People Need to Belong

People need to belong. This inherent need and desire doesn’t mean actually be possessed by someone, but rather be in relationship to and linked to other people. I got to thinking about this the other day when I was talking to someone about selling to different groups of people (we both work in the sport and entertainment industry). We happen to live in a very diverse area where there are many different nationalities and ethnicities of people, where every continent in the world is represented, including many different countries from all continents. Ok, maybe not Antarctica, but wouldn’t it be pretty cool to meet a native Antarctican? Haha – see what I did there…pretty COOL. And is Antarctican the right way to say this? Anyway, moving on.

The Psychological Aspect

The idea that people need to belong has apparently been studied by psychologists for over 100 years, which just goes to show how important and universal this feeling we all have is within us. Some of the research I’ve read has indicated that it all boils it down to the fact that belonging helps us survive. When you belonged to a group or tribe in the ancient times your likelihood of survival was much greater. It meant you had protection from enemies and help looking for food. Being with others meant you were more likely to survive. We still face many threats in our modern society now, however the shape of those threats has changed over time.

The sense of belonging is so strong that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates a sense of belonging as the third most important aspect of human life right after basic needs such as food, water, clothing and safety. Yeah, the fact that people need to belong is a big deal.

Belonging from a Business Perspective

My thinking about this inherent desire to belong is very closely related to business. In short, the sport and entertainment industry gives people a place to belong. Whatever it is that you’re interested in, you can belong here. At our events, you can belong and be in community with other people who you know you have at least one thing in common. Whether that is a concert, a family show, a sporting event, a banquet, a movie screening, a comedy show, a convention…when you’re here, you belong.

I see this sense of belonging and see the joy it brings to people every time I work an event. When you see people “in their element,” they look different. They smile. They stroll confidently. They jump up and down. They hug and kiss. You can tell they’re having a great time.

Niche Audiences

This is especially true for events that serve a very niche type of audience. I’m thinking specifically of comic book conventions, homebrewing conventions, crossfit competitions, tattoo festivals, dance festivals, political events and other niche events that serve a very specific audience. When these people get together, regardless of the type of things or ideas that bring them together, they feel like they belong to something greater than themselves. You personally may not agree with or engage in these types of activities, but for the people that do, that’s their “it” factor. That’s their zone. That’s where they feel normal and excited to talk and express who they are inside.

It’s probably a little bit easier to see how sports can bring people together…most of the readers of this blog probably know this very well. I wrote about this when the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl a few years ago.

Circling Back

Now think about what your hobbies are or what you get excited about and how you feel when you connect with someone who enjoys or does the same things. For the people that like things that are “different” than say what YOU like or enjoy, they get just as excited about their stuff as you do about your thing. So when it comes time to sell tickets or promote or market an event that’s going down, get excited about it because you’re giving someone a place to belong!

The great part about the work that I do is that I get to be part of an organization that gives people that place to belong. That place to be themselves and with others like them.

We’re all human.

And that makes it all worthwhile.

Ticket Analytics

Ticket Analytics - Seattle Mariners Media Guides
Seattle Mariners Media Guides – Ticket Analytics

Ticket analytics involves analyzing changes in ticket prices over time. Ticket price changes occur over time for a variety of reason and there are many tools and services you can use to track those changes, including two different websites I’ll mention here in a moment. Before we get to that though, it is important to try to understand why it is important to track these changes and what that means for your organization.

First of all, sports teams set their ticket prices at the beginning of each season based on the team’s performance the prior season, the current conditions of the facility in which they operate their home schedule of games, budget and accounting requirements for revenue goals, inflation, and the perceived value for tickets in the marketplace of their geographic location and general place in society. There are also several other unique and local factors that are outside the scope of this post on ticket analytics. Based on those inputs, the output is the final, published price for which tickets are sold as part of a plan or on a single ticket basis by the team or its distribution partners. Once those prices are published and the tickets are sold, the events for which those tickets grant access hold a perceived value in the hearts and minds of those who hold them and especially, for some events, those who don’t.

It’s been told that the secondary market for tickets began in the mid- to late 19th century with trans-continental railroad tickets for passengers trying to get across the country. Yes, ticket scalpers existed even back then and tried to turn a profit off of unsuspecting travelers trying to get around, surprise surprise. Given the changes in technology since then, we now have access to online ticket analytics tools that allow us to track the prices of tickets on the secondary market, giving teams more insight into the factors that influence the price thresholds that fans are willing to pay in order to gain admission to their often exclusive events.

Back in the early days of scalped train tickets and even up to our current decade for some sports, it was impossible to experience any type of event except in person, that is, until the dawn of television. Even now as many teams across the country and the globe struggle with ticket sales and do everything they can to develop a game experience that encourages live attendance and ticket sales, there is still much to learn about secondary market ticket prices and why they rise and fall they way they do, while still keeping access open to our lower and middle class fans. That is precisely where ticket analytics comes into play.

A few of the factors that influence ticket prices are team success, high-profile players, coaches, and owners (novelty effect), game experience and entertainment, team quality and winning percentage, opponent quality and winning percentage, economic factors of the community, both local and national, and numerous other factors that are too numerous to list here. Given those known factors, we can now track price changes of ticket prices on the secondary market and begin to draw some conclusions as to how accurately teams are pricing their tickets. With that information we can learn and eventually implement variable and dynamic ticket price changes in order to compete with the secondary market for better ticket sales performance and overall revenue. Assuming an accurate account of these numerous economic factors and the known price changes over time, teams can learn to better price their tickets over time in advance and alongside these market factors and get ahead of the secondary market. Perhaps this process may end in a game of diminishing returns, but that has yet to be seen.

