One of the top topics asked about so far? Real, significant changes? Have you shared your thoughts with me about the “pod-ference” yet? Please do!
I’m looking at making a trip to Paris, London, and Birmingham from 11 March to 20 March. The final details are still being worked out, but I’ll keep y’all in the loop. I’m busting out and breaking free.
I also was on ‘Scott’s Takes’ and I decided to create a list of a few things I think in sportsbiz right now in honor of the Super Bowl. (Matt Wolff sent me a message saying that I was fired up. You decide.)
To the Tickets!
1. The Big Story: UEFA teams lost $4.5B during the pandemic:
- Ticket sales were down 88% for UEFA teams.
- That’s $4.5B in income.
- If you ask yourself where a lot of ideas about club world cups, additional world cups, more fixtures, etc. are coming from…look no further.
We get it, 2020 and 2021 were kicks in the shin for everyone!
The numbers from UEFA are really illustrative of a larger challenge that people around the world were dealing with as the pandemic shut down events, locked out crowds, and destroyed businesses.
As everyone works to fight out of the hangover from the pandemic, this report is a good place to look to be reminded of three things:
- There is no magic wand that will eliminate all of the losses.
- Re-opening isn’t recovery.
- The hard work of marketing and selling live events needs to be our focus.
First off, there is no magic wand that will turn these losses, in the billions, into break evens or profits.
Think in terms of the idea of “sunk costs”. These expenses and losses are sunk costs and you aren’t going to get them back, no matter what happens.
Your only recourse is just to deal with the situation as it is.
How do you do this?
You begin by understanding the situation: diagnosis.
Coming up with a plan: strategy
Executing the plan: tactics.
Follow the process, take your time to get the strategy right, and focus your execution on delivering on your strategy.
Second, as I’ve mentioned before, “re-opening isn’t recovery”.
This simply means that just because you’ve flung open the doors, that doesn’t mean folks are rushing right back to buy tickets.
You are going to need to have your plan in place to re-connect with your audience, give them a reason to return, and make them feel safe.
Finally, realize that the rebuilding process will take time. The need to market and sell is constant in the best of times, but now it is more important than ever before.
This really means that you are going to have to move beyond the “we’ve always done it this way” thinking into the unchartered territory of “this might not work, but I have to try it.”
I don’t actually know how different this is than the before times, but focus on the customer, be consistent in your efforts, and realize that folks will get together…they always have.
2. The Road to Recovery: Customers want peace of mind:
- Refund protection uptake has doubled in many places since before the pandemic.
- This is behavioral segmentation in action.
- Give the customer what they want.
Let’s not bury the lede: check out me and Simon Mabb in Sportico! Ha! Ha!
The fastest way to get into the newsletter?
Say something nice about me, quote me in something, or invite me to do something. BTW, I’ll be giving a lecture to Ken Troupe’s contemporary topics in sports class on the 15th.
The data on guests returning to shows and events right now is pretty clear. Where there are spikes in the coronavirus, we see challenges with people buying tickets or attending.
We see the fear of illness still impacting decision-making.
This is a story as long as human history.
When there is a contagion floating among us, most people act cautiously.
In uncertain times, you have to recognize that people are going to be looking for peace of mind, more certainty, and more security.
Flexibility in ticket exchange policies can help, but one key idea that came up a lot over the last year is the idea of refund protection.
Again, peace of mind.
The data in many places shows that ticket buyers have doubled their uptake of refund protection since before the pandemic.
In the United States, the numbers were always a little higher. But this trend has held around the world.
You are seeing people tick the box for refund protection.
There are three lessons to take away from this data:
- Customers want peace of mind. You see it in their action.
- The virus is still impacting people’s behavior.
- Not offering some sort of flexibility or solution for coronavirus interruptions can act as a barrier for a lot of ticket buyers.
How do you cope with this?
First, you should come up with a plan for how you want to deal with your ticket buyers. Many of you have, but not everyone has. So come up with a plan now.
Second, think about the lingering impact of some of these behaviors. Peace of mind and uncertainty are likely to stick around for some time. So make your decisions built around what the implications would be if folks were more cautious than they were before?
Finally, recognize that when you are taking action in a VUCA environment, your decision-making process is likely going to need to be quicker and you are going to be operating with less certainty in your decision-making process.
And, that’s okay.
Because in most instances, the challenge is getting stuck in place and not taking action.
3. How-To: Think differently about commercialization:
- Love this piece because it moves from the mass to the special.
- De-commercialization requires a different mindset.
- Right now is a good time to reflect on new ways of thinking.
In the before times, I talked about change a lot.
Now change is our constant companion.
One thing the pandemic has taught us is that the pursuit of “MORE” might have its limits.
I was chatting to my buddy, Rob Cressy, and he said that he realized he had a huge hole in his business…fans in the building could go away.
As crazy as that sounded at the time, lo and behold, it was true.
This piece uses two examples that I dig: The Dead and Radiohead, to show off this concept of de-commercialization.
In the before times, folks would ask me about my pricing or how I ran things and my answer would always be something of the variety of “I’m one of one, not one of many.”
That’s at the core of de-commercialization in the way that I think about it…making the unique and special reflect that.
