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Forbes Magazine Got It Wrong

Steve DeLay's picture

I'm watching declining ticket sales in 2015, what trend are you watching?

Don't let them fool you.

Forbes Magazine ran an article about emerging sports trends that industry pros are going to be watching in 2015. You can read it here. Now, maybe the headline fooled me. The article asked for emerging sports trends and declining attendance for sports teams has been a trend for a few years. It's not new, despite all the stories about increasing season ticket numbers and average attendance. Or, maybe I get fooled by 'announced attendance' for sports events and then see highlights of those games and buildings look half or 2/3 empty.

There were 85 sports professionals quoted in the article. Two mentioned the fan experience directly. None mentioned the cost of attending a game or that attendance is stagnant or going down in many markets. It seemed like social media, digital engagement, bigger video-boards and a whole bunch of other non-revenue trends are what people care about these days.

Then again, maybe talking about ticket sales wasn't sexy enough for Forbes. Heck, more sales training isn't cool. Ticket prices so high a family can only go to one game a year doesn't get readers down the slippery slope of the article.

Ticket Sales Still Matter

Despite the monstrous TV deals being thrown around, teams still need fans to attend games. Even at the major league level, ticket revenue is still the largest chunk of the revenue pie. At the college and minor league level, it's probably more than 50% of the pie. Think of the longer-term trend. If nobody goes to the games, less and less people become real, true fans. Less and less real, true fans means less and less viewers for those TV games. Less viewers eventually means less TV money.

There is a Twitter feed @emptyseatspics that does nothing other than send out pictures of sports venues with awful crowds. To be fair, there is also a @FullSeatspics twitter feed (probably twin brothers) that sends out pictures of full venues. The difference? @EmptySeatspics has 11,500 followers, @FullSeatspics has 1,275.

The potential Las Vegas NHL expansion team is kicking off a season ticket drive to prove to the league the city can support a team. The league didn't ask them to prove fans would support the team by getting Facebook Likes or Twitter followers. The NHL didn't publicly state the team had to have a lucrative local TV deal. It's all about will fans show up to support the team on a consistent basis.

The Florida Panthers are dead last in major pro sports in attendance (now that Chivas has folded)yet as of 12/30, they are 16-9 and solidly anchored in the playoffs in the East. Nobody talks about their record. They talk about the Panthers averaging barely 10,000 announced fans a game.

What 2015 should bring in sports

The trends I'm watching in 2015?

  • Will teams spend more time with on-going training of their salespeople? Not just bringing in an outside trainer for two days every six months but real, daily, weekly training with video cameras, one on one meetings and the manager going on sales calls. Or, will teams continue to pay lip service to training by saying, "We train in our weekly sales meeting."
  • Will teams stop trying to bribe fans in to buying season tickets when that's not the right product for them. Will more teams aggressively focus on full-menu marketing and sell the fan the ticket product that fits their schedule and their budget so people show up and then renew?
  • What will teams do to convince more corporations to buy ticket packages? Tickets are too expensive for teams to survive on 80% of their season base being individuals. They need more companies buying season tickets and ticket packages. Will they put a dedicated sales staff in place to focus 100% of their time on getting appointments and selling to corporations?

What are you watching?

P.S. If you want ideas on how to accomplish more in 2015 related to the trends I'm watching, check out, it's a treasure trove of ideas to sell more tickets to fans and corporations alike.

Steve DeLay is co-author with Jon Spoelstra of The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House, a comprehensive How To for teams and colleges to increase ticket sales covering strategy, tactics, marketing tools and training scripts. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeLay2.

Check out past Ticket Sales Thursday posts on The Migala Report.

Check out past Ticket Sales and Service articles on The Migala Report.

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