So now for my two recommendations on ticket analytics tracking websites – SeatGeek and TiqIQ. Both of these websites offer great information, but more so with the fan in mind and not the sport ticket sales and box office manager, so beware if you try to jump right in expecting great results. Ticket analytics tracking requires some data intelligence and some general intuition with a few goals in mind, so make sure you know why you are doing it and come up with a few goals before you begin. There are several data companies that will do this for a fee, so do your research if you plan on taking ticket analytics more seriously.

Let me know what you think or if your organization is involved with this in some way – I’m interested in hearing what other teams and organizations are doing in terms of ticket analytics.

Go Forth!

Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship. Don’t you love it? After watching most of the football games this weekend, I got to thinking about the meaning of sportsmanship in sports. Thinking about being a great opponent regardless of the score and congratulating your foe, being a great teammate regardless of yours or other’s mistakes, and being truly appreciative of the competitive spirit on the field.

Sportsmanship is great in all areas of life and the great thing about sports is the captive audience where society lives and exercises its values. Sport is entertainment. Sport is life. And sport is how many of us first learn about sportsmanship.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of sportsmanship is:

“fair play, respect for opponents, and polite behavior by someone who is competing in a sport or other competition.”

This is what I saw in many of the games I saw this past Thanksgiving weekend – fair play, respect for opponents and polite behavior. No, not happy or excited behavior on the side of those who lost, but certainly not fighting (although we did see some of that today unfortunately…). What do you think about sportsmanship? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

Go Forth!

Be Clear About the Difference

Sports are entertainment. We won’t get into amateur and college athletics, as that is a whole different topic for another day. So yes, sports are a form of entertainment, albeit unique.

Entertainment for most people falls into the area of discretionary income. Most of the population has a set amount of money with which they will spend on things other than life’s essentials – food, clothing, shelter. It is then up to the sport executives TO BE CLEAR ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE between what makes them worthy of the money they charge for the entertainment elements they provide and everything else a person might come across.

A lot of what I talk about here on this blog are subtle differences about marketing, sales, and other aspects of the business of sports; subtle, yet very important. To really be of value to someone and to really be able to develop a relationship with those who think you matter as an organization, you have to be clear about the difference between that person spending their hard earned money on you as opposed to something else.

What is it that makes you worthy of their time?
Of their money?
Of their thoughts and tweets and likes?
What is it that you provide the customer that makes you different from anything else they might be doing? Prove it.

Here are a few examples of you might begin to answer this question:
Connection
Community
Team bonding
Athletic bodies competing
Flashy moves
Touchdown dances
Seeing yourself on the big screen
Being a part of something great than yourself
Yelling at the top of your lungs
The feeling of being at a sold out game so loud you can’t hear anything but intimidating noise
The thrill of victory
The agony of defeat

These are only examples of how you might begin to define what it is that makes you different from all the other options a person might have in terms of spending their discretionary income. Be so clear about the difference between what you can control and everything else, that everyone who comes across your brand has no choice but to either fall in love or get out of the way. Be so clear about what makes you unique that everyone has an opinion as to whether or not you’re the one for them.

And once you figure that out – make sure everyone in your organization knows the answer and can articulate the difference in their own words. This must be something literally everyone lives and breathes, from the President down to the part-time staff working minimal hours. If not everyone believes and talks about the same thing at all times, it can be like a cancer, eating away at what you’re trying to accomplish. Control you message and be clear about the difference.

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Go Forth!

College Sports Email Marketing

LSU MBB Deposits
LSU Men’s Basketball – 13 reasons to place a 2013 season ticket deposit

Email marketing is an incredibly cheap and easy tool teams can use in the search for fans. Despite the fact that most teams do some sort of email marketing, I’m very surprised how incredibly difficult it is to get registered on to some of these e-mailing lists. Having done a little bit of research in this area, looking mostly at BCS level schools, I had to search high and low, looking through menu after menu, trying to find a place to type in my email address. It’s almost like teams either haven’t figured this out yet or just simply don’t want my information.

For the most part, college sports organizations have much to learn from the business world and this is one area where it is glaringly obvious – email marketing. If ¬†you’ve ever come across any kind of personal or small business blog, most of them have a dedicated space on nearly every page asking you for your email address. By entering your email address, you are “opting-in” to receiving messages from that organization or person and agree to the terms and service outlined somewhere on the page. If college sports teams aren’t actively trying to increase their engagement with fans in this way, they are probably missing out on numerous opportunities to connect with people who actually want to receive information about their team. Who better to create an email marketing campaign around, than the people who actually want to receive your emails.

Now, the other half to this whole email marketing thing is what do you do with those email addresses? Well that takes a bit more planning and work on the back end of the marketing department in order to be successful. At the very least, when a user signs up for an email list they should be asked what kind of information they want to receive. In the case of a college sports program, some examples are:

– What sports would you like to hear about? For example: Football, basketball, baseball, softball, all men’s sports, all women’s sports? Check all that apply.

– How often would you like to hear from us? Once a week? Once a month? Once a season?

This is also a good time to ask some yes or no type survey questions. Examples:

– Have you purchased tickets for any games in the past: month, 2 months, 6 months, year?

– How did you get your tickets? Online, phone, friend/family, other?

Start with your funnel wide and open, then think about what to do with those people who actually want to hear about what you have going on. Engage with them. Ask them questions. Give them what they want. Seth Godin is quoted as saying that we’re in the middle of a “connection economy.” This connection economy is about connecting people with the things that matter to them. This is what email marketing can do for you – connect your fans with exactly what your fans are looking for in terms of tickets, concessions, merchandise, etc. You have a problem – you need more fans and more sales. Your fans have a problem – they need quality entertainment and a connection with their community. How are you going to use this “tool” of email marketing to align those two priorities. Let’s start a conversation with our fans. And while you’re at it, let’s start a conversation below in the comments!

GO FORTH!