Talking Tickets 26 March 2021: The Royal Opera House! Major League Rugby! Brokers and Corporate Buyers! Women’s Sports! And, More!

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This email finds me out of the house! I’m off to Roanoke, Virginia today for a BIG travel soccer match. 

Wish me luck! 

Happy Hour today minus me! But Ken will be manning the ship, Matt might have internets trouble!

If you like what is going on here, share it. 

Did you see the story of the case of Bordeaux that was sent to space for a year? 

Another good reason to go to Bordeaux, space wine! I know I’m not getting space wine, but I do need to get to Bordeaux…

To the Tickets!


1. The Royal Opera House is re-opening and the way they’ve adapted to the pandemic teaches us about the importance of being Market Oriented:

I still believe we don’t really know much about how things will look after the pandemic and won’t until the pandemic is actually behind us. 

We are getting there, but we aren’t quite there yet. 

I can still highlight agility because that’s something I can be certain will matter once this is over. 

A lot of the folks I’ve received emails, texts, or calls from this week have been sure to highlight the idea that “re-opening isn’t recovery” this week. 

I agree. 

And, it is good news that the Royal Opera House is set to re-open from 17 May. 

They’ve been an institution that has worked hard to adjust to the pandemic and expand the reach of their institution during the pandemic. 

Let’s look at the numbers: 

  • They’ve had 9.5 million views of their Friday performances over the past year. 
  • They’ve reached 800 million folks in 200 countries with their archived performances. 

This is great because they jumped in with both feet. Many folks have drug their feet, dipped a toe in, or sort of twirled, waiting for a magic bullet that would return everything to normal.

The Royal Opera House has gone the other way to Market Orientation. 

Again, all that means is getting the voice of the customer inside the organization. And, when they did they found that their customers still loved opera, still wanted to see opera, and still wanted to support them. Also, they found that their target audience could be much bigger because they were constrained by previous practices. 

Another example is Ten Lifestyle Group and how they’ve adapted to the pandemic. 

I first worked with them during the Miami Beach Pop Festival project back in 2019. 

They are great about driving new ideas and finding new ways to engage with their customers. That’s held up during the pandemic when Ten has had to adjust their business model to continue to serve their global customer base. They’ve achieved this by creating streaming events, helping their members prioritize their potential shows when shows come back, and finding new ways to offer value with experiences. 

Again, Market Orientation with Ten Lifestyle Group. Here are some examples:

  • Researched their market to find out that the Asian market liked streaming events less than North America. So they adjusted. 
  • Recognizing that with so much potential inventory coming on the market, it would be difficult to keep up with everything so they created a solution. 
  • Understood that being in isolation didn’t mean being bored. So they created events with the cast from popular shows for many different markets. 

What does the customer want and need?

The final example here is about going forward. 

The Orlando Magic had a spot in Tisha Thompson’s piece on the future of tickets and their Fast Break Pass is a great sign of Market Orientation! 

The program that the Magic and Season Share have put together just makes sense. I talked with Aaron Holland a while back on my podcast but the idea of Market Orientation really penetrates both the Magic and Season Share. 

Here they are giving people the opportunity to experience games when they are comfortable, in different locations, and with great flexibility. 

The technology solution is simple to apply but the big challenge is the mindset. That’s what we need to highlight: you will need the proper mindset to come out of the pandemic successfully. 


Because trends will have accelerated, our lives will have changed, and we probably have seen the things we value change. 

So being Market Oriented is a must. We can all do it, but we have to get in the right mindset:

  • Understand that the customer creates the value, we don’t.
  • Understand what you think the customer wants doesn’t matter and can be dangerous.
  • Be willing to get into the market to listen to customers. 

2. Octagon and Major League Rugby research the market:

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been harping on the need to be smarter about the research…a lot. 

