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Ticketing Allocations the Cause of Free-Falling Championship Game Secondary Market Prices
Ticket prices on the secondary market to the college football playoff national championship game are in free fall, available for +/- 10% of what they were selling for just a month ago, as scheduling, location and the participants have contributed to a depressed secondary market; but, it’s the way championship game duckets are allocated that has caused a flood of tickets to hit the market over the last few days. As of Thursday evening, StubHub had more than 9,000 tickets remaining for sale, with $475 (face-value) seats selling for as little as $114; the lowest ever for national championship game under the current playoff format.
Howie Long-Short: The number of tickets allotted to each of the participating schools is at the core of the ticketing problem; 20,000/per is simply too many tickets to sell, in too short a window (5 days), with the game +/- 2,500+ miles from campus (the longest average distance for any CG game since ’11). The cost of airfare (and hotels) – inflated on just 9 days’ notice – prices out fans that otherwise might attend making it difficult for the schools (and their preferred brokers) to unload the seats.
Dave Wakeman is a ticketing guru that hosts an iTunes Top 100 podcast, “The Business of Fun”, focused on marketing and the selling of experiences. I asked Dave why the participating schools get so many tickets and who receives the balance?
Dave: The College Football Playoff Committee has worked hard to retain a sense of the college atmosphere, allocating a large percentage of tickets to the competing schools; in this case, 40,000 is more than half the stadium (75,000 capacity). The remaining 35,000 seats are split up among the hosts and the sponsors; those tickets, which are sold in advance, are sold out.
When the 2017 championship game between the 2 teams was played within 600 miles of campus (Tampa), the schools had no issues unloading tickets and the get-in price hovered around $2,000, but with the game in Santa Clara and flights from Clemson and Tuscaloosa going for upwards of $1,500 tickets haven’t sold; the result has been preferred brokers flooding the market (there are now 2x the amount of seats for sale) with tickets over the last several days. One might think that a wealthy San Francisco sports fan base would quickly buy up the available seats tickets, but the Bay Area isn’t a particularly good college football market; Stanford averaged just 37,850 fans/home game during the 2018 season, despite being ranked in the Top 25 going into all but one of those games.
I asked Dave what needs to occur for the game to be a sell-out (meaning few seats available)?
Dave: There will need to be a focus on driving demand from local businesses and fans. There are a lot of very large companies in the Bay Area that have a once in a lifetime opportunity to take their employees, clients, or prospects to see a national championship and that should be a big demand driver. On the other hand, with rain in the forecast and the perception that declining ticket prices indicates a lack of “buzz” surrounding the game, the local demo may just decide to stay home.
It’s lazy (and simply wrong) to attribute the staggering low prices on the secondary market to a lack of interest in the game. Those making the apathy argument will tell you that the casual fan is tired of watching Alabama and Clemson play for a 3rd championship in 4 years, but 28.4 million people tuned in for an SEC rematch in last year’s title game (the highest non-NFL television broadcast of year) and many are expecting “Alabama-Clemson IV [to] pull in more viewers than any other championship game to date.”
Fan Marino: Cratering secondary market ticket prices are in no way indicative of what’s to be expected on the field Monday night when two undefeated teams, coming off semi-final blowouts, vie to become National Champions; and the 1st team in college football history since Yale in 1894 to win 15 games in a season. Need another reason to watch? Each team is led by a projected #1 overall NFL draft pick; Alabama QB Tua Tagavailoa is expected to be the first player selected in the ’20 draft, while Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is the favorite to have his name called first during the ’21 draft.
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Howie Long-Short and Fan Marino will be providing their expert opinions on each story. They have slightly different areas of expertise. Fan Marino is a firm believer that the SEC is the premier football conference. Howie Long-Short knows it as the Securities & Exchange Commission. Fan Marino lives and dies with the college selection of 5 star, blue chip recruits. Howie Long-Short spends his days analyzing blue chip stocks. Howie Long-Short knows that Black Monday occurred on October 19th, 1987. Fan Marino swears it happens every January after Week 17. You get the point.