Talking Tickets 12 June 2020–AFL! MLB! Revenue! And, More!

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Hey There! 

Thanks for being here again this week. If you are enjoying this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues to sign up by visiting this link.

If you aren’t a member of the Slack community, join now. Folks in 12 different time zones get together there to talk tickets and learn from each other.

How is it mid-June? How’s everyone holding up?

I’m relatively fine. Only relatively because if you’ve never seen a string of those 90+ DC summer days, you don’t know what a heatwave is.

Check out a special session I’m doing with Eric Fuller’s Rescue Meet serieson Tuesday, 16 June at 9 AM PST/12 PM EST. I’m leading his session on sales and marketing and we will be doing a little talky thing, but the core of the event is a 30-45 minute break out of my workshop where we are going to focus on rethinking our strategies, coming up with a diagnosis of the real challenge to tackle, and create some action items to move us forward. It is FREE, but you have to get an invitation by visiting the Rescue Meet website.

Don’t forget Happy Hour with me and my buddy, Ken Troupe, this afternoon at 5 PM EDT.

To the tickets!

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1. Reopening in many shapes and forms:

We continue to power forward with the reopening of sports, at least. With concerts and other performances still in a place that lacks a lot of certainty or clarity for when things will be safe to return to normal.

While there are no fans, we will see La Liga return this week and the Premier League restart next week, even if I am going to have to wait a few more days to see Dele Alli.

For many venues, making the most of a bad situation has meant adjusting their business model to allow their venues to become drive-ins and gathering places of a different sort.

The NBA and MLS are going to Orlando in July and Orlando is going to get a moment in the spotlight, though if you haven’t heard of Orlando and Disney…I’m not sure what planet you’ve been on.

What will be curious is whether or not folks actually change their habits after sports comes back and further after folks can attend games. As with everything, the first rule of marketing is to remember that you aren’t your market and that folks often say one thing and do another.

The thing that is obvious is that we need fans in the stands, the Bundesliga has shown that fans matter to the atmosphere, home-field advantage, and…revenue, of course.

Any signs of progress are welcome.

I still would say that I’m cautious because it seems that the science points to an uncertain timeline around a vaccine and cases still building in a lot of places.

I was chatting with my friends in Tokyo about 10 days ago and they were mentioning that the cases were low and I saw this piece about masks in Japan. I think what a lot of us are missing is a clear direction that says “wear the mask because it helps reduce transmission, lessens community spread, and reduces the likelihood of more disruptive actions.”

Of course, I’ve also never realized how filthy too many people are with not washing their hands, covering their mouths when they are coughing and sneezing, and other stuff…

Anyway, continue to keep an eye on the reopening activities like starting up games and events with no or few fans like the AFL’s match with 2,000 fans in attendance. The performances of theatre around the world. And, how the virus is impacting other countries as they move through the different phases of reopening.

And, what do you think about Garth Brooks’s idea?

2. Revenue! Revenue! Revenue! 

Somewhere along the line, I should have shared a piece I saw about how brands were discovering that a lot of their partnerships weren’t paying off.

Part of this is because folks weren’t really making the business case for sponsorship and relying too heavily on emotions and fluff.

The reality is that sponsorships is just one part of the larger revenue puzzle that will need to be reimagined coming out of the pandemic.

We are going to have to put our heads together and rethink a lot of the things that we have taken for granted or just “always done that way” like:

* Sales
* Marketing
* Customer retention
* Customer service
* Merchandise
* Food and beverage

I can go on.

To achieve our revenue goals in the future, we are going to need to think through how we use technology, what our business models and processes look like, and many other things.

In fact, I think to see the industry of sports, the arts, and other forms entertainment continue to grow, we are going to have to see a much higher level of comfort with innovation become the norm.

In the arts and theatre, the unwillingness to change has popped up in the need for many organizations to try and figure how to become digital and offer digital solutions now.

Where was the urgency before a pandemic set in?

The same goes for the sports organizations that still rely on ~40% or more of their revenue from fans coming to the venue?

