Super Bowl Ticket Prices Teach Us More Than That People Pay Big Bucks to See the Game

As I write this, it’s just a few hours before Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. I’m trolling StubHub, seeing where the last-minute market is for a couple of seats to today’s game. Let’s see … if I wanted to go right now, I could probably still get to Burbank Airport, get on a 1:00pm flight and be at the stadium in time for kickoff. Of course, about the smallest amount I’d be able to get in for is $10,930.25, and I’d have to sit here (below left):

And, of course, I’d have to bring a friend. Maybe Adam Thurman wants to catch the game. Or Steiny. Anyway, for both of us to get in, that’s going to be nearly $22,000!

What does this prove? That tickets to the Super Bowl are expensive? D’uh and/or hello, it proves more than that. It proves the point that I frequently make about selling live entertainment: While it’s true that nobody ever needs a ticket¸ it’s equally true that if somebody really wants a ticket, they’ll pay just about anything for it.

If you don’t grasp both sides of this dynamic, I think you’ll have a hard time being very successful marketing live entertainment and arts. A person’s interest in paying for an event ticket goes from absolute flatline (when they don’t know or care about the show) to a steeply rising upward curve. It’s not a straight, steady line. Don’t believe me? Here’s some real-world data (below right):



It’s last week’s Broadway shows ranked by Revenue Per Seat. As you see, the first seven or eight shows are very close together, at between just over $40 per seat up to just over $50 per seat. Flatline. Very little customer value attributed to those shows. From there up to about the 20th show or so, you get a pretty well-behaved straight line, showing steadily increased interest and value in the show. Notice that the increase from the eight flatlining shows is about 100%. In other words, people are paying double for the 20th show what they’re paying for the eighth.

But, of course, that’s just when it gets interesting. From the 20th to the 26th, we shoot straight up, and if you zoom in on just the last two shows, you increase from the 24th show by another 50%. At this point, people are spending truly absurd amounts of money to see a show … that is unless, of course, it’s that compelling to you. Which obviously it is.

Good marketing and good pricing can help a live event at any point on this curve, but it’s absolutely critical to know where you are. Not everything is like this, but our business is.

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