There are a few reasons for this:

  • First, we hear all of this talk about data and most of the time folks are just overwhelmed with it and don’t know what to do with it. Big Data is over $122 Billion industry now. Of course, folks are going to tell you you need more…have to feed the maw. 
  • Second, because data is so confusing and there are so many folks telling you things that often contradict each other, I’m trying to help show folks that I work with and talk to that you can turn data into something useful. 
  • Third, being a good marketer requires research and I’ve often not talked about that enough. Great marketers don’t guess is the thing I tell my clients, but I haven’t really highlighted it enough in my talks and writing. 

That brings us to Major League Rugby and the research they did with Octagon. 

The idea that someone would do a deep dive research study on the market is great. My opinion is that you should always be in the market and this study should be a foundational tool to keep the ongoing understanding of their market going. 

For all of you that are trying to figure out how to make your business customer-ready after the pandemic, there are a few things we all need to understand about research to use it effectively. 

First, let me drop in a plug for my ALSD article on Backward Market Research

Okay, important things to recognize about market research:

  • You start with the realization that you need research because in most cases you don’t actually know what your customer is thinking. 
  • To do it effectively, you need to balance qualitative and quantitative forms of research. Like ethnography, focus groups, and individual chats on the one side. Surveys and tests on the other side. 
  • The ideal mix of your research is contextual but every research project should include a little qual and a little quant. 

Why am I bringing this up today? 

First, you have to be careful not to bias the research by making assumptions or designing the research to confirm your hypothesis. 

In Backward Market Research, you start with the question you want to answer, but you don’t let that bias the way you do your research. 

Second, you need to do research regularly. 

I can’t find the number, but most companies aren’t regularly doing much market research. You should be doing some kind of research all the time. 

Again, this sounds like a lot but if you are mixing qual and quant, it shouldn’t be. 

Third, you need research to make wise decisions. 

If you aren’t doing market research and you aren’t listening to your customers, you are guessing. Or, worse. 

From here it opens up the conversation about segmentation: done by behavior, not some other less effective measure. 

Targeting: picking your focus.

Positioning: against or for the competition.

The key is to start with the idea that you don’t know anything until you ask your market what they want or need. 

Research is easier to come by and cheaper than you imagine these days, but DATA has us largely overwhelmed by the opposite idea. 

3. Serie A and growing the business of a league or team:

I feel like I’ve covered the Italian football league a decent amount over the last year. They’ve been in talks to have sell part of their media rights to a private equity firm and the deal has been going on for a long time. 

And, I love soccer. 

The ways that global football is changing due to the influence of American private equity firms has been a big topic this week

But what all of these different scenarios have in common is that they show the importance of strategy.

If you remember, strategy is about two important questions:

  • Where will you compete?
  • How will you win? 

When you are making decisions on partners and the direction of your organization, you need to be aware of the answers to the questions. 

Last week, I talked about the Big Bash League. (BTW, I’m still open to becoming their new CEO. Call me.) The BBL’s story is similar to Serie A in that both of them are looking to bring on new partners and expand into new markets. 

This week, Serie A sold their TV rights to Paramount+. (So many streaming services now. I seem to have most of them.) 

The top article points to the challenge of having a clear vision and direction for the league as being one of the big issues that they are dealing with. That’s not an Italian football challenge because the pandemic has shown that’s just a global problem. 

But it is a challenge that I am able to tackle because it really comes down to marketing and growth. 

If I’m advising Serie A, I’m starting out by taking a step back to get a good look at the situation. I follow that up by looking at the research. Then, I’m working my way through a solid strategy session so that I can go into every deal with a clear understanding of what I’m attempting to win in the long-term for the league. 

SMART Objectives: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Ambitious
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

All of this drives into your tactics which is where all of this comes to life. 

That’s what is kind of cool about watching Manchester United do their business. This week they signed up a new shirt sponsor, TeamViewer. 

What is interesting here is that Man U is Market Oriented. Having researched the organization for a brand study I’m working on and a talk I gave a few years ago, they know their market. And, by being customer-driven, they didn’t take the biggest deal but they took the one that was likely to have the biggest impact. 

This all came together for me this week when I saw a video from Canada about the potential for a CFL/XFL merger.

