By Troy Tutt
I started my career in sports as a sales guy. I sold season ticket plans and groups for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I soon started managing a book of clients and was responsible for servicing their needs, keeping them happy, and ultimately looking for ways to increase their investment with my team. I worked with many kinds of companies– from a twelve-person plumbing company to a Fortune 100 global enterprise. I showed them how to use their Cavs tickets in smart ways to grow their business opportunities.
After the Cavs, I moved to the New York Yankees and later the PGA TOUR. Everywhere I went, I saw the same thing: most companies had some sort of a ticket administrator who was responsible for managing company tickets and making sure they were being put to good use.
For the small to mid-size companies, this usually falls to the CEO’s assistant. This unsung hero responds to hundreds of emails from employees seeking tickets. Each request usually entails a large number of back & forth exchanges to identify who the tickets are for, if guests need parking or other amenities, where tickets should be delivered and so on. This information is often tracked in an Excel spreadsheet, and keeping it up-to-date is no easy task.
And that’s how it happens: silently, imperceptibly, the executive assistant becomes responsible for not only administering corporate tickets, but for ensuring they are being used appropriately. That’s not usually what companies intend when they delegate ticket responsibility to an admin, but it inevitably happens.
Large organizations face these same challenges, but with a much larger volume of tickets. Some hire an outside agency to manage tickets. In many organizations, you find responsibility for tickets scattered across multiple departments internally. I vividly recall one company where one set of tickets was handled by the executive assistant reporting to the CMO, another by the assistant reporting to the CEO and a third set by the assistant reporting to the Head of Sales. And that was just at headquarters: each regional office had their own ticket admins replaying this decentralized story. Each office and department had its own goals and approach to deciding who received tickets.
Confused yet? In nearly every case, the decision of how to use company tickets was made by assistants who only saw their small piece of the puzzle, and were oblivious to the company’s larger reason for having these tickets in the first place.
That’s a lot of responsibility for someone whose job responsibilities were never meant to encompass assets of this caliber or make sure they are being used to good effect. There are many heroic admins out there, and many people are often unaware of just how important they are to the success of their organization. But there are also cases where admins aren’t prepared for the kind of responsibility that comes with managing ticket assets.
For teams, the situation is precarious: tickets, suites and premium seats were absolutely vital revenue streams for the teams I worked with. We risked losing renewals and capturing other ancillary revenue because the companies who purchased these assets from us didn’t always see the value of their investments. In many cases, this went back to how those investments were being managed by thier admins.
I recently met with a head of ticket sales at an NFL team. He told me he had invited a CEO who owned a suite with them to a high-end exclusive event at the stadium. The head of ticket sales received a call from the CEO’s admin saying the CEO could not make it. Could she attend the event with a few of her friends instead? The sales exec respectfully denied her request since the audience was specifically for C-suite individuals. A week later, he happened to speak to the CEO and discovered he had been completely unaware of this exclusive event. Subsequent digging revealed the ticket admin had concealed it from him and used it herself.
For teams, this can be a scary situation. I recently asked several sports execs to estimate what percentage of non-renewals were due to negligence on the part of an admin. The responses were startling: between 40 and 50 percent.
That’s right teams: half of your non-renewals could be due to ticket admins not doing their job. Even if my informal poll is overstating the case, the results are significant. Take a NBA or NHL team with 10,000 FSE (full season equivalents) with a 85 percent renewal rate. This team typically fails to renew 1,500 FSEs each year. Even if the effect of negligent admins is only half of what I estimated, that still amounts to 375-750 lost FSEs. With an average ticket price of $75, that’s a $2.5 million loss for the team.
Due to poor ticket management by admins.
It doesn’t matter if you are a small company spending $15,000 on four season tickets to your local MLB team or a Fortune 500 company spending over $3 million on multiple suites, premium tickets and season tickets. These are valuable assets that can truly drive business for your organization. Live events and experiences are powerful, but your tickets are not going to be used properly just because you purchased them. They must be carefully managed.
Taking the time to train admins about why your company makes these investments will help them make better decisions about allocating these assets to your revenue-generating employees. Add consistent reporting into the mix, and you have many of the necessary ingredients in place to start capturing real returns on your investment in live events.