Why hasn’t the reinvention of the in-game business model been the number one priority?

I’ll tell you three things when I look at this:

First, we can’t get stuck in the way things have always been done. Obviously, no one can plan for a depression and a pandemic…but we really should be doing more risk planning and stress testing of our organizations so that we can be a lot more flexible in how we generate revenue and more secure in our business practices.

Second, right now is a great opportunity to rethink how you are doing business. In too many instances, I sit on webinars and Zoom calls where the gist of the conversation is about how quickly we can ramp back to “normal” and when I look at how many challenges and points of weakness that the industry was facing before the pandemic…I want to go, “Get back to normal? Are you kidding? That’s the best we can do?”

Maybe I’m just grumpy today? Or, maybe I’m just tired of watching the same bad habits get run on repeat.

You tell me!

3. How do businesses fall apart? Slowly at first, and then all at once…or how MLB is determined to miss a great opportunity to have the spotlight: 

MLB seems to continue to move down a path towards no season…and it leaves a lot of folks scratching their heads.

Last week, I shared the story about the Cubs claiming that 70% of their revenue comes from having fans at their games. And, I’ve been adamant about the need to rethink business models, pricing structures, and the underlying approach to having folks at games as a way to make sure that attendance isn’t sacrificed at the foot of revenue…which is what is happening all too frequently now.

We also saw MLB lose Coca-Cola as a sponsor this week as well, due to “budgetary concerns” which is code for they don’t see the value of a partnership with someone they’ve been associated with, in a major way for a long time.

What’s even crazier is that baseball seems to spend a lot of time on ideas that would hurt their TV monies as well.

MLB, “call me, please!”

If I were an academic and not a marketer, I would have a paper out that would talk about how the economics of the baseball standoff mirror a lot of the challenges we are dealing with in the American and global economies as a whole…but I’m not so instead I’ll offer up these ideas for how baseball can move forward to salvage this season, but the long-term potential of the game.

First, let’s get a season with somewhere between 70-80 games, expanded rosters, and some sort of pro-rated salary for the players.

To quote Gary Adler, “the owners seem to be jumping over dollars to pick up dimes.”

If the nuclear bomb of no baseball season at any level goes off, I don’t really know that MLB recovers because despite “record” revenues, real attendance is crap, interest in the game isn’t that high, and the already aging fan base is only getting older.

To be clear, if the money saved by not paying minor league players and squeezing a few million out of the players is going to make or break your business…the sport has a much bigger problem.

Second, lay on the marketing as much as possible.

Someone asked me about what is being aired on the MLB network and why they weren’t showing a greater variety of stuff.

I don’t have the answer. I know marketing and not television…but there are so many historical games and so much historical footage, it seems like a missed opportunity to not share these things and give the generation of fans that are still diehard baseball fans the chance to share some of the things they love with folks that might not have experienced baseball in this way before.

4. What will saving the theatre and the arts look like? 

In general, I’m a fan of offering public support to the arts because I think the arts are so important for doing a few things like helping us understand other folks’ point of view, explaining complex ideas, and bringing us together. That funding the arts seems like a value in a lot of instances.

In the United States, there are a few industry-led efforts to lobby the government for help for the live entertainment industry. I’m not holding my breath on action anytime soon. But I do appreciate the effort…it is necessary.

In the UK an idea is being floated to allow folks to invest in theatres.

Last week, I shared some of the things that Australia and New Zealand are doing to support the arts. And, this week, the German government has stepped in with a $1.13 billion dollar package to help get their countries arts and entertainment venues back up and running. These are really great starts to helping the industry get back up and running.

As a general topic, I’m concerned about the future of the arts coming out of the pandemic because we’ve seen the funding for the arts be whittled away in so many places.

But the bigger challenge as I mentioned in the revenue section is the need to reinvent our businesses and to rethink how we are marketing and selling our experiences.

