When your job is to sell seats and fill stands, certain factors (you can’t control) can make that job a whole lot easier. Maybe that can come in the form of a newly competitive team on a winning streak or maybe it’s the return of a star player, but it’s not time to celebrate with a mimosa just yet.
Your high ticket sales can come to an end very quickly—stars fade (or get injured or retire) and winning streaks can turn to losing streaks, and sales can fall from larger trends—only the NHL was relatively unaffected by the great recession, for example. But if the going’s good now, here’s what you can do so you won’t be left scrambling when the going might not be as good.
Focus on the Fan Experience
While people often go to games for the … games, there are other reasons people go to events, including:
Socializing: Lots of people watch a game on the couch on their own, but not too many venture out to games on their own. They want to share a few drinks with friends as they cheer the team on (and show off on Snapchat on Facebook where they are).
The spectacle: Halftime show? Free-throw contests? Yes please! A kiss-cam gone wrong or a celebrity spotting can be more memorable than an uneventful game.
Team spirit: When someone has a connection to their alma mater or hometown, they’re going to stick with them through thick and thin. Apart from the group they come with, there’s a bond that forms with that sea of people wearing their team colors and singing their fight song.
We’ve talked before about the need to ramp up the in-stadium experience to get fans off comfortable couches and away from their ever-growing TVs, but you might not feel like you have to pull out all the stops if people are coming anyway. That’s exactly the time, though, to show people that the game’s not all about … the game. Consistently focus on a balance of ways to engage fans that’s not solely the plays on the field and you won’t have to try to reel them back in later on with stunts and gimmicks.
Learn Who’s Coming to Games
If you know who’s going to your games now, you’ll know who to target with campaigns if you need to increase ticket sales one day. The problem is that you need to make a concentrated effort to truly know your audience. Collecting ticketing data (e.g., from Ticketmaster, tickets.com) is a start that doesn’t quite paint a complete picture. That’s because of all the fans that could be hiding right in your stands. As season tickets become less appealing to buyers, more and more fans are turning to the secondary market, whether StubHub, Craigslist, or one of the dozens of other places to buy. You probably have information about the original buyer then, and then can be at a total loss as to who actually showed up.
The secondary market is just one place where you can lose track of your fans, though. Do you know who’s coming when a company buys 40 tickets for a company outing? Or someone comes down with the flu and gives their tickets away? Or someone who always buys for their group of friends every Sunday?
Remember when we talked about fan experience? Well, you don’t just focus on it to create continuity. Fan experience includes Wi-Fi to share social content, apps for instant replays and giveaways, or trivia—all of which teams can use to find out who fans are, where they sit, and what they do in the stadium.
While you can collect that data when you need to increase sales, you have a wider audience to pull from when the stands are packed and fans are engaged.
Really Know Who’s Coming to Games
Wait, wasn’t that the last section? Just because you’ve got someone’s name and email, that doesn’t mean you know all that much about them. You can run email campaigns, see how those perform, and start to piece things together, but there’s a stash of data waiting out there in social media.
Millennials in particular, some of the biggest potential unknowns in-stadium with their reliance on the secondary market, have a treasure trove of information on social, particularly Facebook, which currently collects more first-party data than any other social channel. That starts with basic demographics, and then extends to specific brand affinities and other interests. So instead of offering Wi-Fi for a name and email, you can ask for a Facebook login.
From there, the possibilities are pretty much endless. You can start segmenting very specific audiences and run targeted campaigns across email, social, search, or cross-promotions in-stadium based on what fans like. You can even tie that Facebook data to ticket-buyers’ data for an in-depth view of your fans. Believe it or not, running targeted campaigns with more relevant content to a smaller segment can give you anywhere from 10-30 percent higher ROAS.
By consistently focusing on the fan experience and figuring out who your fans are, when you need to one day bring past ticket buyers back or bring new fans in, you can be ready with strategic campaigns instead of trying out a shotgun approach. Then you can celebrate with a mimosa.