Strategy and the marketing mix eventually add up to Brand and brand equity. 

The video from the Canadian journalist is interesting because it lays out the history of Canadian football and some of the past dances they’ve had with American football. 

The big argument here is that without the three downs and the shape of the field and some of the specifically Canadian aspects of the game, what is the CFL? 

That’s Brand. 

I tie them all together because they all go hand-in-hand. 

You start with your strategy and all the pieces that go into that like STP, funnels, and objectives. 

From there you build up your marketing mix to make the strategy come to life: product, price, place, and promotion. 

And, in the end, that all adds up to your brand. 

4. Corporate buyers are selling their tickets on the secondary market:

Allow me to say to the folks that said, “Oh, no man, you are wrong?” 

I was right! I was always right! I’m still right! 

Now that I’m done saying, “I told you so” let’s get back to business here. 

This story along with the announcement from the CMA that indicates that the StubHub/Viagogo merger is moving closer points us to the Marketing Mix. 

A few things on the marketing mix. If someone tries to BS you and tell you that the 4 Ps don’t matter anymore, run, put your checkbook back in your pocket until you can get me on the phone. 

You don’t have to update the 4 Ps, they’ve worked just fine for over 100 years:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

And, don’t touch this stuff without a strategy in place. Strategy before tactics. 

The lessons we can learn here are pretty important. 

Product: I’ve been telling you this for years now. The corporate customers are fed up with the amount of tickets they are eating and they are looking to get out from under their purchases because they don’t see the value. 

A quick refresh on the product and its three layers:

  • The actual product
  • The core value
  • The augmented product

This matters because in too many instances it is, “Look, here’s the ticket, here’s your seat, and…would you like some food?” 

Sure the seats might be slightly nicer and you’d have some nibbling around the edge type benefits, but you’d never really dig deep on what the customer needs. 

Customers want value and they want a holistic solution. If it’s about tickets and beer, they can go to the secondary market. 

As the article at the top shows, they know how to go there already. 

Price: Another thing that has come out of my conversations with corporate buyers is the frustration that they feel like they have to train the team’s salespeople to sell to them, they have to buy a lot of tickets that they don’t really need, and they aren’t getting the value they need. 

So, they look at me and say, “Why are we also paying out the nose for this privilege?”

I’ve got some ideas on pricing. But from the number of empty seats before the pandemic, it is pretty clear that somewhere the value proposition between fan and live game was broken a lot of the time…and that starts with the price since the price is the point where value, the team, and the customer come together. 

You probably need to know about the pricing thermometer if you don’t already. This was created by some smart folks at Harvard, but it is pretty easy to illustrate on a notecard. 

If you can’t read my scratch, the three things to know here are:

  • COGS (Cost of Goods and Services)
  • True Economic Value
  • Perceived Value

Most pricing is done by sticking your finger in the air and seeing which way the wind blows. This is what drives people to spend so much energy and time trying to tell me that discounts don’t kill your brand. 

(Again, top B schools teach my stuff on discounts! I’m right! Discounts destroy!) (Also, having had people email me and tell me their professors are teaching my articles on discounting…I’m insufferable now!?) 

Anyway, back to pricing.

Pricing needs to be done better. 

Russ Stanley talked about not raising prices during a pandemic when he chatted with Tisha Thompson. A lot of folks aren’t heeding his advice and are just rolling on like nothing has changed. 

That’s two different theories of pricing on display. 

I’ve got another way. 

Here are three things to remember about pricing:

  • Pricing requires research.
  • Pricing is the most important marketing decision you might make. 
  • Don’t discount. Set the right price from the start. 

Place: This is what a lot of the secondary market talk is all about, the means of distribution. 

Keep in mind, there is no right distribution system. There is only the distribution model that is right for your product or service. 

The companies selling their tickets are taking advantage of the leverage that the secondary market gives them to recoup some of their spending. But let’s be realistic here, this is the first move, not the last one. 