The idea that the London Symphony Orchestra is offering up is novel with a shortened production and two performances a night to help maintain social distancing.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a lot of folks share social distance mapping, even if I’ve felt like a lot of this was just ducking the hard work of thinking about how to actually create something that will bridge the gap between where we are now and where we need to get to in the future when we get the virus tamed and are able to have full capacity shows again.

I know we have to work to save the arts and theatre and here are a few suggestions:

First, we need to get some sort for the arts and artists at a government level. Full stop. These buildings are centers in our communities and the artists that make the arts are necessary for these investments to make art happen.

Second, saving the arts is a good time to rethink the relationship between the arts, the buildings, and the communities. We’ve become used to the idea that a stadium can revitalize a downtown area, whether or not that actually happens or not.

What about an opera house or an arts center?

If you’ve ever been to Sydney, you’ll know that the arts buildings are just as much gathering places as any stadium…maybe more so.

Right now is a great time to rethink the relationship between the buildings, the performances, and the community to allow them to take center stage as cultural homes and gathering spaces in the future.

I mean, look at the MoPop in Seattle.

You can experience that place inside and outside the building. Lincoln Center, the same. Insert your favorite here.

I don’t have a complete answer for how to use these buildings as indoor/outdoor community spaces going forward now, but I do think back to the concerts on the pier in Seattle during the summer. Or, the way that we’d have concerts for small groups in the Liquid Lounge at the EMP.

And, I recognize that it may be difficult to come up with a solution…there are opportunities.

More importantly, if we aren’t really pulling out all the stops…we may face a situation where many arts organizations do have such catastrophic losses that they can never recover.

Remember, this isn’t a fight that just the arts are fighting, nightlife, pubs, and other folks are all in similar positions and making sure folks fight for their industries is essential. 

5. The AFL is in a good spot due to owning Marvel Stadium, but being creative with their revenue streams should be a priority: 

File this one under, if you are nice to me, I love you…but I’m a fan of Marvel Stadium and the AFL.

As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I look at the membership model that some of their clubs offer like Melbourne FC as something everyone around the world should be looking to emulate because it allows them to drive attendance and monetize their global market.

The article above talks about many of the leagues in Australia and how the AFL owning Marvel Stadium has allowed them to have a stronger position than other codes in Australia.

One of the frightening things for a lot of folks as they read through this piece is how the television broadcasters have used the pandemic and the shutdown period to drive down the prices of rights fees. At some point, I think that is a reckoning that a lot of folks are going to be dealing with and I’m certain that this is a scary idea because the expectation that Facebook or Amazon was just going to swoop in hasn’t materialized and I’m not sure if it will.

If you’ve been paying attention to the ongoing challenges Rugby Australia is dealing with, you’ll see that having assets that you can control and that can insulate you from the moment-to-moment ups and downs of business can be helpful in helping you avoid making short-term decisions that are potentially harmful in the long-run.

The truth is that the AFL is a window into the heart of what a lot of organizations in the arts, theatre, sports, concerts, and other live events are dealing with. And there are three things I think we can look to AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan as we head out into our week:

1. Recognize the human side of all of these struggles. Behind every decision are real people that have had their lives disrupted or worse.

2. Be creative. The AFL gained possession of Marvel Stadium when everything was great and this has enabled them to be more in control of their code as the pandemic has played out.

3. Make sure you focus on the right questions. The AFL recognizes that this season is a wipeout on profits and a lot of revenue, so instead of just trying to squeeze everything out of that…they are continuing to focus on recovery and growth. While it doesn’t take the short-term pain away, it does get the focus off of pain and panic and onto progress and positivity.
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What am I up to this week?

As I mentioned at the top of the program, I’m leading Eric Fuller’s Rescue Meet session on 16 June on sales and marketing. It is open to VPs and executives of organizations around the world and you can sign up for an invitation to the event on the Rescue Meet website.

I’m still at home…so I’m not visiting a city near you, yet. But if you want to chat about something or just need someone to chat to, let me know.

Get yourself some podcast episodes by going to my podcast landing page. I’m working on having some really great new guests around finance, marketing, and strategy…so something a little different than normal.

Check out my website and blog.

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