February 21, 2022

A Decade in Ticketing Analytics: Everyone Wins

Ticket pricing and ticketing analytics has been one of the most consistently discussed topics at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. We have hosted panels or had speakers talk about their work in this space in every conference for the past ten years. As fans are now going back to stadiums and arenas after being noticeably absent during COVID, it seems to be an optimal time to review some of the highlights shared over the past ten years and take a look at how these conversations have shifted over that time. 

2012: We started with a speech by Rob Stavins and a panel moderated by our very own Jessica Gelman that discussed dynamic pricing and learning how to apply the behaviors seen on secondary ticket markets like StubHub to a team’s ticket pricing model. It was not as simple as taking consumer behaviors on the secondary market and applying them to season tickets; these leagues and teams needed to take a look at which attributes were most valued and how these attributes interacted to provide useful information. 

2013: Case studies from a TicketMaster subsidiary, LiveAnalytics were presented where they focused on providing tailored and targeted information to fans and collecting information from fans via surveys that drove analytics provided to teams and leagues regarding ticket pricing. One of the cases included looking at the NFL’s performance in ticket pricing as they did not allow teams to deploy dynamic or variable pricing at that time.

We also presented another panel on ticketing analytics that included members from the 2012 version but this panel provided discussion on ticketing differences across sports from soccer to baseball to football and how dynamics in different cities shape decisions. They also briefly touched on the start of the shift from paper tickets to hard plastic cards for season ticket holders in Kansas City.

2014: A panel discussing analytics across the sports business talks about the burgeoning shift of customers toward mobile ticketing. A StubHub representative mentions that between 40 and 50% of customers are searching for tickets on mobile devices, the key would be using data to convert these searches into ticket sales.

2015: An entirely new panel talked about the continued emergence of dynamic and variable pricing and how higher percentages of teams were utilizing these concepts for their pricing models. They also discussed how customers were now likely to purchase tickets from mobile devices and how teams were beginning to use that to improve the customer experience.

2016: This year’s panel was titled “How, Where, What: Ticketing Analytics” and focused heavily on partnerships throughout the NBA. At the time, the NBA had a relationship with Ticketmaster but each team could partner with whoever they felt was most aligned. These relationships drove improvements in the customer experience from purchasing the ticket to transferring the ticket securely to getting into the event. Another topic of heavy discussion was the continued shift to digital ticketing, including the introduction of some teams who were already going fully digital.

2017: Branded “Beyond the Seat: Future of Ticketing Marketplace”, this panel discussed the Ticketmaster and Facebook partnership that allowed Facebook users to buy tickets from Ticketmaster using the payment methods already provided through their Facebook account. The major players are now becoming increasingly focused on streamlining and removing friction from the ticket-buying process. Additionally, the panel talked about how TV revenues are coming into play when teams think about how they build new stadiums and price tickets. Ticket sales are no longer the only way that teams generate heavy revenue. They need to be thinking about the TV presentation which might impact the in-person experience.

2018: In a panel called “Ticketing Analytics: Data & Digital Create a New Order” discussions take place about how the old days of pricing tickets without an immense amount of data are over. Dynamic and variable pricing are now widely used as well as digital entry methods (at this point over 50% of NBA teams have gone away from paper tickets). These pricing models are becoming so complex that they require internal teams and significant partnerships to adequately take advantage of all available data.

2019: A big year in ticketing content, the SSAC hosted a speaker dedicated to ticketing in baseball as well another panel, this time focused on “open distribution.” The speaker was Chris Giles who has actually since left his then position with the Oakland Athletics to start a company focused on a ticketing subscription product. Chris talks about how what the customer wants is evolving as a new generation of fans is being ushered in.

Open distribution for ticket sales means that fans can purchase tickets wherever they feel most comfortable. They are no longer restricted to partners of the respective sports leagues. This shift really took off in 2018 and this panel reviews the first year of this major shift. This change was the result of tracking customer data for over a decade.

2020: We hosted Kristen Mackie, a former Sloanie and co-lead for SSAC 2014 and now the Director of Strategy and Analytics for the NFL as she continued the discussion for open distribution of tickets for the NFL and how they are continuing to learn more about fans so that the NFL can market the right products and tickets to them.

2021: The virtual panel titled “Adapting on the Fly: The Future of Ticketing” discussed the challenges that came from COVID and how teams and leagues adapted to fanless games and what they expected going forward as fans return. They also talk about the changes to the primary and secondary market behaviors as a result of COVID and the partnerships between the ticket distributors and leagues.

In 2022, we will continue to discuss how ticketing can be used to improve the fan experience, make sure to check out the panel while at the conference!