Oh (big) brother

The headline here, I just know, is going to be “Season ticket sales are down. Way down. Down like the Titanic.” Whatever. It’s true, but it’s not the point. Still, if you’re tracking these things and using them for a particular motivation, which I understand, here’s July 9 through the past few years. This year is exact. The others are approximations.

2014 – 28,983
2013 – 33,000
2012 – 37,250
2011 – 33,000
2010 – 32,600

The 2012 season was the post-Orange Bowl outlier. This season, which begins in the Georgia Dome, is the lowest since the 2005 preseason, which ended in the Georgia Dome.

But WVU has sold about 4,500 more tickets at this point this year than it did at this point in 2005, which speaks to a gradual growth in the season ticket base — and when you’re talking about a decade and fighting to replace generations and find the new era of fans, that’s healthy.

But why is it happening? Prices? Sure. The living room experience? Absolutely? The secondary market? Probably, though to what extent we’re not sure. So we got some help. Special thanks to VividSeats.com for the graphics and the help that follow.

Here’s what we know about secondary markets: They’re big and they’re growing. Online commerce is so simple and so widespread right now that it has to have an effect. Matt Wells, WVU’s associate athletic director for external affairs who oversees sports marketing and is about two posts away from drawing royalties here, admits as much. The transactions are done through email. You don’t have to track the seller down to get a ticket. It’s CTRL + P. It’s tidy.

And it can put a crimp in single-game ticket sales because the online marketplaces can sell tickets to a game at better prices or with a better seat selection than what WVU can do. That’s just about indisputable, though certainly not perpetual.

And here’s what we know about WVU on the secondary market: It’s not bad.

vs25

That’s the average price and the median price. WVU ranks No. 20 in median price nationally and fifth in the Big 12. For a major program in a major conference, that’s all right. WVU is also No. 24 in average price, a measurement VividSeats.com doesn’t prefer because the expensive seats offered on its site can skew numbers … but even skewed, WVU is just No. 24.

Look closer: WVU has a neutral-site game (Alabama, no less) with a high price tag and games at home (Oklahoma) and on the road (Texas … Texas Tech?) that will be in demand and thus pricey.

Still, WVU only plays one of the 25 most-expensive median priced games on VividSeats.com. Certainly Alabama has a lot to do with ranking No. 14 in median and average price. The Georgia Dome and all its seats has a lot to do with the get in price, which is the cheapest ticket you can buy to get in and see the game.

vsgames

 

That’ll look totally different in a few years, much like it did two years ago. Wells told me that according to StubHub.com in 2012, WVU had “several games that would have been listed.” Time, among so many other things, changes. 

But this year, man, if you tilt your head a certain way, following the Mountaineers almost looks like a bargain. I said almost.

 

vswvu

Single-game tickets are cheaper when purchased through WVU, and the family day and the three-game package promotions are discounted from the $55 or $60 it costs for ordinary home games this season. And maybe you can’t do the three games or don’t have a/like your family. It’s not for everyone.

If you try, you can find cheaper tickets on secondary markets and, more importantly, have a greater say in choosing your seat.

Back to the point. We’re trying to have a conversation about season ticket sales, which covers the six home dates. So what of home games? Here’s where we might see the secondary market effect on season tickets.

vshome

WVU’s get in prices range from $29-$100, while the average price ranges from $71-$187 and the median price ranges from $64-$172.

A secondary market season ticket for one person would cost $311 at the get in price, $670 at the average price and $615 at the median price.

Season tickets through WVU are $1,100 in Touchdown Terrace and $365 in six seating zones around the stadium. Four of those zones require donations of $125, $250, $425 or $500 to the Mountaineer Athletic Club.

I know people, and maybe you do, too, who have bought tickets to all the home games on the secondary market and paid less than they would have through WVU. Not only that, but one person did it for himself and a rotating family member and got “pretty good” seats. “They’re not all great, but most of them were better than if I had bought season tickets.”

He did it early. I bet you seating options improve the closer we get to the season. Prices? Perhaps. But you always find folks who have to kick a game because of work or a son’s baseball tournament or a daughter’s recital and those folks try to get what they paid, or as close as is possible.

