Talking Tickets 26 February 2021: The UK! Inter Milan and China! Filling Seats! Looking Forward! And, More!

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1. Charlotte FC continues to teach us about pricing, research, and strategy:

I wrote about the PSL issue last week when the story first broke on Sportico.

You can check out the pricing on the Charlotte FC site for yourself with the attached PSL as well.

As I was preparing this, a supporters’ club of Charlotte FC released a statement that is pretty pointed as well.

This story is interesting because we may never see another team launch something like this in a pandemic. Pandemics are rare after all.

But it highlights a few consistent themes that I’ve been working to elevate for the past year around product, pricing, research, and strategy.

First, strategy before tactics.

You need to go through the process anew because you should be doing some research and planning annually.

Like I mentioned last week, the research and customer information that it seems was guiding the team was from 18 months ago. A long time in normal times, a lifetime during the pandemic.

Research is the heart of your strategy. (I wrote a new piece for the ALSD focusing on the concept of Backward Market Research!)

Ethnography. Focus groups. Surveys.

Qual and Quant.

Soft and hard.

You have to do research to develop strategy and you should be constantly researching your market to find out what you are doing well, what your market needs, and how you can continue to deliver value.

From this research you can go through a proper segmentation, do some targeting, and position your business and your tickets against the competition.

From there, you move to the 4 Ps: product, promotion, place, and pricing.

The product comes into play because we have to remember that the product doesn’t just consist of the ticket or the PSL, but it is the core benefit, the ticket and PSL, and the augmented product.

Does the combination of all of this together work to justify the price that’s on offer?

It seems like there is significant pushback in the community on this and if it is truly built on 18 month old survey data, there isn’t much of a question why.

The challenge in Charlotte is how to get this whole thing back on track and that likely is going to mean going back to the beginning and doing some research to see where the market really is.

2. Inter Milan’s ownership is set to start focusing on its core business and not soccer:

Have you met my friend, Greg Turner, in China?

He spoke at length about the topic of China’s latest 5-year plan with John Wall Street this week.

If you’ve been following along with me on my discovery tour of what it means to do business in China, you will recognize that this change in approach to how Suning is managing Inter Milan going forward isn’t surprising and is more likely than not, completely expected.

Why?

In the West, we often think of our governments have the role of supporting our businesses and their goals. In China, the role is flipped.

With the launch of their latest 5-year plan, China wants to bring a lot of investment back into the country and focus on developing their expertise, their entertainment, and their markets at home.

This means that ownership of football clubs in Europe isn’t nearly as important.

What impact is this likely to have on ownership and sports business?

First, this will limit the investment groups that are looking to purchase football teams.

This may mean that we see the prices of football clubs stagnate or we see teams struggle to change hands. We’ve seen a few clubs that have struggled to sell over the last year or two anyway.

Second, this could signal that the nature of the relationship between China and the rest of the sports world changes as well. Instead of China welcoming with open arms the NBA, NHL, or AFL with open arms, they may be pushing for more partnerships or relationships that more closely impact the domestic market.

Think of diving into the soccer transfer window with a bit more aggression to secure important global soccer stars. Or, becoming more willing to splash the cash on bringing a star basketball player to the Chinese Basketball Association.

No matter what happens, watching the next few months will be interesting. Inter lost significant money in their last report and if their ownership is trying to move on from their investment, this could have a wave of repercussions across Europe, in rights’ fees, and beyond.

3. UK aims to reopen starting on 21 June:

This is good news and maybe the first chip settling in with a decision about fans from outside of Japan being allowed to attend the Olympics coming soon.

I’m certain that the next several months are going to be up and down. This isn’t magic 8 ball stuff, but a reality of everything we’ve dealt with over the last year.

Up and down.

What having an opening date does provide us is an opportunity to think about what fans are going to need, want, and have to deal with to return. Jonathan Brown and STAR put together a really thoughtful series on this at the end of 2020 and it pays to revisit them now that there is a more definitive end or a light at the end of the tunnel.

In Australia, the AFL is planning how to offer up tickets to fans for Round 1 that is equitable and takes into account the many different communities that their teams reach.

To me, this period now is a good time to think about how do you want to welcome folks back.

One person I’ve had a few conversations about putting the customer back at the center of everything is Richard Howle. As I’m typing this up, it is the middle of the night in London, so I won’t bother Richard, but I have a feeling that we probably share a similar view on this moment is a chance to reset some of the things we haven’t felt we were getting right and that we want to get better at in the future.

