Why analytics is your best ticket vendor

Getting fans into the stadium is key for improving revenue from ticket sales. How is SAS Analytics helping teams fill the house on game day?

By Travis Murphy

Just as hotels and restaurants worry about losses from empty rooms and tables, sports franchises must work to avoid empty seats on game day. As the industry has evolved to see matches as part of an overall business, sophisticated analytics platforms have come to be an invaluable tool in maximising revenue.

From selling tickets to increasing attendance, data analytics for sports is giving franchises the edge they need to succeed on and off the field.

Getting fans into the stadium isn't just a financial matter; it plays a role in drumming up excitement and athletic performance during the game.

Analytics is bringing the crowds

The business of sport is no different to any other business, and the same holds true for the benefits of analytics. The trick is being able to see the parallels to a sporting event. 

Demand forecasting is one of the most obvious connections. Analysing past performance to determine optimal pricing strategies throughout the year is common in the hospitality industry, and it can work for stadiums too - setting ticket prices based on demand. This allows teams to take advantage of surges in interest while also filling seats at traditionally under attended games.

Bringing in new attendees is one side of the equation, retaining current ones is the other. Analytics helps teams keep fans coming back by giving customer service reps the information they need to make the next best offer to ticket holders. The same strategy carries over to capitalising on ticket resale opportunities and encouraging season ticket renewals.

The merits of a full house

Getting fans into the stadium isn't just a financial matter; it plays a role in drumming up excitement and athletic performance during the game. In stadiums all around the world, announcers preface highly anticipated games by declaring that there isn't an empty seat in the house. Looking up into the stands and seeing a sea of cheering faces is turbo-charged fuel for any athlete.

This carries on to future games as well. If a fan watching at home sees a half-full stadium with a halfhearted crowd, they aren't going to be chomping at the bit to buy tickets to the next home game. On the other hand, if that fan sees an excited crowd, decked out in team colours and having a great time, they'll find it hard to resist the chance to be part of that action in person.

Bigger screens and more-affordable personal entertainment systems are helping to intensify the game day experience at home, so making the case for fans to attend games in person is becoming all the more important. In its 2015 Sports Outlook Report, Pricewaterhouse Coopers noted that income from media rights is expected to overtake revenue from ticket sales by 2018. Effectively marketing the fan experience and enhancing sales through analytics will go a long way in keeping the stadium an alluring venue for watching games.

Making analytics part of the team

While there are some stadiums that will fill up for any game, other teams need to be more strategic in their approach. This has been a winning approach in Florida, where the Orlando Magic have earned their place among top-revenue earners despite being in the 20th-largest market.

Applying analytics to their ticket sales has helped the Magic deftly increase their revenue, even in the midst of the 2011 NBA lockout - which cost players and owners an estimated US$400 million.

"In the first year, we saw ticket revenue increase around 50 per cent. Over the last three years – for that period, we've seen it grow maybe 75 per cent. It's had a huge impact," said Anthony Perez, vice president of business strategy for the Orlando Magic.

SAS Analytics is an essential part of the business playbook for teams. Can it help bring these results to your organisation? 

About the Author

Travis Murphy is Marketing Lead for SAS Solutions in Australia and New Zealand. He has over 15 years of experience in BI, DW, Data Visualization and Analytics. Prior to SAS, he held roles with other large IT vendors focused on business analytics. These roles include product management, consulting, training and presales. In his current role at SAS, Travis covers a broad range of offerings and works with customers in adopting SAS technology and driving better insight from all available data.