For y’all, you have to make the decision about direct and indirect distribution, sure. Every country and ticket ecosystem makes those decisions. And, the reality is that for many organizations making the decision to allow some form of indirect distribution makes a ton of sense because selling tickets isn’t always a core competency. 

The key is we have to make a conscious decision to get our tickets in the right place at the right time. And, just having a “ticket free for all” where your tickets show up everywhere all the time may not be the right answer. 

Distribution needs to be thought about consciously. 

Promotion: Too many marketers have allowed themselves to become the coloring-in department. 

Obviously, that ain’t my game. 

I believe marketing is one of the two most important things any business does. 

I’m going quick overview on the 4 Ps here, but this promotion idea could get its own webinar, training day, and novel because it is really the way that the tickets are showing up in the market. 

To keep this simple, I’m going to talk about sales and how the boiler room mentality is destroying the value of tickets. 

Your sales team is a way to promote your products and services. 

This often means that sales and marketing stand in opposition to each other because marketing is working to maximize profit and sales is working to maximize revenue. They aren’t the same thing. 

Revenue is what you bring in. Profit is what you keep. 

It is a distinction that people say they know but still seems to jam people up. 

Marketing is talking to the customer, understanding the value, and recognizing that not every customer is a good customer. 

Sales get the deals across the line and without the proper incentives that will come at the cost of brand value, profit, or bringing on the wrong customers. 

This is why the sales and promotions efforts have to be led by marketing so that the value is retained, promoted, and captured. Sales, advertising, and promotions support that, but they do not drive it. 

This was a big one, but what does it mean? 

A few quick ones: 

  • Strategy before tactics. 
  • The 4 Ps still matter and help you make sure you aren’t missing something. 
  • Price is the most important marketing decision you might make. 
  • Don’t let the tactics drive the strategy. 

I knew some version of this corporate buyer story was coming. The challenge is that in too many cases, the belligerence of bad ideas means that no one can admit there is a challenge that needs to be tackled or that everything isn’t puppies and rainbows. 

My ALSD column this month will probably go live today and it is about the actions you can take to turn around the sales conversations with corporate buyers. But the first step is admitting that you aren’t your customer and getting out into the world to understand what they need and value because selling excess inventory on the secondary market isn’t an end, only a beginning. 

5. Marketing women’s sports:

We come to the point in the program where we talk about branding. 

What is funny is that I learned a trick that has helped me write more extensive posts each week in less time, an outline. 

If you’ve noticed, the last few months these things build on each other through the marketing framework I teach my clients: 

  • Strategy first.
  • Tactics second.
  • Brand is the capstone. 

Enough about this but it does open the door to discuss branding again. 

Y’all know that I love Australia and am totally going back as soon as I can get back into Australia! 

(Screw it! Another picture from Australia! Real shrimp on the barbie!) 

One thing I love about Australia is their focus on innovation, their dedication to highlighting their indigenous population, and the way that they treat women’s sport as a valuable product in the market. 

Is it a straight line? No. Is it perfect? No. 

But they are doing a better job than most folks. 

This matters because the success of women’s sports really comes down to marketing. 

In many places, there seems to be a reluctance to give women’s professional sports the attention it deserves. 


I’m sure being short-sighted is one reason because it is much easier to jump on something that is already moving like a lot of men’s sports. 

I’d also be lying if I didn’t think there was a bit of misogyny going on because sports business is still dominated by sportsbiz bros. 

And, I’d also be pulling punches if I said I didn’t think part of it is due to the fact that the work is difficult. Building anything is difficult and the marketing challenge of building up women’s professional sports needs real marketing chops that don’t exist in every organization. 

(Again, not a sports business or ticket business only challenge…most marketers are god awful that why my research turned up the idea that 80% of CEOs don’t trust their marketing department.) 

I’m sure you have your own reasons as well. 

The important thing is that by not doing the proper marketing work to support women’s sports, all of sports business is undermined. 


Globally, women are half the population. If you spend enough time telling half your market that they aren’t important, they are going to eventually believe you. 