If I have one wish for this restart period is that everyone takes the time and puts a little bit of effort behind becoming slightly more customer focused and using research to guide the way that they offer their products and services.

4. History could show us the way forward:

I’ve mentioned here regularly that you need to have a grasp on how things have played out historically to help frame things in the future.

To make is snappy: the past doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Ben Wells talks about this “squeezed middle” theory and it has actually been something that has been on display for a while in the world of tickets in places around the world.

You’d see football supporters in the UK complaining about it. You’d see how it was impacting real turnstile attendance in the States and the way that more than 50% of tickets sold for under face value on the secondary market.

Dominik Schreyer has put out a new paper on where no-shows really are coming from that is interesting to read through. His study focuses on the Bundesliga, but a lot of the analysis applies everywhere.

This comes down to a situation where folks are going to have to revisit thier marketing efforts. They will need to identify their customers, create a value proposition that emphasizes attendance or doesn’t, and is built around whatever the reality of the world is once the pandemic finally quits us.

I shared a little bit on this above with the Charlotte FC story, but everyone is going to need to be prepared to get into their market to do some research.

Again, qual and quant. Hard and soft.

Your distribution channels will need to be thought through: direct and indirect. What incentives are you going to offer folks to ensure that they are supporting your brand, not underming it?

How will you incentivize attendance?

In my view, I’m worried about the entire attendance situation because in too many instances the entire process has been priced in a super premium way, even when that pricing can’t be justified by the value provided.

And, fans were turning away from that before the pandemic.

We don’t know what folks are going to do on the flipside of the pandemic, but if the trend of lower real attendance continues, I don’t know how long any of the inputs and businesses around the game stay viable.

But I’m typically always stress testing things because I don’t like to be caught off guard.

What do you think?

5. Let’s look forward to some fun, why don’t we?

The downside of the pandemic is that we will have to recover and it will be tough.

The upside is that we will likely see some creativity that we have needed once tickets are on sale and a real grasp on the situation comes into view.

I’ll stake a claim for a good branding move with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s adding Pheobe Waller-Bridge as their first president.

In New South Wales, they have introduced a A$20 million fund to promote events in their state and draw attention to country towns. Which is a cool way to drive tourist dollars into smaller cities and areas much like the explosion of craft beer that happened in the States over the last decade.

Two things, there is now a craft brewery not far from where I grew up in Northern Georgia that is a bit of a destination for a place that was really known for not much, or, at best, not being too far from UGA. And, if you’ve never been to Australia, especially to the areas outside of the big cities…it is an amazing place. I saw some of the Blue Mountains…amazing!

Tourism Australia, call me!

And, the preferred city for the 2032 Olympics came out and it is Brisbane!

This all comes down to brand, BTW.

I’ve probably offered up my definition of a brand in the past to help you get away from rolling your eyes into your head, but it is simply the accumulation of all of the good encounters and all of the bad encounters you have with a business over time.

In Australia, they are magnificent marketers and the brand of Australia definitely shows that.

This is a really cool case study about the work that Tourism Australia did to get more American tourists to come to Australia.

The reason I bring this up is because as we move into moments where venues and events start coming back online and sales can happen, folks are going to have a lot of choice and they may have seen their circumstances change, their priorities change, or they may have found something they like better.

All of this means that you can’t count on your brand being in the same spot it was before the pandemic and that you are going to need to create many positive interactions with your brand to ensure that folks pick you.

This idea of creating an environment where people are regularly having good interactions with you and your brand shouldn’t be a hard sell, but it doesn’t happen by accident.

That’s why you are going to need to think through your touchpoints and map them out.

You have to think through how you are going to present your brand to the world now.

You have to consider what are the good and bad things you want people to feel or know about what they get from being a part of your community.

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Still in DC, but I can start getting an appointment today at 9 AM. So soon…I’ll be out of the neighborhood!

I did a podcast on price: 10 tips in 10 minutes, really it is about 8, but you get the point. Pricing is possibly the most important marketing decision you’ll make.

I wrote a few things about corporate buyers and the secondary market on my blog. I also wrote about Backward Market Research for the ALSD!

Check out Booking Protect. As your business restarts, offering your customers security and peace of mind in their purchases will be more important than ever.

Visit my friends at Activity Stream. Some really great new ideas to help you be able to effectively use your data to make some better targeting and strategy decisions as you emerge from the pandemic. And, they are also powering the We Will Recover initiative.