Talking Tickets 2 Oct 2020: LCV! Spurs! Revenue! And, More!

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1. “The Whole System Is On The Verge Of Collapse”

How’s that for a headline to start the week? 

I didn’t make that up, the CEO of Serie A said that on Italian TV this week to describe the challenges that the league has been dealing with since the pandemic began. 

This comes on the heels of Bundesliga’s international TV rights dropping about 20%. 

Brooklyn Nets’ owner Joseph Tsai’s comment that the NBA’s ticket market should snap back in 2022-2023 also had folks talking. 

There is also the Morning Star report that showed Gen Z viewers aren’t as into sports as previous generations which brings up two things to me right off the top of my head: 

  • I need to look at the data more because grouping folks together under generational groupings are typically weak and worthless like the whole gig with trying to get millennials to act as one gigantic group. 
  • Investing in sports as kids are growing up is a good investment in growing future fans for your product. 

Back to the story at hand. 

All of these stories piling up together show that the pandemic is wreaking significant havoc on folks’ revenue and business models and the need to think through revenue streams is only growing. 

The reality is that despite a few events popping up here and there will socially distanced crowds, the true recovery of tickets and events with fans isn’t likely coming until the end of 2021, at the earliest. 

Again, back to my original hypothesis that we are going to see people deal with 3 specific crisis points as the pandemic unfolds:

  • Mental
  • Health
  • Financial

This means all of us are going to need to get creative and rethink our revenue models. Again, the Morning Star report is getting passed around all week long and we have to read the data pretty thoroughly before we start flipping out too much, but we can see that TV trends have changed during the pandemic, the numbers for folks tuning into games has been down and that had started before the pandemic though some games are doing better than others, and consumer habits have been much more volatile for the past decade, meaning we need to pay more attention to how we drive demand and retention. 

Look, I’ve put together my strategy sprint. 

But beyond that, all of us should be continuing to do an audit of our revenue streams. Look at what football clubs in England are considering. Didn’t I talk about creativity around streaming last week? 

We should also revisit our communications plans for staying in touch with people at all stages of their buying journey. 

Finally, and this should be first, we should be looking at the big picture strategy for what we want our business to be:

  • What are we going to do? 
  • How are we going to win business doing it? 

2. College football returns

I’ll make the caveat at the top that I love my Alabama football. 

With this out of the way, the return of college football is proving to be problematic and exposes a lot of the deep, structural challenges of the business of college sports

The SEC started up this past weekend and the Big Ten and the Pac-12 are going to follow shortly with Donald Trump claiming he “saved” the football season at Tuesday’s debate and Larry Scott claiming that the Pac-12’s return is really all about new safety measures and testing protocols. 

We’ve seen many college football games canceled so far this season and the NFL is dealing with the postponement of the Titans’ game on Sunday. 

Deep down, I’m a marketer and I’m not one of those BS marketers that talks about all those fuzzy BS measurements. I’m talking about making money. 

In fact, I think that the most important jobs in the economy right now are the jobs of marketing and sales because they are going to keep the economy moving as much as possible as we work through the pandemic. 

Again, caveat out of the way, college football is doing this for the money. 

I’ve been piling more stories about finance and debt into this newsletter than I ever wanted to. 

That’s just the last month. 

As the Serie A story points out, these college football stories point out, and I’m sure more stories will come out as we progress, the business of sports business has become brittle very quickly. 

My hope is that no kid playing college football is seriously ill or has long-term health implications because the ethical implications of putting kids at risk right now are challenging. And, expecting that an 18-21-year-old kid is going to be able to make a completely rational decision is asking a lot, using myself as a case study. 

I’m telling y’all that you are going to have to rethink your business models. Because these business models aren’t sustainable…billions of dollars in debt across the industry isn’t sustainable. 

No matter what part of the live entertainment business you touch, right now you need to do a few things: 

  • You need to recognize and think about what parts of your business aren’t likely to make it through the pandemic and figure out how you are going to fix them or change them if they are worth changing. 
  • If your business model is falling apart like it seems to be doing in a lot of places, you better start rethinking what you are up to right now. 6 months ago would have been a better time but today works. 
  • Market orientation is going to be a key idea that you are going to need to come to grips with quickly. The Morning Star report on Gen Z consumption patterns should be a wake-up call that coasting and hoping that people are always going to do the exact same things in entertainment isn’t a safe strategy. I define marketing orientation by turn the lens on your offering from the vantage point of we have this thing we are selling to what do the people we serve want from us. It is in short supply in live entertainment around the world. 

