Talking Tickets 8 Jan 2021: Predictions! Secondary Market! Sonics! And, More!

Year 2, Episode 15


Well, I’m glad to see 2021 coming in like a lamb!

How’s everyone holding up?

I think I mentioned last week that I did a proper segmentation, targeting, and positioning for the business of being me this year and one of the goals I have is to increase brand awareness so if you can share this newsletter with colleagues, connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter, that’d be a really big boost for me!

Share Talking Tickets!

Also, any introductions or people I should chat with…let me know!

To the Tickets!

1. What will 2021 look like for tickets?

Eric Fuller offers up a hypothesis on where StubHub’s business will go this year and his analysis of the potential of a Sports Illustrated branded ticket site may not be too far off.

What he is talking about is a brand extension where the SI brand is building a bridge to a shiny, new market. The idea is a good one because really a clean ticket site may be as viable as any other coming through the pandemic. We don’t know how customers are going to feel about the old brands and we don’t know what kind of negative impact the pandemic is going to ultimately have on anyone.

The downside of brand extensions is that most of them fail! But in this case, the extension is far away from the core business so the damage to that can be done to the SI brand is likely minimal.

But, I want to push past StubHub and look at the world of tickets overall for a moment.

Currently, I’m watching information about the college football championship game on Monday and from the conversations I’ve had the numbers are solid, but not spectacular and the demand is okay, but like most events during the pandemic we haven’t seen it be blazing hot.

Until we see the pandemic come under control, we are all going to be flying a little blind.

The data we gather will be interesting, the research we do will be amusing, and the predictions we make about where things go will be relatively pointless because we haven’t had to recover from a pandemic in about 100 years.

What we have to watch out for heading into the new year is how quickly countries get the pandemic under control, does the vaccine have a positive impact on controlling the virus, and what the economy looks like when this is all over.

I think we will still see the industry struggle to get back up and running this year. The new virus strain combined with a slow roll out of the vaccine in a lot of places is going to hinder the large scale return of events.

We are likely to see data that gives us mixed messages like looking at the pricing of a certain event as a snapshot of the entire market or as something that validates an entire theory of the market.

Finally, I think we are likely to see things still get a bit worse before they get better. The addition of relief to the live entertainment industry is a start, but not a holistic solution. The struggles that the professional sports organizations are dealing with are going to have long-term implications. And, we still don’t know how much more economic, health-related, political, or other turmoil we are going to have to get through to get to the other side.

My guidance, keep an eye on the world around you and the folks you want to serve. Be market oriented and recognize that you don’t know exactly what your customers are going to want, but you can get the answers.

And, as things do start to work themselves out, revisit your strategy. Re-segment your market based on the reality of the economy and world when the pandemic is under control. Re-target so that you can focus on the right people. And, position yourself effectively against the competition you are going to face when the pandemic ends.

Other than that, try to work at keeping your customers connected and engaged using whatever means and value you have at your disposal. It will breed loyalty, can help you generate immediate revenue, and set you up to have an easier go when events return.

2. Broker Genius and Seat Scouts merge to create a holistic ticket solution:

I’ve had Sam on my podcast to talk about the work Broker Genius does two times and the work of dynamic pricing and revenue maximization is interesting.

What I’m watching on stories like this is to see what they tell me about the future of the ticket business heading on the other side of the pandemic.

This story points me to three of the four Ps of marketing:

  • Product

  • Place

  • Price

I’m going to stick to the point where they intersect for today, but on the flip side of the pandemic, we are going to see a need to rethink what the product we are really selling is.

Are we selling something that is just a commodity that can largely go up and down based on the whims of who is in town, who is winning, or some other factor that isn’t in our control?

Or, are we going to focus on the unique value that comes from an in-person game, a concert, or a live theatre experience?

My money has always been on differentiation.

Second, is how will tickets be sold.

Before the pandemic, we’d hear so much about “distribution” and how having your tickets everywhere was essential to success.

I don’t buy it.

Where you sell your tickets, products, or services is an important part of your marketing mix. It is totally cool to push your product or service everywhere, but there are costs involved with that decision, positive and negative.

On the other side of the pandemic, we should definitely be pushing folks to think through how they distribute their tickets and not just getting them into the most places, but more important, to get them into the right places at the right time with the right message.

Finally, price.

One word too many people latch onto is “revenue” and, specifically, “revenue maximization.”

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will…

It isn’t how much money you make, it is how much money you keep.

Revenue maximization can cause problems because it can undermine the price security of your product and the unique value that is offered. You can see this on display with discounts, variable pricing that ends up creating a last minute race to the bottom, and having too many pricing options.

The tools that we have are great. But we have to use the tools as a piece of a larger strategic mission for our organizations so that we don’t end up in a race to the bottom where our events are differentiated and sold with the mystique and magic they deserve.

3. I’ll take the Supersonics back anyway I can get them:

Due to the pandemic, teams and leagues around the world are struggling because without fans in the stands around 35%+ of revenue is gone.

Just like that.

Frederic Longette from SecuTix shared the need to diversify revenue streams this week and I’ve been beating that drum for years, but now that the real need is staring folks down, the time to pull all of this together isn’t available.

Thus, expansion!

Anyone that knows me, knows I’m an OG Sonics fan. So I’ll take the Sonics any way I can get them.

But when I look at this story of expansion, coupled with the expansion that we’ve seen all around MLS and that is being batted around for MLB, and I begin to question if the expansion solution is masking a larger strategic problem.

First, before the pandemic, we were seeing real attendance decline like crazy.

This didn’t hurt the reported revenue of teams, but I’m always a bit skeptical that things that don’t make sense are going to go on forever.

College athletics are negotiating figuring out how to fix their programs because they were overextended, dealing with rising costs and falling attendance…at the same time.

