• Loading stock data...
Monday, February 26, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venues Award increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

Season Ticket Sales Change But They Remain Backbone Of Attendance

Oct 31, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Fans celebrate the Boston Red Sox World Series victory at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The sports landscape is changing but expect season tickets to remain the backbone of professional sports attendance well into the future.

At least that’s the case in the NFL, where 85 percent of ticket sales are season packages, according to San Francisco 49ers Vice President of Sales and Services Jamie Brandt. 

“The NFL season ticket is still kicking, something we’ll see for a long time,” Brandt said at a panel on the subject at South by Southwest. “The communal aspect of the NFL [with just eight games]  is hard to generate in other leagues. We’re blessed in the NFL to have that tradition of every Sunday having the same 80 percent of the house being the same.”

READ MORE: How Teams Are Using Technology to Increase Ticket Sales

Writers from publications like The Ringer and the San Francisco Business Times have written about the impending death of the season-ticket model. Jamie Morningstar, senior vice president of ticket sales and services with the Milwaukee Bucks, says otherwise, and points to that narrative arising from some teams changing their sales strategies. Morningstar knows firsthand the power of how perception can impact sales. A few seasons ago, the Bucks experienced a decades-low in sales due to a failed strategy by the team to market season tickets as elite luxury items. 

“That backfired a bit,” she said. “Our biggest thing was recommitting to creating experiences that make season ticket holders feel like they’re part of the family.” Buoyed by improvement on the court, Milwaukee hit a record this season of more than 10,000 season-ticket packages sold.

Brandt believes that perhaps the season ticket’s greatest power lies in its emotional appeal. “Season tickets are a genuine link to an organization,” he said. “People aren’t looking to disassociate.” Meanwhile, the factors that most often cause fans to detach — time and affordability — each can be surmounted with flexibility. By providing more flexible plans, a team also creates a funnel for future season ticket holders. With that in mind, everything from pricing to length to how tickets can be transferred should be able to be customized. 

“You’re never renewing every season ticket holder,” Morningstar said. “We need to cultivate that dynamic so we have them in the building.”

[mc4wp_form id=”8260″]

That sense of belonging can also extend into promotional strategy. Eric Platte, Atlanta Hawks vice president of ticket sales, prefers a strategy of fostering community through exclusivity. This year, the team invited 10 to 20 Hawks season ticket holders for a pregame chalk talk with the coaching staff. The team also holds town halls with CEO Steve Koonin with 200 to 300.

“It’s just trying to find a way to differentiate season ticket holders versus general fan to build that FOMO,” he said. “You can’t buy that cool, unique experience.”

The next frontier could be buildings. Brandt was bullish on the seat license model often seen in new stadium and arena builds, which offer a bigger price upfront to help fund the construction but guarantee ownership of the season tickets at lower prices for however long the fan continues to buy them.

“A seat license has benefits that extend beyond the financial security of the team,” Brandt says. “It retains value and protects pricing long term while helping get that building built.”

With so many factors to consider, sales teams must be nimble and efficient. Morningstar stressed the importance of setting up a good culture while instilling a deep sense of accountability. It all sets up with a strong strategy to sell a vision of what team is — short and long term — outside of success on the court, at least in the Bucks’ case.

READ MORE: Oakland A’s Focus on Group Sales Paying Dividends 

“Focusing on people and processes you have to prepare for the tipping point,” she said. “Over the last few years [the tipping point] is Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. The team has come together, a new building, all these little things, and for us, we were selling that story five years ago.”

But the one thing that should never get lost in the shuffle is the magic of the games themselves. As teams and leagues continue to compete with seemingly endless streams of content and increasingly selective media consumers, Platte said it’s important to sell the unscripted, live action with unknown finishes.

“Trae Young dropped 50 in a quadruple overtime game the other night,” Platte said. “People in the crowd will never get that again, 50 points from a 19-year-old kid. People remember that. That’s how we grow affinity.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Enough for Both? White Sox, Bears Ramp Up Push for Stadium Funds

MLB club begins to escalate its ask for taxpayer dollars.

Sham Gods: The Rapidly Growing World of Sports Impersonators on X

Fake Schefters and Wojs, fabricated trade demands, and borrowed profile pictures.
Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.
Superdome Super Bowl

Superdome Renovations to Finish in Time for Super Bowl LIX

Renovations will total $500 million and have been ongoing for years.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

The Shady Business of Fake Sports News


Featured Today

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
February 16, 2024

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.
Emily Henegar, a baker and content creator, made a batch of NFL-inspired cookies featuring Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
February 11, 2024

The ‘Life-Changing’ Economy of Taylor Swift’s NFL Outfits

Appearing in Swift’s game-day wardrobe has been “life-changing” for small businesses.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Portland, OR
FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid in Texas.

FC Barcelona, Real Madrid Set AT&T Stadium Soccer Attendance Record

Sixth Street organized the match as part its U.S. Soccer Champions Tour.
November 14, 2022

Vegas Resorts Going All Out for Formula 1 Grand Prix

MGM Resorts will build a grandstand for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
A young fan holds a sign for Julio Rodriguez during the 2023 MLB Home Run Derby.
July 12, 2023

MLB Median Ticket Buyer Down to 43 Years Old

Games are shorter and higher scoring thanks to new rules.

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.

How QuintEvents is Changing the Game of Premium Fan Experiences

Over the last decade, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the psyche…
October 7, 2022

MLB Attendance Pops Up, But Falls Below 2019 Levels

MLB attendance rose from 2021, but still lagged behind 2019 levels.
September 16, 2022

Baron Davis, Michele Roberts Help Launch Fan Controlled Hoops

The league will begin its inaugural season on Feb. 7, 2023 in Atlanta.

Webinar: How to Improve the Fan Experience at the Stadium and Online

Learn how pro sports teams are improving the fan experience.