by Joe Rixon, Special to TicketNews
Lots of teams out there have developed relationships with a “preferred secondary partner,” that they either cajole or force fans into using. The key word in the push is that it’s “Our” partner. I continually ask the question – “OK, what is in it for the fan?”
The answer I get 90% of the time is, “Well, what do you mean? It’s our preferred secondary partner.”
The reason this drives me bonkers is because the secondary partnerships can be a fantastic opportunity for teams to provide their fans with value – and they fail, especially their season ticket holders.
When one of our sales reps or myself sell a package, we get one question a lot more than we used to get: “How easy is it to sell my tickets if I can’t make it?”
When I first got into sports sales, I never got this question. No one was ever asking me after they bought a package how they could get rid of the tickets. Today, it’s a question that means a lot to our fans. For college basketball with only 15 home games, or college football with 5-8, it may not mean a lot. However, I don’t care how much you like baseball – you probably aren’t making 81 home games.
While I would like to think that my fans want to come to every game, I know that life happens and it doesn’t always work out, so I want my fans to be able to do what is in their best interest and sell the ticket for the price they think it’s worth.
The problem with almost all of these deals is that they aren’t consumer friendly, it just makes things easier for the team. They do things like setting caps for how low you can set your ticket price, limit where you can sell it AND EVEN PUNISH YOU FOR NOT DOING IT THEIR WAY.
So, teams have dwindling attendance, lower season ticket holder numbers and our response to this as an industry is instead of making things easier, we are going to make it harder. We want you to buy, but we are going to tell you what you can do with your ticket and how you can sell it. Yeah, because limiting consumer choice always results in positive outcomes for the consumer AND the company (eye roll).
The problem with a lot of this is that it gives teams a false sense of what their tickets were worth. My father and I went to a baseball game for a certain New York team a few years back after they signed a giant deal with an “exclusive” secondary partner. We didn’t need great seats, and my dad had never sat with the bleacher creatures before, so we gave it a shot. We found a ton of inventory at a specific number – $20.00. It seemed that it was the lowest cost fans could drop their tickets for in that price area and there were a ton of tickets available.
The year before I went to a game with the same team – same day of the week and coincidentally a non-local interleague opponent. You know how much we bought tickets for then? $7.
Now, is the ticket all of a sudden worth $20? Nope. It’s probably still worth $7 and judging by the number of tickets still available, a lot of people thought the same and chose to stay home.
Secondary deals can be good for teams. You get access to customer data you didn’t have before, making the “secondary market fan black hole” as I refer to it a little better. But what are you seriously doing to make it worth while for your customers? What benefit is your customer getting? Seriously, ask yourself.
Our goal as ticket professionals should be for it to be easier to access our tickets, not harder. We should be asking for more open markets, and lobbying our ticket software providers for solutions – not increased restrictions and more isolationism. The least we can do in these deals is leverage our relationships with our preferred vendors to give our customers additional benefits.
Is it lower, or hell, even no fees to sell a ticket on the platform? Is it rewards and benefits to keeping their tickets above a certain price? Teams get mad and threaten fans for not using their resale platform, instead of asking themselves why they aren’t.
We need to stop acting like we are selling out every game and our demand is palpable enough to threaten fans who decide to use a different service. We need to put more energy into making the resale environment right for our fans. It may actually help us sell more tickets.
And I also think if our secondary partners will be more willing to address this than we are willing to negotiate for.
If instead of working as an industry to find ways to make these agreements beneficial to fans and we continue to take anti-consumer pathways – we should call these partnerships what they are… “lucrative secondary agreements that limit fan choice under punishment of ticket revocation.” Yeah, that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Joe Rixon is an Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Operations at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. This piece was originally published to his LinkedIN page.