At the height of the season ticket renewal season, teams will need to navigate choppy waters during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ticket experts warn if the situation isn’t dealt with carefully, it could be a brand-damaging situation.
With the economy reeling in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns, a focus on retaining season ticket holders with a flexible approach will be important, Aaron Holland, CEO of Season Share, said.
“Teams will need to take an approach that’s based on market dynamics,” Holland said. “Season ticket retention efforts are more valuable than ever, and with disposable income constrained, it’ll take an agile approach coupled with strategies around ways to provide flexibility for fans.”
A wrong move when season ticket holders are vulnerable economically during this event could affect the brand for years, Pat Ryan, co-founder of ticket sales strategy company Eventellect, said.
“Imagine losing half your net worth, and then some 25-year-old kid is calling you over and over, saying, ‘If you don’t make a deposit by April 1, you are going to lose your season tickets,’” Ryan said. “That’s brand damaging.”
A first step for many teams has been to provide fans an extended deadline to commit to their renewals.
The Vegas Golden Knights delayed payments on their season ticket packages on March 20, extending an extra 30 days to members. The Golden Knights have an automatic renewal system and multi-year agreements, so it was just a flexible payment date, Kerry Bubolz, Vegas Golden Knights president, said.
“It’s just to give people a little extra breathing room on the payment plan,” Bubolz said. “A lot was happening fast the last ten days, and there were more important things to be paying attention to, so we didn’t want to be a distraction.”
Giving fans a more relaxed deadline is a wise move, Ryan said. His suggestion was approaching the fans as “part of the family” while giving them more time to pay if needed. Those who can make a payment, Ryan said, might be worth receiving a discount.
Ryan expects professional teams to handle this year’s ticket renewal process well, but said because colleges work independently, there could be some mistakes at that level.
Several colleges have pushed their renewals back, including Georgia, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
The University of Texas originally had its season ticket renewal deadline slated for March 20 but has moved it back to May 1.
“With the news Friday evening of the immediate cancellation of all of our spring sports seasons, these are certainly unprecedented times we are living in, and my heart breaks for all of our student-athletes, coaches and staff who have worked so hard but must do what’s in the public best interest to control the spread of COVID-19,” Chris Del Conte, Texas vices president and director of athletics, wrote in a statement. “Our mettle is being tested, but I know the Texas Longhorns resolve is great, and we will persevere together.”
As one of the first industries to signal the severity of the coronavirus’s impact on the world’s economy, Holland said it likewise could be one of the first to show the recovery.
“Sports have a unique opportunity to lead the way back to normal and be a pillar for other industries to look toward,” he said. “You can sense how much fans miss sports. It will bounce back like we’ve seen in so many ways when scarcity creates value.”