We Have More In Common With Sportsball Than We Thought

Adaptistration People 165Contrary to what you may think, selling tickets to other forms of live experience events can be just as difficult if not more challenging than what we face in our field. To that end, I came across an intriguing post from Dave Wakeman, a B2B revenue consultant who specializes in entertainment, sports, hospitality, and professional services.

He was writing about the growing problem of selling tickets to professional sporting events. It is fascinating to see Wakeman cycle through many of the same difficult truths this field struggled with shortly after the turn of the last century when the traditional “great art” approach to selling subscriptions and single tickets begin to falter.

That’s about the time that approach began to fall apart and even though most groups have come to terms with that reality, there are some who are just beginning to make the transition. But regardless where your group is in that process, many of Wakeman’s observations should sound very familiar:

What is missing here is any consideration about what the fan or buyer might really care about or want.


Is it the kind of lazy marketing and selling that makes some of these statements ring true?

  • We’ve always made 100 calls a day because that’s what people do in sports.
  • Marketing and sales technology isn’t something we need to invest in because phone calls are best.
  • If all else fails, let’s do some discounts.
  • If we give them comp tickets, they will come back and spend some money someday.

It is this kind of thinking that has led to the crisis that plays out every night on the Twitter page of Empty Seats Galore.

And how about this one:

Sure, there is more competition out there from restaurants, bars, other entertainment options, but instead of fighting for the attention of our fans, we often take our fans and potential buyers attention for granted.

We’ve ceded the top of mind status that our games, teams, and players should have in our communities [sic] minds and allowed our games and our players to become just another distraction, not an event and not a lifestyle.

And then there’s this one (emphasis added):

We have to start acting like we aren’t owed the attention of our fans. If you haven’t seen the pictures of empty seats all over the sports world so far this season, scroll through Empty Seats Galore’s Twitter feed for a few minutes.

Finally, be sure to check out his suggestions at the end and pay close attention to number three.

Realize that we have moved out of the product era, out of the image era, out of the positioning era, and that we are now in the experience era: Most of the marketing and advertising ideas that still gain traction in the world of sports are still too focused on product or image. Those tactics are far past there [sic] sell by date.

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you drop by that Empty Seats Galore Twitter feed. It’s sobering and although part of me wonders what the orchestra version would look like, a larger part prefers blissful ignorance.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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