Talking Tickets 29 January 2020: Guess the Super Bowl Price! The Olympics! All Blacks! The West End! And, More!


Jonathan Brown and his team at STAR did a new webinar on making homework that may be helpful to people this week because a lot of folks have hit the pandemic wall. 

How’s everyone holding up? Let me know! Don’t feel like you need to get through this period alone. 

Are you watching Super Bowl prices? I’m doing a contest with Jesse Lawrence and the TicketIQ team. Predict the lowest get-in price and the lowest price to get-in at kick-off and you might win! We are going to give away two prizes either a $25 Amazon gift card or a gift from one of my favorite DC places like the Anthem, Philz Coffee, or somewhere else. Feel free to share this far and wide! 

And, because I know the power of incentives…I’m going to come up with a way to reward the person that gets the most referrals.

Happy Hour tonight at 5 PM with me, Matt Wolff, and Ken Troupe! 

To the Tickets! 


1. The possibility of the Olympics being canceled shows us how difficult contingency planning and strategy really is:

I think it is pretty unlikely that the Olympics is going to take place this summer. This means that it is unlikely that I’ll be able to get to London to see Pearl Jam. And, it also means that we are likely looking at a slog before we get large scale events back to normal. 

The data that Morning Consult shared this week points out that the majority of people are still afraid to get out into the world until there is a vaccine. Though, the percentage of folks that are starting to come around to the idea is rising. 

As we watch the prices for Super Bowl tickets over the next week or so, all of these situations point us towards the need to keep our focus on what the customer wants and needs. 

Slowly and surely the environment that our businesses are going to enter a new phase of the pandemic, the desire to get events up and running again is real, but we have to keep in mind that the person that is going to ultimately decide whether or not we are successful is the customer: 

  • What do they want?
  • What do they need?
  • What do they value? 

2. What does the Super Bowl ad market tell us about anything this year?

Mark Ritson wrote up a really good piece about the impact of Super Bowl commercials in 2019. His takeaway was that Super Bowl ads are still worth it, even at $5M. Friend of the newsletter, J.W. Cannon, posted a good tweet about his thinking on the value of the Super Bowl commercial this week as well. 

The gist of the thinking is that the Super Bowl ad market still is valuable, but in light of the pandemic…does that still hold? 

The main article really does a great job of pointing us to the important concept of Market Orientation. 

I’m harping on this because going back as far as I can remember, my strength has been my ability to connect with the customers in the markets I’m working in and to get to know them in a way that enabled me to market and sell effectively. 

Even now, some of my partners will come to me with a hypothesis that they have about the market or a certain set of customers based on their gut instinct. I can often prove or disprove the hypothesis from conversations I’ve had in the last few weeks enabling us to have a good idea of how to survey a broader sample size to get a comprehensive answer. 

So, I guess the theme this week is Market Orientation, but what does all of this stuff about Super Bowl ads teach us? 

It teaches us that Market Orientation matters.


Because our opinions don’t matter. And, they can often be dangerous because we want everyone to be like us.

Of course, we would be willing to go to a show right now. Of course, we want events to open right now and we think that they can go off safely. Of course, we think things are going to snap back as if nothing has changed. 

That’s the job! 

What the Super Bowl and companies pulling out ads to direct them in other directions this year tells us is that the best brands are listening to their customers and understand what they want or need. 

If you look at Budweiser, they have a long history of putting money and resources into disaster relief. So this move is on-brand. 

Will not advertising in the Super Bowl hurt them? 

Probably not. They spend annually on long-term brand building. And, they do a significant amount of short-term activation work so that one ad, Super Bowl or not, isn’t likely to impact them too much. 

When an analysis is completed after the pandemic is over, we are likely to see that the coverage Budweiser receives for redirecting that advertising money to pandemic education and relief will have a much more positive impact on their brand equity than the ad at the Super Bowl would have had. 

For a historical example, look at Wrigley and how they turned only having enough ingredients for Juicy Fruit to send to the troops in World War II, into a marketing win by launching “Orbit” as a substitute that got folks through the war. 

The lesson: focus on the customers’ needs and not yours. 

P.S.: Look at how many folks are pitching in to help distribute the vaccine. The efforts to use the resources of the live entertainment industry to get vaccines in people’s arms is a prime example of the idea that doing good can still be great for business. 

3. What will the future of the West End look like?

This article from The Stage is about the West End, but you can read it from any angle you might be coming at the industry from. 


Everyone is in somewhat similar circumstances with regards to what will the future look like and the assumptions, contingencies, and possibilities that could still play out. We really don’t know much! Though we are good at pretending! 

First, I wanted to get this piece in due to the term “bankers”. I’ve always used “whales” when I talk about hits, but see…this is why I travel and talk with people widely. I’d never know what a numpty was without going to Australia. 

My life is richer for knowing the term and using it regularly. 

But more importantly, this piece points us to the need to plan for multiple futures, to understand our risks, and to be agile in the way we approach the circumstances. 

A few things we don’t have the data for or the information that we can use to make good decisions on is:

  • When will folks be vaccinated enough to allow international travel?
  • When will folks be vaccinated enough to create herd immunity?
  • How long do these vaccines last?
  • Does the vaccine eliminate the virus or just keep you from getting a really bad case? 
  • What will the economy look like after the pandemic ends?

There are five questions, but I could have likely gone on for 50. 

We have to be cognizant of the likelihood that the business environment will be changed, that the economic environment will be different, and that people’s spending habits and priorities may have changed. 

