Smart Trend: Intra-City Team Business Partnerships

It makes so much sense you wonder why it didn’t happen sooner. Yet, its still an odd pairing that could be viewed as befriending the competition. Last week in Cleveland, the Indians and Browns announced a ticket partnership to bundle suite sales for baseball and football games into a few select packages. That followed the joint marketing effort started a few months ago in St. Louis that had the Blues and Cardinals providing each other signage and in-stadium promotion to help push ticket sales.

Though teams in the same city compete for the same entertainment dollar from mostly the same fan base, a partnership opens the door to add more value for both parties than could be done alone. First, it creates new ticket bundling plans that combine games in both sports, similar to the Browns-Indians deal. It’s a value add for customers who may only attend a few games per year, particularly family plans.

As the Cleveland package does, it’s a way to sell suite inventory for individual games, which I’d assume is tough inventory to move since it does not appeal to the everyday fan, and most corporations and wealthier fans probably opt for season packages.

Intra-city partnerships also open the market for road trip packages, currently sold mostly through ticket brokers and sports travel companies. While teams probably would not earn any additional revenue for selling directly relative to through a sports travel firm, however if the teams create the offer they have more marketing muscle to put behind the initiative, which would likely increase sales and the teams can easily add more value to make the package more appealing.

Another benefit, teams immediately double their ticket sales staff. I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but in essence you now have another entire sales staff pushing tickets to your game. More manpower never hurts.

The St. Louis deal focuses more on promotion and marketing, and what better way to reach your target market than at another major sports event in the same city. While every fan may not cross-over between sports, it’s certainly a high correlation. Advertising during a game (in arena or on radio/TV) probably reaches a higher percentage of potential fans relative to the overall reach of the message than any other advertising, other than during a team’s own games. Given the current state of advertising, if exchanging some ad time and in-arena signs can help sell some season-ticket packages and suites, it results in a net revenue gain. Plus, new customers have higher expected future revenue and ancillary in-arena revenue opportunities that far exceed advertising revenue.

Don’t expect the Mets and Yankees to start jointly selling tickets, or maybe any New York teams to partner, but teams in many markets can mutually benefit from this arrangement, particularly smaller-market, lower-revenue teams, such as Cleveland. And it makes more sense to partner with teams that have opposite seasons – for example baseball and football, or baseball and basketball or hockey. Teams like Pittsburgh or Kansas City would likely benefit from the strength of the football team, while a place like Buffalo with only two professional teams is also a logical spot. The possibilities are endless, the benefits definitely tangible.

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2 Responses

  1. Remember YankeeNets. It was on a grander scale than some of these 2009 partnerships you mentioned, but I’m sure was the genesis of such deals.

    During the heyday of YankeeNets, ads for the Nets and Devils regularly showed up at Yankee Stadium. Also, Yankee tickets were included in Nets and Devils plans, I believe.

    YankeeNets eventually fell apart because the Yankees did not want to use their resources to support the Nets (and Devils) plight to build an arena in Newark. The Yankees have profited tremendously by having the Nets as part of YES, which leads to higher ad rates for their year round programming, including Mike Francessa. The Nets, on the other hand, continue to lose money as their arena situation remains in limbo.

  2. YankeesNets actually took a dive when the Nets owner at the time sold to Ratner. The owner was Steinbrenner’s partner, not the team. I don’t believe the bigger plan ever came to fruition, which was to share front office operations.

    YES can live without the Nets – ratings are among the worst in the NBA, however the Nets could leverage an association with the Yanks for ticket sales, but I don’t know that it adds much value for the Yanks. That said, other partnerships are possible – Nets and Jets, or Nets and Devils.

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