From The Editor's Desk

Why Aren’t Teams Hiring Ticket Brokers?

Yesterday, I had a fascinating lunch debate session in Davis, Calfornia with Fair Ticket Solutions / authenTICKET’s Alan Gelfand about the secondary market. Gelfand was stopping by, on his way to chat up verification systems with teams, and gave me his thoughts on the secondary. Gelfand has been more than just some crazy Canadian with a few ideas on establishing a “check-in” authentication system for tickets, he’s also a pretty effective hustler. I respect that.

I’ve seen him at a lot of events. Gelfand was in Las Vegas last year during the World Ticket Conference (NATB’s event) & Ticket Summit (Ticket Network’s event). It was not lost on either of us that ticket brokers had two conferences, at the same time, in the same city, literally down the street from each other in competing casinos. That’s a stark indication of how fiercely independent ticket brokers are and can be. And that’s why I was skeptical of Gelfand’s position on the secondary market.

Over Gelfand’s Iced Tea and my Arnold Palmer (not a John Daly, I swear), we both went back and forth on the secondary market.

Gelfand’s argument: the secondary market needs regulation to ensure that people don’t get screwed by counterfeiting.

My argument:
If a person can buy a product at a dynamic “demand price” on the primary and yet still turn it around, selling it for 3-times its value, then that person is a genius. Only in sports sales do franchise executives refer to that type of person in detestable terms.

And there-in lies my question, that no one asks, but I’ll ask here: If ticket brokers are able to do what franchise executives cannot with a ticket product, why aren’t franchises hiring ticket brokers to move their tickets?

This goes beyond selling each ticket for a higher price. Ticket brokers don’t have an army of inside sales staffs to call each customer and develop a relationship. The majority of the sales are transacted on a digital scale, and with a cunning precision.

And sports franchises as well as their executives are continually beat out at getting this data and push digital sales, let alone understand how to utilize it.

Somehow, ticket brokers can afford $2,500 to pay for Google advertising each, beating out the New Orleans Saints who refuse or neglect to pay anything for the same advertising online, a franchise worth half a billion, then don’t the ticket brokers kinda win out by default? If there are people innovating with your product, and reselling it for higher, shouldn’t you be aiming to hire them? Apparently, not in sports sales.

Why exactly aren’t those brokers being paid big bucks to come over to the franchise and sell? Especially if it means working smarter, not harder, in order to move tickets.

There should be a bidding war for brokers as franchise team members. Yet, teams will continually hire more inside sales, group and season ticket reps. All to avoid allowing brokers a seat at the table.

It’s like its 2007, and franchises are treated social media experts like scourges of the earth, rather than saviors. When the business model starts moving past the industry’s current practices, it is time for a reset. It is time for the industry, as a whole, to recognize what they are doing wrong, and correct it.

If brokers have done something that current franchise executives cannot, why exactly are people fighting them? Hire them away from their companies, give them jobs within the franchise, and have them sell for you. They apparently know the sports sales game better than their franchise counterparts when it comes to online. So why not access that?

This seems lost on me. Maybe ticket brokers don’t understand the sports sales culture. Maybe they haven’t sat for hours, making rebuttals to some poor sap who answers the phone on a Tuesday night. But that might possibly be a good thing. Because ticket brokers certainly understand online, a sales traffic agent that sports sales as a whole cannot seem to grasp. Most of them have a skeletal sales team, yet can generate thousands of leads, along with hundreds of sales.

That’s why I’ve enjoyed my meetings with Gelfand. Even if he disagrees with me on some fronts, he’s on board with the idea that the way revenue is created by sports franchises has to change. Especially in how ticket sales and delivery occurs. I’m still wondering if franchise executive are reading this and thinking, or if they are thinking about the next 10 ways to build a larger inside sales staff. Having 10,000 more phone calls won’t show the results.

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  1. June 10, 2015 at 5:45 pm — Reply

    The main difference is team sales reps have to sell each and every game, give the best deals to groups and STHs and try to place fans on the sales escalator of repeat business. Brokers are not held to the same rules: they can focus on the marquee games without a price ceiling (think LeBron visiting town in the playoffs) and not get involved in loss leading games (Sacramento on a Tuesday in winter). Also, brokers need to advertise on Google or other places because they aren’t a household name and they need to break through the clutter much more than the established NFL franchise. Brokers can afford it since they make $2,500 on a $150 ticket while the team makes $150 on a $150 ticket. True, brokers can hit true market value and get close to market efficiency that teams wish they could one day but it won’t happen due to two factors: they can’t control their inventory (When/who of game schedule) and they must build relationships with fans.

    • Troy Kirby
      June 10, 2015 at 10:11 pm — Reply

      But again, if teams hired brokers, as a member of the staff, they would be able to utilize the various techniques that brokers have implemented, especially online, to move tickets.

    • June 18, 2015 at 9:45 am — Reply

      Actually, until I started my consulting business in 2007, I was one of the most successful ticket brokers in the world and my entire business was focused on relationship selling and building trust, gaining long term business, and helping guide clients into the best situations for what they wanted to achieve.

      If Google advertising was the only factor at play that differentiated brokers from teams, I’m sure that every team in the world would be buying every piece of relevant digital inventory to promote the team.

      The truth is that most teams need to take a more holistic approach to their entire revenue operation and the way that they generate revenue. It is very easy to set your prices, promotions, and everything once and say, “some games are just tough.” Instead, the thinking should be that each game is it’s own unique project and our job is to maximize each of these opportunities.

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