Authors: Mark Mitchell, Nicholas Clark, and Taylor Damonte

Corresponding Author:
Mark Mitchell, DBA
Professor of Marketing
Associate Dean, Wall College of Business
NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR)
Coastal Carolina University
P. O. Box 261954
Conway, SC 29528
(843) 349-2392

Mark Mitchell, DBA is Professor of Marketing at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC.

Nicholas Clark is a Master’s Student in Sport Administration at Georgia State University. He is currently a member of the NCAA Division I Council. Nicholas is a former student-athlete at Coastal Carolina University.

Taylor Damonte, PhD is Professor of Hospitality & Resort Tourism Management at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC.

The Migration of Business Strategies from the Hospitality Industry to Athletics Marketing

Many strategies of the hospitality industry, including dynamic pricing, customer relationship management programs, and others have been successfully adopted by athletics marketers. The purpose of this manuscript is to examine a variety of practices in the hospitality industry that have been successfully adopted by athletics marketers. There are four broad categories that provide practices most fruitful for adoption: (1) Fan Experience; (2) Ticketing; (3) In-Stadium Food and Beverage; and (4) Tailgating. In some cases, a small number of teams (and venues) have implemented such practices. In others, these practices are intuitively a good strategic fit but no organization has been identified as yet to implement the strategy. This presentation may prompt other organizations to consider such practices for implementation.Keywords: hospitality practices in sports, business strategies, fan experience

Travelers are very familiar with the practice of ‘dynamic pricing’ or ‘variable pricing’; that is, the cost of the item can vary based on the day of the week, peak-season versus off-season, and other factors. Broadly speaking, this is referred to as ‘variable pricing’ or revenue management (57). The organization wants to maximize the revenue generated by the asset (such as an airplane, hotel, or rental car). Beginning in 2010, the San Francisco Giants introduced a dynamic pricing model and were soon followed by most Major League Baseball teams (17).
For the 2018 football season, The Ohio State University used seven separate price points for fans buying single game reserved seats (49):

  • $67 (plus any applicable fees) for Tulane
  • $80 (plus any applicable fees) for Rutgers
  • $90 (plus any applicable fees) for Indiana
  • $96 (plus any applicable fees) for Minnesota
  • $99 (plus any applicable fees) for Oregon State
  • $120 (plus any applicable fees) for Nebraska
  • $197 (plus any applicable fees) for Michigan

As illustrated above, Ohio State seeks to maximize the revenue of each seat for each contest. They know that fans will pay a premium to see certain opponents (i.e., Nebraska and Michigan). Another way to maximize revenue is to offer both partial- and full-season ticket plans in the same season. The University of Alabama offered fans both a 4-game mini-plan ($250) and a 6-game mini-plan ($415) for the 2018 season (51). It is important to note both mini-plans do not include the Auburn game (the 7th home game of the 2018 season). Single-game seats varied from $40 (for non-conference opponents The Citadel and Arkansas State) to $140 (for Iron Bowl rival, Auburn University).

In-stadium food and beverage concessions are a common part of any game day experience. The same is true for a trip to an amusement park. If we look at Cedar Fair Parks (such as Cedar Point, Kings Dominion, Carowinds, Knott’s Berry Farm, and others), we see such practices as all-you-can-eat dining for the day, pre-paid dining for all season, refillable drink plans, family meal deals, and others (12). Similar to the transfer of variable pricing from the hospitality industry to athletics, it is suggested here that some of these practices may be well-received by fans and prove valuable to athletic marketers.

The purpose of this manuscript is to examine a variety of practices in the hospitality industry that have been successfully adopted by athletics marketers. In some cases, a small number of teams (and venues) have implemented such practices. In others, these practices are intuitively a good strategic fit but no organization has been identified as yet to implement the strategy. This discussion may prompt other organizations to consider such practices for implementation. There are four broad categories that provide practices most fruitful for adoption: (1) Fan Experience; (2) Ticketing; (3) In-Stadium Food and Beverage; and (4) Tailgating. Specific examples in these four categories are examined in the pages that follow.

This research evolved from brainstorming sessions attempting to identify examples of practices from the hospitality industry that have been (or intuitively could be) adopted in athletics marketing. This list was evaluated to identify natural clusters or categories of analysis. As noted above, four categories emerged. Then, the researchers sought to identify specific sport organizations that have adopted each practice in the marketplace. These examples are presented below. Where no example application could be found, the item is presented as conjecture as a strategy that is intuitively attractive for future implementation in athletics.

