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Beyond Bobbleheads

We are in a new unprecedented era in the world of sport. People aren’t coming out like they used to. In the 1950s-60s, the idea of showing up to the stadium was basically a meeting place. You may have watched some games on television, but the in-stadium experienced trumped all of that. Now, with the advent of HD televisions, tablets & mobile devices which can broadcast LIVE sporting events, and any other way to grab someone’s attention, the market for ticket sales has become its own niche.

Sure, the professional sports teams have been at this for a while, but in the college atmosphere, proactive ticket selling is less than 10 years old. And even with the professional sports being as “pro-active” as possible, they’ve still lost marketshare. This is due to a Wild West mentality. People don’t just show up the stadium anymore. Don’t believe me? Look at how some of the giants in the NFL, NBA, and MLB are reacting to less people at the turnstiles? The NHL seems to ignore this issue in its labor strife, which is a specter waiting to be unleashed the second the teams return to the ice.

This leaves us with the Wild West mentality. Everyone is not only out for themselves, but searching for that hero to come into the dying town and play Sheriff. The “new hope” to rescue the town for the marauders who come in and attempt new “marketing ideas” such as free or discounted tickets. I’ve heard a lot of people in this industry talk about “holding the line” but I have to disagree. Perhaps we need to push back a little on “marketing.”

Marketing tends to get a pass in every era. Basically, they target the “walkup” or “gameday” crowd with Bobbleheads, towels and posters. Sure, these items are likely done through a corporate sponsor. But at what cost? You had to spend time getting the sponsor to sign off for the item purchase, which is written in to the sponsorship agreement. Thus, it is part of the amount that they are paying that team in order to participate in the sponsorship. And if the corporate sponsor is seeking activation, what is that giveaway delivering? These customers who won’t bet fully on your product and are induced only because they are given WAY more value than just your game. And if they are treating the team as a throwaway, do they really buy from the corporate sponsor footing the bill for the giveaway item? In fact, a lot of times, those promotions cost the team a lot more than a sales staff does, and have less impact. It is important to realize that the sales staff typically is the first meat to get cut to the bone, along with the marketer’s budget (but not the marketer themselves).

What is the Bobblehead mania saying about sporting events? If Bobbleheads are the main driver of what makes people come out, why have a sporting event at all? Perhaps you can charge admission for 10,000 to show up to collect their Bobbleheads, then turn around and leave. That is the message that teams sends when the focus is on the single game buyer who disregards the main product in favor of the giveaway.

This is why the ticket sales department needs a better Sheriff. Some VP or President who understands fully that without the sales department, none of the customers buy long term. Bobbleheads are great, but season tickets are worth a hell of a lot more. They make your fans invest in the product long-term, regardless of whatever giveaway item may or may not be provided.

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