A final note here, I’ve been reading up on economic theory and policy over the last 12 months or so, and this reply about the business of college football and viewing education and the kids’ role in colleges as only valuable if it has an ROI stuck with me.

3. Tottenham Hotspur: Super Club! 

I’m finishing this week’s newsletter early so I can watch the Europa League. (Insert your own jokes here Derek!) 

The Forbes article is a little light on accuracy and detail, but having written a piece about the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I already recognized the way that all of the pieces that Spurs are putting together were linked. 

With the signing of Alex Morgan, the Spurs have definitely done a job of elevating their brand in the world of American soccer because Alex Morgan is one of the two biggest stars in women’s soccer. 

And, if you haven’t watched the Amazon series, Jose is a star and due to how poorly and strangely the season went, it is much more interesting than the Man City series or a lot of the others that follow teams. 

All of this adds up to branding. 

I’ve been talking about the need to rethink and reimagine the role of your brand for a long time.

Why? 

Because in a lot of cases, the strength of people’s brands has been eroded. 

As an example, my unscientific study from conversations and travel around the world is that the strongest baseball brand had historically been the Yankees. But over the last decade, it seems that the Red Sox have caught up and, potentially, even surpassed them. 

Why is this? 

I don’t have all the data right now, but I’ll say the ownership of Liverpool FC has helped, but the consistency of storytelling around Fenway Park, and a progressive view on marketing and selling. 

When you look globally the gold standards have to be: Barcelona, Manchester United, and Real Madrid. 

In preparation for speaking at the Ticketing Professionals Conference in Birmingham, UK, in 2017, I did some research on Man United. At the time, they had almost 750 million social media followers around the world. 

That’s a lot. 

I’m dubious on how much that means revenue-wise, but the reality is that ManU brings in around over $800M a year in revenue. 

That’s fine and all, but an anecdotal measure is the guy that owns the car wash business that I have my car detailed with. He was born in Africa, lives in Washington DC, and has never been to England, but he has his car customized with Man U accents in the interior, is a rabid fan, and spends more than the average fan on Man U merchandise each year. 

So the business models of a team like Man U, Barcelona, and, now, maybe, Tottenham bear attention. 

Because they are all showing us a few important things:

  • How to use different platforms and modes of communication to build top of the funnel marketing efforts.
  • They are showing how to create new streams of revenue and are always innovating with how to do these things like Tottenham’s partnership with Amazon, Manchester United’s Asian tours of previous years, and Barcelona’s marketing of Messi around the globe. 
  • As I’ve mentioned before, the way that the Australian Football League delivers on international digital memberships with streaming of their matches is a way to engage your fans no matter where they are and can provide some interesting new revenue streams and market research. 

With ticket revenue pretty much non-existent for so many clubs and organizations, thinking more broadly about your revenue is an important topic. But one of the factors that will drive the effectiveness of your revenue strategy is your brand and the ability for you to stand out or be significant in your chosen market. 

The best way to magnify your brand and your advertising are by already being a big brand. The second best way is to decide where you are going to be present and how you are going to stand out. 

In viewing Tottenham’s efforts through a lens of the tenure of Daniel Levy, you can see that they are building a world-class brand through a very careful and considered marketing focus. They haven’t tried to compete everywhere at once, but have been building the brand, starting domestically since Levy took over, spinning out into Asia, and now turning their eyes to America. 

This is careful brand management, BTW. 

4. The impact of Covid-19 on the arts is severe:

I don’t think you need me to share a report with you for you to know that this is true. 

It is a good report to check out. 

The big takeaways that show ticket sales being down 90% or more are surprising only because I would have actually thought it was going to be worse. 

A couple of interesting things here: 

  • The idea of top-ups at the box office being such a huge part of the UK’s funding model for the arts. We’ve seen many such “round up” campaigns in other areas of the States that it seems like an easy upsell item akin to the line I share about my time in nightclubs: “what kind of gin would you prefer?” 
  • Silos in these industries and venues points to the challenge of being too driven by product and advertising. I’ve been writing and talking a lot about the need to be market-oriented and this siloed approach to revenue proves the point that being sales, product, or ad-driven can cause you to make less money than you should because you aren’t focusing on the customer as a whole, you aren’t speaking with one voice, and you likely aren’t doing any sort of effective segmenting or targeting. 