This is a challenge to many people’s mindset because we’ve had the idea of “MORE” and “scale” beaten into us for so long now that we can’t see things any other way, but what if the opposite was true?
What if the answer was more intimacy and more exclusivity?
Look at the Eddie Vedder and the Earthlings tour: tickets to see Eddie Vedder and his band are selling for over $500 through the Platinum Program and people are raving about it.
Last week, I pointed y’all to the example of Coachella’s NFT drop with lifetime tickets…that’s a good example of de-commercialization and making the special and unique really special and unique.
As I’ve been sitting here in my office, backyard, and traveling when possible, I’ve been confronted with a few questions that I think are worth thinking about right now:
- Do I want to do things the same way that I did them before the pandemic?
- What would a new way of doing things look like?
- How can I flip my mindset to think about things from a new POV?
I’d challenge all of you to go through that process right now because now is as good a time as any to rethink the way you’ve done things.
4. Profile/Tech/Tools: Women’s sports continues to grow viewership in the UK:
- I told you that women’s sports provided a good opportunity.
- The WSL has the biggest women’s TV contract in the world.
- The WNBA just received a valuation of $1B.
Ahh, there is nothing I like more than to tell you I told you so?!
I kid. I kid.
I only say that because experts make predictions and I find that many of my predictions are right.
So…did I tell you so?!
Okay, back to the story at hand.
Women’s sports is having a moment.
The Washington Spirit just set an American record for sales price at $35M. The WNBA has a fresh logo, cool merch, and a $1B valuation.
The Hundred saw women watch around 41% of the time for the new competition. The WSL just signed the largest TV contract for women’s sports. And, I saw a little girl wearing a Tottenham Hotspur top at her practice the other night when I was wandering around the pitches and it had Alex Morgan’s name on it, not Harry Kane’s.
What does all of this mean?
Well, first, don’t be a numpty.
Women make up half or more of the population. It is more than half because dudes are idiots and die younger because we do dangerous things, try to peacock for attention, and have other risk factors that make us expire earlier and more frequently.
Its evolution, baby!
So why wouldn’t women want to watch women’s sports?
Women work out. Women run. Women play soccer, Aussie rules, netball, and almost everything else the same way that men do.
It is just a natural evolution.
If you make a product available that has a large market segment, you’ll likely see folks use that product.
Second, the growth is amazing because of how underserved the market was. This isn’t a “maturing” market, but one that was underserved.
And, it highlights the need to do the proper work of marketing.
I’ll point you once again to the work of the AFLW and how they went in, did their research, and found that there was this huge area of opportunity that AFLW could fill that wasn’t being served by anyone else.
This is what is happening with women’s sports now.
Finally, building off of the proper work of segmentation, the market for women’s sports and men’s sports is often entirely different.
This means that you target differently, but more importantly you position yourself differently.
Again, the AFL v. AFLW is a good example to look at.
You are not going to see the same sheer speed or physical attributes in the AFLW that you might be seeing in the AFL.
That’s down to genetics.
But you might see a more strategic game, a different game that is more accessible to a fan because of the different physical attributes on display.
It doesn’t mean that one game is better than the other. It means that they are different.
It is due to the differences that you can see opportunity. To get fans into the team, game, or league. To sell tickets, merchandise, or TV rights. And, to build an audience.
It is the same here as anywhere. It is just that in too many places people don’t want to see that you don’t need a sledgehammer when your brain will do.
5. Links and Blurbs:
Coachella uses NFTs to offer lifetime tickets: I’ll be curious to see what the execution of this looks like because the art aspect has been kind of a mess so far unless you don’t understand how to right-click. I don’t because I use a Mac.
Donate your hair, get two tickets to Betis v. Villareal: I dig this. This one is good. Do good and good will follow. Also, when you think about pricing, you realize that pricing is about value and offering an exchange of value increases the likelihood that these tickets will be used.
“Pay What You Wish” may come to India: NYers know this idea well. This is the way you go to the Met. I don’t know what it would cause on a global level for all of the monuments in a country, but if the Radiohead experiment with the album, In Rainbows, you can make a lot more money by giving people the chance to pay what they want. I’ve also been a part of fundraising campaigns where we have used language like, “every penny counts” that have driven up the number and percentage of donors and also increased average gift size at the same time.
Costs rise in nightclubs: I’m sure this is a well-trod road. But I started out in nightclubs and while you make bank on drinks, it is still a pretty capital-heavy business. So seeing 26% rise in costs is alarming.
I was in Sportico with Simon Mabb this week talking about Booking Protect, refund protection, and what customers want and need now. Give it a read.
You can find me everywhere with my special Linktree! It is all my links!
Be a part of the ‘Talking Tickets’ Slack community.
Check out my friends at Booking Protect! Customers have been taking up refund protection at a rate that is double what it was before the pandemic began. This is a great opportunity for you to offer more value to your customers in a way that they want while also creating a new revenue stream for your organization.
Check out last week’s podcast conversation with Ruth Hartt. She’s really great on the topic of customer focus and customer orientation. If you’ve ever had questions about understanding the customer, this is a bit of a masterclass on the topic! I’m going to work on dropping a new podcast episode today. I have a few ready to go, but they need some formatting…so the joys of podcasting.