We also know people who have bought four or five games online because it makes more sense than a season ticket when they know they won’t bother with the Towson game or can’t make the Kansas game — and that’s something every school has to deal with now.

So, sure, with donation-free prices and occasionally superior seating options, it make sense to reason that the secondary market can deflate single-game and season tickets.

To a point.

“I feel like the majority of fans who meet that criteria are truly not good targets for us to be season ticket holders,” Wells said. “I think there are other factors you can point to that impact season ticket sales being down.” 

Fair. Agreeable, even. There are some people you just can’t do business with, and who won’t do business with you. And there’s no way a majority of the difference, let alone the entire difference, between season ticket sales now and at this time last year or previous years is due to the secondary market.

But a chunk of it? Sure.

And WVU is working with that, as opposed to against that. The university is in the second year of a three-year deal with StubHub.com in which the ticket marketplace shares demographics about transactions. WVU then takes the contact information and targets those secondary purchasers with the goal of turning them into regular customers in the future.

Wells called those “warm leads” to find customers and hundreds or maybe thousands of new patrons in the future.

“Previously, we were blind to the buyer,” Wells said. “We knew we had tickets out there on StubHub and if we wanted to, we could go there and look up the section, row and seat and identify the seller, but we had no clue who was buying. Now we have that ability. We can target those buyers with marketing messages, with us making them aware of season tickets being on sale, of single-game tickets being on sale, of mini-packages being on sale, of specific promotions, all in an effort to turn that buyer into our customer.”

18 Responses to “Oh (big) brother”

  1. jaybirdeer says:

    Mike, Speaking of the Alabama game, how are sales for that game? I think we had 25,000-30,000 to sell and I know they are still selling, so how are those sales going?
    As for me, I am a season ticket holder(Red Zone Donor) that lives about 500 miles away and may only make 1 home game this year. I sell the rest to friends or at Stubhub and can usually get close to my money back, at least of the tickets, but usually have to view the $425 per seat as a donation, which I feel good in supporting the program. I am sure I could go to my 1 or 2 games a season by buying on the secondary market, but I do like supporting the program.

  2. JP says:

    “Season tickets through WVU are $1,100 in Touchdown Terrace and $365 in six seating zones around the stadium. Four of those zones require donations of $125, $250, $425 or $500 to the Mountaineer Athletic Club.”

    ^^ This is the problem, at least for people like me. Unless you have vast amounts of liquid assets, buying season tickets for a family of four is at least as expensive as taking your family to Disneyworld for a week. I think the required MAC donation in addition to the actual ticket price is bunk. WVU should use that Big XII tv money to make the tickets less expensive if it wants to boost season ticket sales.

  3. Rugger says:

    WVU needs more fans like jaybirdeer…about 10,000 more.
    -OL

  4. Joe Dryler says:

    The elephant in the room is 6-14: that is our record since 10/13/12. And there is very little national buzz about WVU this season and lot of low expectations locally. Additionally, there is not one guy who makes you want to go see WVU win or lose. So, all this translates into less season ticket sales, right? There is a reason 2012 was so high, just about every one of these metrics was reversed.

    Now I tend to think WVU is back on the way up for all the reasons discussed around here and I am excited to see this team claw back into the Top 20, or at least set the stage to do it in 2015. But, sizzle and the excitement of winning big games (or being left out of getting tickets in the Fall) gets people to shell out big bucks for season tickets in July, and there is just no sizzle heading into 2014.

  5. Big Al says:

    I think most would agree that the cost of season tickets + required donations is an expensive proposition, particularly if you also include the cost of a hotel room (2 night minimum), food, transportation, etc. for 7 weekends in the fall.

    My perception is that many fans do a modified cost/benefit analysis, i.e., if I make the sacrifice to spend this much money on the live football experience, how many games are the Mountaineers going to win? When the Mountaineers are predicted to have a good year, season ticket sales go up, regardless of the expense. If the Mountaineers are predicted to have a down year, it is easier to just not spend the money and watch the games on TV.

  6. smeer says:

    Mike – really good stuff

    all – really good comments

    will hell freeze over before ticket prices drop (officially)? I think we are coming to the place when the data (stubhub vividseats, etc.) is going to the perfect the price to sell-out every game – supply and demand and maximizing “profits.” and the fan experience will improve because a packed house creates energy/momentum (most of the time)

    as JP shared, no way I can bring a family of four to all home games considering the cost – and that donation is a huge chuck of it.

