The headline here, I just know, is going to be “Season ticket sales are down. Way down. Down like the Titanic.” Whatever. It’s true, but it’s not the point. Still, if you’re tracking these things and using them for a particular motivation, which I understand, here’s July 9 through the past few years. This year is exact. The others are approximations.
2014 – 28,983
2013 – 33,000
2012 – 37,250
2011 – 33,000
2010 – 32,600
The 2012 season was the post-Orange Bowl outlier. This season, which begins in the Georgia Dome, is the lowest since the 2005 preseason, which ended in the Georgia Dome.
But WVU has sold about 4,500 more tickets at this point this year than it did at this point in 2005, which speaks to a gradual growth in the season ticket base — and when you’re talking about a decade and fighting to replace generations and find the new era of fans, that’s healthy.
But why is it happening? Prices? Sure. The living room experience? Absolutely? The secondary market? Probably, though to what extent we’re not sure. So we got some help. Special thanks to VividSeats.com for the graphics and the help that follow.
Here’s what we know about secondary markets: They’re big and they’re growing. Online commerce is so simple and so widespread right now that it has to have an effect. Matt Wells, WVU’s associate athletic director for external affairs who oversees sports marketing and is about two posts away from drawing royalties here, admits as much. The transactions are done through email. You don’t have to track the seller down to get a ticket. It’s CTRL + P. It’s tidy.
And it can put a crimp in single-game ticket sales because the online marketplaces can sell tickets to a game at better prices or with a better seat selection than what WVU can do. That’s just about indisputable, though certainly not perpetual.
And here’s what we know about WVU on the secondary market: It’s not bad.
That’s the average price and the median price. WVU ranks No. 20 in median price nationally and fifth in the Big 12. For a major program in a major conference, that’s all right. WVU is also No. 24 in average price, a measurement VividSeats.com doesn’t prefer because the expensive seats offered on its site can skew numbers … but even skewed, WVU is just No. 24.
Look closer: WVU has a neutral-site game (Alabama, no less) with a high price tag and games at home (Oklahoma) and on the road (Texas … Texas Tech?) that will be in demand and thus pricey.
Still, WVU only plays one of the 25 most-expensive median priced games on VividSeats.com. Certainly Alabama has a lot to do with ranking No. 14 in median and average price. The Georgia Dome and all its seats has a lot to do with the get in price, which is the cheapest ticket you can buy to get in and see the game.
That’ll look totally different in a few years, much like it did two years ago. Wells told me that according to StubHub.com in 2012, WVU had “several games that would have been listed.” Time, among so many other things, changes.
But this year, man, if you tilt your head a certain way, following the Mountaineers almost looks like a bargain. I said almost.
Single-game tickets are cheaper when purchased through WVU, and the family day and the three-game package promotions are discounted from the $55 or $60 it costs for ordinary home games this season. And maybe you can’t do the three games or don’t have a/like your family. It’s not for everyone.
If you try, you can find cheaper tickets on secondary markets and, more importantly, have a greater say in choosing your seat.
Back to the point. We’re trying to have a conversation about season ticket sales, which covers the six home dates. So what of home games? Here’s where we might see the secondary market effect on season tickets.
WVU’s get in prices range from $29-$100, while the average price ranges from $71-$187 and the median price ranges from $64-$172.
A secondary market season ticket for one person would cost $311 at the get in price, $670 at the average price and $615 at the median price.
Season tickets through WVU are $1,100 in Touchdown Terrace and $365 in six seating zones around the stadium. Four of those zones require donations of $125, $250, $425 or $500 to the Mountaineer Athletic Club.
I know people, and maybe you do, too, who have bought tickets to all the home games on the secondary market and paid less than they would have through WVU. Not only that, but one person did it for himself and a rotating family member and got “pretty good” seats. “They’re not all great, but most of them were better than if I had bought season tickets.”
He did it early. I bet you seating options improve the closer we get to the season. Prices? Perhaps. But you always find folks who have to kick a game because of work or a son’s baseball tournament or a daughter’s recital and those folks try to get what they paid, or as close as is possible.
We also know people who have bought four or five games online because it makes more sense than a season ticket when they know they won’t bother with the Towson game or can’t make the Kansas game — and that’s something every school has to deal with now.
So, sure, with donation-free prices and occasionally superior seating options, it make sense to reason that the secondary market can deflate single-game and season tickets.
To a point.
“I feel like the majority of fans who meet that criteria are truly not good targets for us to be season ticket holders,” Wells said. “I think there are other factors you can point to that impact season ticket sales being down.”
Fair. Agreeable, even. There are some people you just can’t do business with, and who won’t do business with you. And there’s no way a majority of the difference, let alone the entire difference, between season ticket sales now and at this time last year or previous years is due to the secondary market.
But a chunk of it? Sure.
And WVU is working with that, as opposed to against that. The university is in the second year of a three-year deal with StubHub.com in which the ticket marketplace shares demographics about transactions. WVU then takes the contact information and targets those secondary purchasers with the goal of turning them into regular customers in the future.
Wells called those “warm leads” to find customers and hundreds or maybe thousands of new patrons in the future.
“Previously, we were blind to the buyer,” Wells said. “We knew we had tickets out there on StubHub and if we wanted to, we could go there and look up the section, row and seat and identify the seller, but we had no clue who was buying. Now we have that ability. We can target those buyers with marketing messages, with us making them aware of season tickets being on sale, of single-game tickets being on sale, of mini-packages being on sale, of specific promotions, all in an effort to turn that buyer into our customer.”