested in receiving. Such as over the phone or generic messaging.
  • Millennials are not teenagers anymore and are becoming parents. 53% of Millennials have children. That’s right, and we have a tech-savvy generation of Dad’s with smartphones, smartwatches, white sneakers, and khakis out there. So, Instead of creating innovative, frictionless, unique, or family-friendly products for them, we market areas that are none of the above. For example, my family and I attended a game in a social space as part of a workgroup. We had cheap tickets, a good view and an excellent experience except for one complaint. It was not suitable for children due to alcohol use by other guests. The usher warned us before the game even started. The product is right for some, but not all. The marketing should reflect that based on readily available data.

The solutions? Social areas are fine for those who want them. Same with subscriptions. However, those should be treated as tools to reach a small segment of fans.

For individuals who are not social? Who have young children? Do what the data says to do. Create unique, family friendly products through a frictionless experience. Then utilize technology and market what they want to them where they are. Hint: online begging for content.

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Mike, a 20 year veteran of the ticketing industry has executive experience with primary and secondary roles. He resides in Denver with his wife Jacqui, VP/Head of Studio at UpPurpose (A United Way funded marketing consultant), and their son Grayden, a 3 year old bad ass snowboarder. See more of Mike’s media at