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How teams can benefit from a direct relationship with fansRussell Scibetti,The impact of the secondary market on teams has been an important topic in the industry for some time, butrecently there seems to be more emphasis on analyzing pricing data so teams can evaluate and adjust their prices inorder to stay competitive. While I agree that it’s very important for teams to be aware of the secondary market andleverage variable and dynamic pricing strategies as part of an overarching sales plan, they shouldn’t forget that theircompetitive advantage differs from secondary market’s.Thinking back to business school, I clearly remember learning about the dangers of competing on price. As soon asone brand decides that the best move is to undercut the others, it’s not long until a price war ensues, and price warsgenerate casualties. The two ways that non-sports brands avoid this now are:1. Making it as hard as possible to compare products (have you noticed that the model number for that TV on sale atBest Buy doesn’t exist at Wal-Mart?).2. Implicit collusion where just the threat of constant price-matching keeps everyone from cutting prices.If a team and its fans think of tickets purely as inventory, the secondary market makes it impossible to avoidcomparisons. Since these marketplaces don’t care nearly as much about the actual ticket price as the teams, thethreat of price-matching has much less impact on them.At the core, StubHub and every other secondary ticket marketplace are transaction-oriented systems. They let sellerssell at whatever price they like and ultimately the actual purchase prices are driven by market demand for specificgames and locations. If teams over-focus on competing with these transactional marketplaces, not only will they lose,but they will do so by disregarding the most important competitive advantage that they have — their directrelationships with fans.In the past, teams felt like customers were willing to spend more to buy tickets from them directly becausecustomers trusted them more. The truth is that most consumers now trust the secondary marketplace just as muchas the primary. A 2013 Turnkey Intelligence study on MLB ticket buyers showed that perceptions of ticketauthenticity and availability are generally comparable between StubHub and team websites, so this cannot be ateam’s point of differentiation.Customers value access, experiences, engagement and a level of treatment that they can and should only get fromthe team directly. Debbie Knowlan of the Atlanta Falcons, who transitioned from director of season-ticket services todirector of customer relationship management, has a great perspective on this. “Being able to make the connectionwith fans on a one-to-one basis and delivering experiences and game-day memories are the foundation for buildingsolid relationships that go beyond a ticket purchase. In a world that is consumed with social and digitalcommunications, people still look for that direct interaction with the team they support and are passionate for — thisis what creates a fan.”This is one of the biggest reasons behind leveraging CRM across an organization — it is the best way to aggregate andanalyze all of your brand’s touchpoints with every fan and customer. It is the ultimate weapon to convertrelationship data into long-term, sustainable revenue, regardless of what tickets are selling for on the secondarymarket.

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