Article #4: Develop a Sound Resale Strategy for Each Market

Mike Guiffre
Jun 22 · 8 min read

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*Editors Note: this is Article of #4 of the 7 part series. To view the individual articles, 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?

Introduction:

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 #4: Develop a Sound Resale Strategy for Each Market

One of the more interesting objections to brokers I have heard over the years is “why wouldn’t I just do it myself”?.

This objection confused me inside of an industry that outsources everything. Arena management, concessions, premium seating, sponsorships, parking, and other revenue generating areas have been outsourced as long as anyone can remember. Most colleges outsource their entire revenue generating operation, and there are too many companies to list that exist solely to help sports business.

To be clear, I am not against these outsourcing models. Outsourcing is an annual $85 billion industry in the US alone for a good reason. I do not see why the same principles can’t apply to the retail part of ticketing. Which because of volume should be the one that needs it. Ticketing follows a basic product outsourcing model:

An infrastructure to include sales efforts, data, analytics, pricing strategies, employees, customer service, and other costs that are likely impossible or irresponsible fiscally for one entity to put together.

IMHO the reasons for anti-resale sentiment are more emotional based on an outdated view of the model. Resale, via retail, plays a vital part of the ecosystem, not just to utilize brokers, but for season ticket holders as well in terms of LTV through cost offsetting.

When developing a strategy, you must remember that each market is different. While this is a copycat industry, the retail side requires a unique strategic vision depending on many factors such as market size, economy, business health, team performance, and season ticket base.

We will look at the strategies below, but first, why do we need secondary retail in the first place? For these five simple reasons:

  1. It is a Retail Distribution Model

As I have written about previously the resale market in ticketing in nothing more than standard online retail. There are outlets that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars combined on digital advertising to move other companies products because that is where the customers are. The combined product offerings allow for increased awareness and marketing dollars that one entity cannot match.

2. Online Consumer Data

These same outlets carry a much deeper consumer data set. Tickets sold to every venue or team in your same market. It is a way for a team or venue to buy into more customers in the same city. This data also includes a much cleaner view of the customer, their spending habits because of the market-based pricing, and increasingly more accurate data such as demand spikes and pricing adjustments.

3. Cost of High Purchase Intent Online Clicks (PPC)

Logically, this should follow the next point about general digital costs. However, it has become increasingly more relevant in ticketing. While everyone knows what SEO and PPC are, the newer model in recent years contains increased costs for higher intent purchase clicks and display advertisement targeting.

Source: WordStream

The online data profiling has so much depth and is so sophisticated that search engines can identify your top targets. It is so effective companies large enough are not balking at the price.

You can also bid higher on other data points, such as repeat customers. This bidding is important in retail because the secondary sites have “repeat” customers that may not have bought your tickets, just other buyers in your market. Or who are traveling to your area. Knowing this, they will invest heavily in higher purchase intent PPC and display targeting on your behalf to buyers who may be repeat for them but new for you.

4. General Cost of Digital and Social Marketing

Digital marketing, affiliates, social, PPC, and SEO are not cheap but effective and necessary. As you can see on the chart, they take four of the top six spots for marketing ROI.

Even for the two (email/video), digital does not explicitly account for, the data profiles complied are what allows for a more direct to consumer targeting in those efforts driving the ROI.

Because secondary sites carry a more retail model, they have the data and marketing budgets to effectively work on your behalf in the channels the consumers prefer.

5. Retail Infrastructure

This point gets lost with a lot of executives and consumers. However, one of the most critical aspects of how secondary websites work is the infrastructure that has been built by the sites and through vendor partnerships:

  • Some tools that allow brokers or large ticket holders to post tickets on multiple sites at once allowing for an easy way to manage distribution to hundreds if not thousands of channels.
  • Sites like Vivid Seats or TicketNetwork have affiliate programs that allow their inventory to be posted on other ticketing sites. The original sites handle customer service and fulfillment thus giving your inventory more exposure
  • They have built-in automation for customer communication and ticket delivery methods, even for mobile delivery. Ticket customers crave a frictionless experience, and these sites invest heavily in providing just that.

That is the how and why, let’s take a look at the types of Retail or Broker Strategies available to teams and rights holders.

  1. Risk Mitigation

Selling to multiple broker accounts. The upside here is that a team gets guaranteed upfront revenue, and the risk of a poor sales year is spread across multiple accounts. While the team also will not share in any upside if the ticket market increases, if the inventory was managed correctly. the lack of supply should allow for revenue to be made up in other ways.

2. Consolidation

Signing an agreement with one broker to buy or manage all of your resale. The upside is control of inventory, a more consultative approach with one vendor, typically more upfront revenue, and usually a buy into more upside. The downside is one vendor takes on all the risk, which can lead to a long term issue in a downturn and avoiding the temptation to over-control the market prices.

3. Consignment

Working with one vendor to post all of your tickets to multiple sites who then takes a percentage of the sale. The downside is no upfront guaranteed payments and typically misfiring on pricing due to lacking natural supply/demand. The upside is better control of inventory and revenue gains in an upswing of sales and prices.

4. Selling on One Site

Some teams/venues will sign agreements with one site individually to move inventory. The upside is a manageable process combined with collecting all of the consumer data. The downside is you are missing out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing from the other sites, including their deep consumer databases and profiles.

5. Season Ticket Holder Costs (including the playoffs)

One of the main reasons overpricing can hurt is because season ticket holders cannot offset their costs. They will then cancel. Using a lower cost model should cause an uptick in season ticket or playoff packages sales and renewals. The season ticket model is not dead, but if you are too worried about missing out on potential revenue, you may hurt your numbers in the short and long term.

The key is to analyze your situation and decide which route is the best for your organization. With a wide variety of markets, stadium sizes, ticket sales numbers, and other factors, there should not be a copy cat approach. Each organization should create a plan that is right for them.

Brokers, resellers, consolidators, websites, and vendors are all businesses in it for the long term. Work with each on this strategy, and once customized, it will be effective.

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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 www.michaelguiffre.com