How can you take action with this knowledge? 

As folks work to get out of the pandemic hole going forward, having a cohesive strategy around the customer/patron is important. You can’t afford to duplicate efforts or lose folks because the right hand and left hand aren’t aware of what the other is doing. 

Rethink some of the tools and ideas you are using. The top-up idea is a great example. 

Revisit how you are communicating with your audience now. The report would seem to indicate that there is still a market for folks that are engaging with their arts organizations, supporting them, and understand the value. Don’t turn your back on them. 

As a bonus here, my friend, Georgia Rivers, from the Sydney Opera, just shared a great piece on marketing outside of your core audience that she published this week! 

5. Premium seating is a challenge: 

Careful readers of this newsletter will recognize that I mentioned a while back that the buying habits of corporate accounts were changing before the pandemic. 

What is interesting in this piece is there are a few different conversations going on: 

  • There is one of just building a worthwhile experience for buyers at all price points. 
  • There are changing demands and the needs of the corporate or high net-worth consumer. 
  • Demand generation and the conversation of lifetime customer value that is brought up with the examples of group sales. 

I will go through each of these points with a hint of how to point towards the future:

Customer experience has been something that I’ve been talking about for years and it is at the heart of the idea of being market-oriented. 

The idea that suites used to have novel-length menus as an example that one of the great things about visiting a game or stadium is that most of the folks I talk with like a feeling of place like nothing can replace going to a concert at Madison Square Garden, seeing football at Wembley in London, or visiting the Sydney Opera House. 

Creating this is part of having a point of view and understanding what people really want from their experience with you. 

B2B sales and marketing folks and high net-worth accounts are where I made my first big hit in the world of tickets. 

I know this market pretty well. 

The reason that B2B sales and marketing folks have been making efforts to move from buying suites and premium seats is due to the need to show ROI on their purchase or the lack of need for so many tickets. 

On the premium and B2B side, showing value and helping your customers find value in their purchase is going to be more important than ever. 

You’ll do that with business acumen and knowing your market, making connections, and knowing your customer’s business. 

As for the high-net-worth folks, they are different in their desires and the things they are going to want are visibility, exclusivity, and other things. The challenge here is that you can leave development here to itself and end up with rising and falling of “hot” tickets, but in my opinion, this is why focusing on the overall customer experience and having a party that folks want to get into is so important. 

I’ve noticed the lifetime customer value has been on folks’ lips a bit since Gary V started talking about. 

Well, welcome to the party! 

Demand generation and keeping those customers in your universe should be a huge focus. 

In my experience, I’ve seen that long-term customers are about 12x what a one-time customer is worth. 

This comes down to a few things like cost to replace a customer, the value of word of mouth marketing, and a better understanding of your market which enables you to provide more value. 

As for demand generation, I’ve talked about the sales funnel and some other topics over the last few months, and right now with no end in sight to the shut down of events with masses of fans and crowds, advertising can be a tough sell, but marketing towards the revenue opportunities you have available now can be a lifeline for your business. 

Right now could be a good time to invest any advertising budget you have available into direct response efforts that folks can buy now and give them value today or act as a down payment for future seasons or campaigns. 

Just be upfront about what you are offering. 

From my conversations with corporate buyers and other premium buyers, the problem isn’t buying the tickets or spending the money right now it is that they feel like some teams are taking advantage of them and offering up a bit of a bait and switch. 

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I’m around DC. Because, well, where else would I go right now?

Check out the podcast feed, I shared a good conversation I had with Aaron Knape from SeatZ. We talked about revenue, safety, and customer experience. 

I’m doing ‘The Seat Selling Sprint’ at the end of the month. We will focus on strategy, revenue, marketing, and more. 

Maybe share the newsletter or the podcast with someone you think would benefit from an episode or some of these ideas. 

Join the Slack channel

Check out my friends at Booking Protect. Looking at some new things around customer security and customer confidence over the next few weeks so keep an eye on the website. 

Visit We Will Recover. Some really great interviews with folks around the world getting posted there with people from around the world sharing ideas on how they are dealing with the pandemic and leading their teams through this period. Great effort put together by two great friends of mine: Einar and Martin and the team at Activity Stream.

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