The secondary market arrived a long time ago. It is a billion dollar business. And it is time for franchises and their executives to realize that the genie is out of the bottle, the train has left the station.
While there is an eternal debate that happens in sports about the pros and cons of working with the secondary market, the conversation is fruitless and useless. Most of the time it is an argument that is mostly made from the same ideological point of view that pervades political talk radio, which is to say, it’s dishonest.
Primary And Secondary Lines Have Blurred
When teams can’t sell seats because their team isn’t doing very well and they don’t have a strategy outside of discounts and cold calls, they panic and love the broker money. As soon as they get a big game, a good team, or some other event that allows them to sell out or fill their stadium more readily, the brokers are bad and they can’t stand what they do to the fans. Those poor, poor fans that no one cared about when they couldn’t get them to buy seats.
Here is what is often missed in this conversation: brokers and the secondary market are a tool that teams and organizations can use for good or ill. In most cases, teams fail to understand and use the secondary market and instead they let these organizations run wild raising prices, slashing prices, providing poor service, whatever.
What does this do? It destroys long-term brand value.
The fact is that you can and should be using the secondary market as a tool in your sales arsenal, but it needs to be something you do in the context of your long-term strategy and not something that occurs willy-nilly.
Here are a few ways that you can do just that:
Develop A Long-Term Strategy
This is so simple and obvious that I hate to put it here, but I know how rare it is.
Sit your executive team down and create a plan for the next few years that focuses specifically on the value you want to create for your fans. This value absolutely has to move past the point of “we want our fans to attend our games” and move into “what do we want the game experience to look like for buyers at different levels”.
This is the start.
Partner With Reputable Brokers
Just because someone has money and is willing to give it to you, doesn’t mean that you should always take it. As a consultant, one of the best lessons I learned was that sometimes you need to say no to certain projects and companies. In dealing with the secondary market, you need to take that approach.
Why? Because you need to make certain that the brokers you partner with are reputable and don’t do irreparable harm to your brand. Sure, you have the ability to cancel season tickets and not sell to certain people, but if you aren’t careful, the damage will already be done.
So take some time and identify the partners you want and work with them. I’m sorry, but not everyone’s money is good here.
Manage Relationships Aggressively
Here’s the sad truth: Brokers are valuable because they are doing something teams can’t or aren’t willing to do or try to do.
Until teams are more professional and regimented in the way that they handle their professional sales, the brokers are going to continue to be formidable partners and offer their own unique set of circumstances.
As the primary seller, you need to recognize that they offer tangible value to you and your team, but you also need to manage this relationship emphatically and consistently. You want to make sure that the brokers are acting professionally, that they aren’t hurting your brand, and that you know what is happening with your customers…because even though they don’t buy the tickets from you, once they enter the stadium, they are your responsibility.
Besides, the value of knowing someone is buying your tickets from another outlet and knowing what that outlet is can provide you some incredible market research.