Thoughts About Season Tickets

A couple of things have come up recently about season tickets that I wanted to respond to.

First, much has been made about whether there’s much to make of the recent news that the Colts have yet to sell out their season tickets for 2012. On one extreme are those citing the hiring of Get Real Sports Sales and Jim Irsay’s defensive tweets as signs of how dire the situation is. Meanwhile, Colts Authority’s Todd Smith spoke directly with Larry Hall, Colts’ Vice President of Ticket Operations and Guest Services, who predictably painted a less dire picture. My perspective on this is that there IS a story here, but it’s been blown out of proportion.

Some in the media seem to have gotten an inordinate amount of pleasure highlighting an issue that was fairly predictable – (in my best Nelson Muntz voice) “HA HA! The Colts didn’t have a viable backup to Manning!… HA HA! The Colts only won 2 games without Manning!… HA HA! The Colts released a 4-time MVP and future Hall of Famer!… HA HA! The Colts released several other perennial fan favorites!… HA HA! The Colts season ticket holders haven’t all renewed!”  Well ya don’t say…

On a related note, I heard a blurb on the radio this afternoon about how angry regular season ticket holders will be when they learn that the seats next to them sell for x% of what they paid, as teams lower prices to spur sales. They’ll be bitter because they can’t afford a sip from the drinking fountain while their neighbor pigs out on $200 nachos and beer because they saved so much on their tickets.  It’s unfortunate that the most loyal fans will feel slighted by the teams to whom they are most loyal, but this is how a free market works! The concepts fall under labels like “supply and demand,” “game theory,” “diminishing marginal returns,” “reverse auctions,” etc.

Further, the system isn’t unique to sports tickets – airlines manipulate their prices to fill flights, groceries mark down fruit to avoid waste, and retail stores all around the world put products on sale every single day to clear inventory and usher in new styles. What these examples have in common is that the customer who buys later is actually buying a different product. That’s easier to see with fashion (which gets outdated) and fruit (which spoils), but with airlines and sports tickets, it may be less clear – flight 123 still gets passengers from point A to point B, and seats in the same section/row at 1pm on September 16 at Lucas Oil Stadium will still treat buyers to an equivalent view of a game between the Vikings and Colts. But what each early buyer has purchased is a level of certainty that they will have that particular seat, for that particular event, on that particular date. If you aren’t willing to pay that price, then you won’t get that level of certainty and you risk not being able to buy that product at a later date.  It’s really that simple.  Isn’t it?