  7. SheikYbuti says:

    Who with the proper background wants to explain elasticity of demand and attempt to determine through econometrics the ideal ticket price? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  8. smeer says:

    not me!

    hey – hand it off to the computer programmers. if google can read our minds with algorithm searches, then it’s coming.

  9. Spatial Angel says:

    The invisible hand is nowhere to be seen.

  10. KeatonsCorner says:

    I just bought 2 season tickets for 700 bucks…………… 6 games for 350 a piece. Roughly 60 bucks a ticket per game……. no donation. I see no issue with our ticket prices at all. Our more seasoned population in WV are simply stuck on the “when I was your age” kick again, until we get a winner again……… then just like basketball in 2008-2012, ticket sales will escalate yet again.

    WVU is unarguably a bandwagon fan base for the most part.

    Also, other power house schools make students PURCHASE ticket packages too, which promotes them to invest into season ticket packages as well. Our pay 200 bucks or whatever it is and get free admission all year long to every sport.

  11. Thebighelmet says:

    I stated years ago when the ticket prices were starting to rise that the real Mountaineer fans were being pushed out. What we have now is a bunch of wealthy fair weather fans. They will only come to games if we are winning. I would love to come to all of the game. I simply can’t afford it anymore. I will always be a Mountaineer fan. Now I will have to do it from my home for most of the games.

  12. Rugger says:

    Did they drop the donation requirement?

  13. smeer says:

    ruggs – I think the leftover seats after big donors pick can be purchased as a season ticket package then after that single game tix go on sale

  14. Rugger says:

    Thank you, smeer. Have a great weekend.

    BTW, I’m playing in the College of Southern Murland Golf Tourney in SM next month. If you play, I have an opening in my foursome. August 14 @ Swan Point CC.

  15. KeatonsCorner says:

    “real fans being pushed out”

    lol………… only in WV are you less of a fan if you have a high enough income…

    Last season’s average attendance – 52, 909

    average a decade ago “before the real fans were priced out” – 52,205

    so much for that one, huh?

  16. smeer says:

    hey rugger – I am officially back in the state!

    enjoy your time down there – head over to Solomons if you want a good place to eat – Di Giovanni’s Dock of the Bay (italian seafood)

    pricey but the cream of crab soup is the best I have ever tasted

    Salsa’s, a place in Leonardtown is much less expensive, and puts out some unique, excellent mexican dishes – pico is best I have ever had. salivating thinking about the Burritoes Roqueta.

    You’re also close to the Inn at Brome Howard – upscale

  17. Deadhorse says:

    Thanks, smeer. I forgot that you moved back. Lucky guy!

  18. jdwvu says:

    What people get tired of seeing the same 4-5 teams at MF every year? Even in the Big East years there was a pretty decent variety of OOC games and the changes in the conference every few years. Now you’re going to have the majority of your games against same old Kansas, same old ISU, same old Texas Tech. OU and Texas, maybe Baylor and OSU will be marquee games but the others will be really hard sells IMO.

    Compared to the mid 90′s where you had VT or Miami as your marquee game, Syracuse and BC which always felt like big games even when it wasn’t. And of course the Backyard Brawl every other year. You had Penn State every other year during the independent years.

    On top of that, no marquee OOC games currently scheduled at MF until at least 2021 – I guess there could be one in the 2017-2019 range but even that is 3-5 years off.

    You did have your Temple or Rutgers on the lower end but you also had Maryland, Ohio State, Notre Dame, coming in. Even up to the last decade you’ve had Auburn, LSU, MSU, Colorado come in on non-conference games. For good or bad they just don’t have those scheduled, and even if the Big XII teams are on par competition-wise a lot of them aren’t going to be interesting the 3rd, 4th, 5th time we play them at home.

    Even having Marshall coming into MF drummed up some kind of buzz – and I am not really in favor of playing them every year but the average fan probably cares more about that game than the average Big XII game. Especially if we’re not competing at the top of the conference, those games lose even more meaning.