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Steve DeLay's picture


A number of years ago, I had a job interview for a VP of Ticket Sales position with a major professional team. I was a relatively young buck and felt like I had the strategy the team needed to sell boatloads of tickets.

During the interview, I asked the team president, "What would you prefer to have happen, sell 75% of the building for every game or sell 100% for half the games and 50% for the other half of the games?" His response was immediate. "Sell 75% every game. We need decent crowds every night. We can't afford a half full building." He then went on to say the team needed to really ramp up season ticket sales. This even though the team barely averaged 60% capacity the last year and had just traded away it's two biggest stars.

I'm a huge believer in driving sellouts. Fans enjoy sellouts more. The media reports about sellouts more. People talk about sellouts more. Now, I don't advocate discounting tickets every game to sell out. You have to sell out and maximize revenue. Thankfully, I didn't go work for that team and have to battle with the team president about trying to sell season tickets for a team that hadn't had a sellout in years and languished in the bottom half of the league for the next 4-5 years.


I was reminded again of how valuable sellouts are last week. My co-author Jon Spoelstra and I are part owners of a summer collegiate baseball team in Savannah, GA. The Savannah Bananas. It's a brand-new team in the Coastal Plain League replacing the old Savannah Sand Gnats who left town last year for a new stadium in Columbia, SC. They Sand Gnats claimed they couldn't sell tickets and nobody wanted to go to old, decrepit Grayson Stadium.

We took a decidedly different view of the ballpark and the ability to get people to go to games. Instead of trying to sell season tickets, we focused on 5-game plans. We focused on group sales. We added value with all-you-can-eat ticket packages instead of discounting.

Guess what happened. Yep, we sold out the home opener last Thursday. In fact, we sold the game out three days in advance. After the opener sold out, people who missed out on going to the game started buying tickets to Friday's game. Yep, that game sold out as well.

The best line I heard the entire time I was there came from our group salesperson. He hung up the phone after a call and said, "This is nuts. All my group leaders for later games are calling to order additional tickets for those games because they heard we're sold out. I've never seen anything like this."

On Monday morning this week, we announced two more upcoming games were sold out. We then launched our only discount ticket offer, our Friends and Family offer modeled after the White Castle Friends and Family Deal Jon created years ago at the New Jersey Nets and we perfected at Mandalay Baseball. We sold 1800 tickets in 48 hours and announced another sellout. People were calling, buying on the internet saying, "I better get tickets before you sell out the season." Just check out the Bananas Single Game Ticket page and all those games marked "sold out".

If you're keeping count, that's five sellouts at 4,000 people/game. By the way, we only have about 300 full season tickets. The rest have come from smaller ticket packages and group sales. Grind it out, sell in advance ticket sales. The old Sand Gnats struggled to sell even 2,000 tickets per game during their last five years.

Will we have a few bad games? Maybe. A Monday in July in Georgia is not a pleasant time to be outside. However, the snowball affect of sellouts begats more sellouts. We now think the team might sell out half their games this year in their inaugural season. Next year, probably 75% of the games sold out and in year three we're targeting selling out the season.

Guess what we'll be talking to prospective sponsors about in the off-season? Guess how easy it will be to renew and upgrade those ticket package buyers. Would we have had this rush if we sold 2500 or 3000 tickets for the first two games. No chance. Bad ballpark? Not really. In fact, our only problem is having to set up more temporary concession stands to feed all these fans.

Sellouts are the key to selling tickets. That sounds like a Yogi Berrism. But, why don't more teams focus on sellouts. Instead, they beat people up to buy season tickets. Crazy.

If you want to know more about how we did it, send me an email or check out the Strategy & Tactics section of The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House. We followed it pretty much to a T and look what happens.

Steve DeLay is co-author with Jon Spoelstra of "The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House" and "The Ultimate Toolkit - Sponsorships", complete systems on tickets and sponsorships designed to raise revenue in staggering amounts. 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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