The solution to coming through this period is going to be a focus on the customer and making sure we are consistently in our markets, talking to customers, understanding what they need and want, and figuring out how to tailor our offerings to fit those desires. 

Simple, really. 

P.S. Check out this “cool” oral history of the shutdown of Broadway

4. In New Zealand, the All Blacks are looking to sell part of their commercial rights to a private equity firm:

This idea of selling out part of your business to private equity has been heating up the last 24 months or so because there is tons of free-flowing investment cash hanging around and not a lot of places to put it. 

In the past, I’ve mentioned the ongoing talks around Serie A as the most interesting, but I came across this piece about the All Blacks and it allows me to better illustrate the idea of brand equity and brand value because as far as international teams go, the All Blacks have a pretty strong brand and one that is largely recognizable to people that follow sports and, from my experience, folks that don’t follow sports. 

A little primer on brands before I get to my point since Brand is one of those words that is often misunderstood. 

Your brand is simply the culmination of all the touchpoints, perceptions, and feelings that a person has about you and your business. 

Ultimately, a brand is about two things:

  • Does the consumer know we exist?
  • Does the customer think of us in the way we want them to? 

Back to the All Blacks, they have a strong brand and most of the associations are favorable. Some of their partnerships like the show they created with Amazon, their partnership with Adidas, and the role as the face of rugby for most of the world has given them tremendous brand power. 

The danger that they are toying with is whether or not having an investment partner forces them to toy with a formula that has seen their commercial opportunities grow due to the need for their partners to recoup and make money off of their investment. 

The struggle in a situation like this comes down to the idea that anything that reinforces what you want to be is positive brand building. And, anything that undermines your brand is negative brand building. 

When investments are on the line, it can become very hard to resist things that work in the short term but undermine your success in the long-term like discounts, lower quality items, etc. 

It is important to keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules of branding, but you have to keep in mind that the brand you build only exists in the heads and hearts of your customers and your market. 

Which is a lesson everyone in the industry can keep in mind. 

5. The arts, sports, entertainment has an important role to play in recovery:

Around the world, we’ve seen great folks promoting the idea that we need the arts, entertainment, sports, and other leisure interests to recover to reach a full recovery. 

You don’t have to convince me. 

This piece is from the UK, but we’ve seen the numbers offered up Germany, Australia, the US, and other places and the impact of the industry is huge! 

It is jobs, economic activity, mental health, and more. 

The challenge for all of us now is that we have to keep pushing forward the message and not just to people in the industry, but people all over the place because the lesson of Market Orientation that I started this week with is that “you are not your market” and you have to recognize that what you think isn’t just irrelevant, but can be dangerous. 

So to support these efforts, we have to look at the value that the arts, culture, sports, and other industries provide the people that are our customers in the best of times and that we need to come back when the pandemic is over. 

I was chatting with some folks from around the world, they’ve mentioned that their ability to connect with their customers has gone down during the pandemic or that their customers aren’t engaged with their content and emails as much. 

And, I keep coming back to the idea of the product you are selling and the need for support to help everyone recover. 

I’m not sure if I’ve talked a lot about the 3 stages of your product but they go like this:

  • Core offer: that’s the benefit someone gets from whatever it is you are selling. I’ve talked about how when I sold tickets daily, I never really sold tickets. I was actually using tickets as a way to end up as a Trusted Advisor to a lot of my clients and that ended up creating long-term relationships with some of the biggest brands in the world like American Express, Yellow Tail Wines, Madison Square Garden, Marriott, and more. They wanted my ideas as much as the ticket. So what’s the core value?
  • The actual product: this is the product or service that you sell. It is the show, the performance, the kit, the jersey. In my experience, this is actually typically not what folks are buying. They are buying the core offer. 
  • The augmented product: this is everything around what you are selling. Take my friends, Angela and Jo, they created the Ticketing Professionals Conference in Australia and to use them as an example, the actual product they sold was the conference. The core offer was learning and connecting with new ideas, people, and solutions from around the world. But the totality of what they offered was the experience, the connections, the parties, the website, the new people, and more. That’s the augmented product and recognizing that all of these things matter helps. 

Back to recovery, we need our customers and our biggest fans to help us get to the point of recovery. 

And, if they aren’t paying attention or engaging with us now, we have to rethink how we are communicating and talking with them, what we are giving them, and how we can use the power of our relationship to ask them for help getting back up and running. 

Because the thing is that the industry isn’t just the people behind the curtain or on-stage, it is all the people that are engaged in the events, attending and working. 

So if you are struggling with how to keep in touch with folks or how to rally folks to support the industry now, look at the product and rethink what that product is and does in light of the current situation! 

We will recover! But we won’t do it alone! 

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Give my short podcast lessons a listen. I’ll have done five quick lessons on marketing and strategy as a test to see what happens. Once you’ve had a chance to check one or more out, let me know what you think

The Dave Wakeman blog is up and running with new ideas daily including this one with 12 ways that the business of tickets will need to evolve. 

Join the Talking Tickets Slack Channel

Did you get a chance to see Simon Mabb’s presentation on the event protection market as we work through Covid this week? If you want a copy of the slides, let me know and I’ll send them over. Or, check out Booking Protect’s website to find out how you can use refund protection to help kickstart your re-opening strategy. 

Go over to the We Will Recover site and get ideas from around the world, over 20 organizations contribute to research, ideas, classes, and more to help folks recover. This is powered by my friends at Activity Stream

If you are so inclined, I do a weekly strategy and marketing newsletter on Sundays. You can get it for FREE here.

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