Second, we have no idea what the environment on the other side of the pandemic is going to look like.

What will the economy look like?

What will people’s behaviors look like?

Will people value different things?

I don’t know.

But I do think that when the pandemic ends, we are likely going to see an environment where people are going to need to rethink their business models, their value propositions, their pricing, and the connections to their customers.

What concerns me about expansion is that this is a product solution to a marketing problem.

What do I mean?

If you are creating new teams to meet revenues due to an emergency, this could be the signal that the underlying business had some strains that existed before the pandemic. While expansion can offer a fix, if that is the only fix, it is likely to mean just kicking the can down the road a little bit further.

To balance all of these potential new teams out with long-term stability, it pays to revisit the strategy behind the business as well. And look at the markets you serve, understand what they want, need, and are dealing with.

Segment your market according to behavior so you can do a better job targeting folks based on what need you can fill better than your competition. Then, position yourself against the things that you are competing against.

Then you go through the marketing mix and create the right products with the right pricing, sold in the right manner, and advertised in the right way.

Because you can expand, but if you don’t fix the underlying challenges…you just end up with more problems and maybe these are ones that expansion can’t fix.

Just bring back the Sonics before you get too focused on strategy!

4. Women’s sports is challenging the conventional wisdom:

A few years ago, I wrote up a piece that talked about the WNBA really only having a marketing problem because the quality of the games was pretty solid.

Again, I’m a long-time supporter of the Seattle Storm. So y’all know I’m rocking some fresh Sue Bird merchandise!

The past year or two has offered up a challenge to the conventional wisdom that women’s sports can’t be good business.

In 2020, NWSL ratings popped up 500%.

Tottenham Hotspur signed Alex Morgan because they recognized the power her fame had to help the team expand its brand in the United States.

The women’s AFL is taking steps to make women’s footie sustainable.

I mean, everywhere there are positive signs that women’s sports are having a moment that was long in the making.

What does this mean for folks?

A couple of things:

First, highlighting and promoting women's sports is smart business. Because it offers representation to the half of the world that is female and in the States 83% of the influence and purchasing power flows through women.

Second, growing the women’s game also opens up opportunities for more events so that we can continue to grow the live entertainment industry.

Finally, having the ability to market and sell women’s sports gives all of us the opportunity to continue to understand our markets better, hone our value proposition, and create more jobs in tickets and entertainment.

In sum, having the ability to find a new market with big potential isn’t an everyday thing. In looking at women’s sports, with the proper focus on strategy and marketing, the market for women’s sport could be huge!

5. Heading into a new year and, hopefully, a recovery…we have to innovate:

Back in the summer, I had a chance to chat with AudienceView’s Mark Fowlie about how AudienceView has handled the pandemic. The steps to insulate the building and focus on the future were inspiring because they aren’t things that many of us always achieve in the best of circumstances.

So when I saw the post that they shared about "having to move beyond what got us here” I wanted to share it with you because it provides a great lesson on growth, innovation, and opportunity in the new year.

About two weeks ago, I chatted with Sean Kelly about a case study that he had put together with a Vatic client where they found that they could generate almost the exact same revenue from streaming tickets as they could from in-person tickets. By testing and measuring, they proved that folks were more concerned with the value than any of the extraneous things we might assume that folks are thinking about.

That’s innovation.

Testing your assumptions, testing a hypothesis, and following the results to find out what is really going on.

Kathy Burrows writes about where your ideas come from and she shares a story about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and how they were created.

Kathy is really talking about being market oriented which is an idea that I’ve been talking about a lot lately. This is important because when you are market oriented, you bring the customer’s voice into the organization and often you test new ideas quickly, find out what works and what doesn’t, and spin the wheel again to keep adding and improving the value you offer to your customers.

This is innovative as well because the story Kathy shares is about everyone having ownership of solutions and people that are closer to the customer having the ability to bring ideas and solutions to the organization.

That’s a great example of market orientation.

This week, The Stage offered up its 2020 awards and centered the entire ceremony around rewarding organizations that reacted well to the coronavirus to support their communities, their staff, and their profession. Each one of these examples is innovation.

I close out this week with these examples because in too many instances, I’ve seen folks fall back on the “way we’ve always done things” thinking. A CEO with one organization mentioned to me that people keep waiting for a magic bullet…and that isn’t likely going to come.

The idea I’ll offer is that innovation and change are always coming. Even before the pandemic and all of the other challenges we have faced, change was coming.

We can’t control that.

What we can control is how we deal with change. We have two choices, we can stick our heads in the ground and hope that change doesn’t impact us. Or, we can embrace change. Like Pat Riley said when he took over the Heat back in the 90s, “When she rears her beautiful face, you embrace her because change is all we have.”


I’m in DC. I’m not leaving the house. So if you want to chat, let me know.

Get into our Slack Group. Several good conversations going on this week. I’m making an effort to create stronger communities around the Slack channel, newsletter, and LinkedIn this year as one of my goals was to build top of mind awareness for the work I’m doing.

I’m going to do some new stuff with the podcast this year by adding some case studies, lessons, and other different stuff to break up the regular interviews. The interviews work, but I want to make the podcast more valuable.

Check out Booking Protect. Refund protection can be a key component in your return to market plans, providing your customers with peace of mind, and your organization with revenue and stability as we move through the pandemic and get the pandemic under control.

Visit my friends at Activity Stream. The Activity Stream platform is a great tool to help you understand data and become a more effective marketer. Coming through the pandemic, the Activity Stream team has been working on some new tools and ways to use their AI tool to help you make better marketing decisions.

While you are at it, check out the We Will Recover project put together by the Activity Stream team. Ideas, news, learnings, and more to help your organization rebound coming at you from around the world.