That should tell you that you need to step back and look at the world through the eyes of your market because from the start half the time the customer doesn’t look like you. Do the math! 

More importantly, women have spending power and influence over the purchase. The global income of women is going to hit $24 trillion dollars in the next few years. 

Forget being woke or not woke, that’s a lot of money and I only need to cut off a little bit of that to be doing pretty well for myself. 

I thought about this when I was selling tickets day-to-day. I’d say that around 60% of the sales I made were to women. 

And, I’m probably underestimating that. 

The key is that women’s sports require a greater deal of thoughtfulness to overcome this marketing issue. 

The stories coming out of the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments this week highlight the issue that you can’t just expect folks to do the right thing.

You have to force folks to do the right thing. You have to create incentives and sometimes they have to stick around forever, but economic carrots and sticks, social carrots and sticks, or regulation. All of them are potential avenues. 

I’m inclined to follow the money. 

All of this is branding which as I’ve explained in the past is the accumulation of all the touchpoints you have with your market, good and bad. 

How do we turn this into a story of success and opportunity? 

First, people have got to step back and realize that this is about creating new business. 

Remember, the first step in marketing is a step back to see what you are dealing with. 

Second, do some research. 

When I was picking up take away from my favorite area restaurant on Tuesday, a woman stopped me and the boy on the sidewalk because I had on my Tottenham training top. 

She said, “Y’all are Tottenham fans? We love Tottenham and they have Alex Morgan.” 

Alex Morgan came back to America, but the fact that they love Alex Morgan so they love Tottenham shows the power of positive brand associations. 

Just do the research and look at the kinds of behavior your market is taking. 

From my encounter on the street and my knowledge of the meaningful/actionable grid I can guess a few important attributes were in play:

  • American
  • Fan of sports and engage with sports content regularly
  • Have kids, but especially daughters

I’m sure there are some other behaviors at play as well like playing sports, buying certain things, etc. But the important thing here is go do your research and look at the customer’s behaviors. 

Finally, design your touchpoints in a way that reflects the different customers in your market. 

I’ve been talking about women here, but part of the issue with not being Market Oriented is that you forget that there are black folks, Spanish folks, Indian folks, Asian folks, and white folks…plus the hundreds of other kinds of folks that I’m leaving out. And, they all are going to come at these games and events from different viewpoints. 

This is also a really good argument for segmentation by behavior…but we will cover that later. 

The thing is that supporting women’s sports is the right thing to do, sure, because half the population is female and they watch and play sports too. But it is also a big business opportunity and the folks that invest in it now are likely to have a huge advantage because the costs of reaching these segments of the market are cost-effective now in a way that they may not be in the future. 

One more thing, solving women’s sports marketing problem doesn’t mean just slapping around a bunch of pink and saying it is for women. That’s pinkwashing and in my house, I think the boys wear more pink than the girls. 


I’m in Roanoke! But I’ll be back in DC tomorrow. 

Go to the website for my blog and all my latest shenanigans! I added a quick one with 10 marketing principles to sell tickets post-pandemic since folks are super into marketing now. 

Listen to the podcast, lots of cool stuff going on including more mini-episodes. Let me know what you like or don’t like on the podcast and what you need more of as I ramp up the feed some more. 

My NPS score this quarter has gone up to 60! I’m going to keep the rating openanother few days, but I’ve learned that y’all like it when I share my personal stories and when I go deeper and further afield. 

As a way to help y’all use NPS and understand it, I’ve teamed up with Eventellect to create a worksheet on NPS and how to do one for yourself. Email me and I’ll send it over. 

They got a 77! I’m jealous! 

Check out Booking Protect. As shows return, offering refund protection is a wise decision to help overcome anxiety and concern about cancellations and sickness. Check them out and talk with Cat, Cath, Simon, or anyone on the Booking Protect team. 

See what Activity Stream is up to. Einar, Martin, and the team are hard at work in their lab, putting the finishing touches on a great new addition to their tool that will help you use data to make better targeting decisions and if you’ve been following along, the path is research, segment, target. Activity Stream can help.

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