Enhancing the Fan Experience
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Programs
Progressive marketers take a ‘relational’ orientation with their customers rather than a ‘transactional’ orientation. That is, they put the focus on the life-time purchasing power of the buyer rather than the return on a per-transaction basis. To implement this focus, firms have introduced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs in an attempt to build greater loyalty among their most desired and loyal consumers (24). The early adopters of this approach were in the hospitality industry where frequent flyers programs and frequent stay/guest programs began to appear in the 1980s. American Airlines introduced their “AAdvantage” program in 1981 (1). Holiday Inn introduced their “Priority Club” program in 1983 (25).

Given the growth of secondary market ticket sellers, Tuchman (50) notes that teams with this transactional approach (i.e., selling tickets for a specific game) risk being left behind in the competition for fan loyalty. With some fans preferring single-game seats rather than the larger financial commitment to a season ticket package, teams must find new ways to connect with all of their fans. For example, the Washington Nationals offer season ticket buyers such benefits as exclusive autograph sessions, fan appreciation day(s), the opportunity to take batting practice, and a dedicated season ticket buyer entrance and concession outlets (50).

The Miami Dolphins were among the early developers of a fan loyalty program in 2012 with the introduction of their “Fin Club.” At its introduction, the program was unique as it offered season ticket holders and fans the opportunity to “earn points towards exclusive rewards, access and VIP experiences for Miami Dolphins related activities” (20). Through this program, the Dolphins organization continues to incentivize (and reward) their fans for their consistent support. Similarly, the New York Jets “Jets Rewards” program offers such fan insider rewards as the opportunity to bid for exclusive merchandise, play video games with favorite players, and the opportunity for suite access in MetLife Stadium (36).

The Los Angeles Dodgers introduced their “Dodger Pride Rewards” program in 2014 with a focus on season ticket buyers. Over time, they expanded the program by reducing the cost for entry to include all fans purchasing at least a 10-game ticket plan. The Dodger Pride Rewards program includes prizes throughout the season, including autographed baseballs, seat upgrades and even the chance to throw a ceremonial first pitch. Members get early stadium access for home games as well as the opportunity for on-field access after most home games (for a ‘game’ of catch). And, fans earn increasingly higher merchandise discounts for more years of club membership (30).

The Buffalo Sabres “Fan Advantage Program” is unique as it is implemented by/through a smartphone app. Sabre fans earn points by simply being fans (i.e., scanning their game tickets, watching the games on television, or buying team merchandise and concessions). Then, they redeem their points through the app. Recent fan rewards include exclusive team merchandise, game tickets, and exclusive fan experiences such as player meet-and-greets (7).

Stadium Tours
Carnival Cruise Line offers passengers their “Behind the Fun” tour of the ship. Here, guests get to see the inner-workings of the cruise ship they enjoy on their vacation. These tours are limited to 16 guests, are held once during each voyage, and occur on the final day at sea. Guests pay a fee (typically $50-$100) for this behind-the-scenes tour (8).

Similarly, it has become a common practice to offer tours of the stadiums of their favorite teams. For example, fans can tour Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN) on most non-game days. Three daily tours are offered at a cost of $10 per guest (31). AT&T Stadium (Dallas, TX) offers both self-guided and VIP tours. They also offer unique educational and art tours of their stadium (2).

In addition to non-game day tours, visitors to Pittsburgh’s PNC Park (home of the Pirates) can take pre-game tours of the facility. It should be noted that game-day tours are $20 whereas non-game day tours cost $10 per guest (39).

In-Stadium Convenience Store
Guests at hotels and theme parks know they can purchase selected convenience items at a gift shop. Parents may have an immediate need for sunscreen, Band-Aids, cold medicine, and other items. Daily’s operates convenience stores in northern Florida. In an innovative relationship, Daily’s operates three mini store locations in EverBank Stadium (home of the Jacksonville Jaguars) on game days. Here, guests can pick up their favorite drinks and pre-packaged snacks. And, Daily’s personnel have helped train stadium employees in customer service excellence (13, 16).

Flash Sales of Merchandise
Flash sales can be an effective way of selling promotional merchandise or introducing a new item at a discounted price for a defined period of time. Flash sales can also be used to move slow-selling merchandise at a discounted price (35). It has been commonplace for in-stadium retailers to highlight an “item of the day” on in-stadium media. However, that item is often merchandised at its regular price and not a short-term sale or flash sale price. This is a missed opportunity to purposely sell limited-quantity merchandise at a marked-down price. The limited quantity will encourage fans to buy the item that day. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Intuitively, this could be an attractive strategy for in-stadium retailers. The New York Red Bulls (MLS) combined a flash sale with their season ticket push during the latter part of the 2015 season. Buyers of 2016 season tickets received exclusive Red Bull jackets worn only by the players. As a result, the number of ticket renewals for the then-upcoming 2016 season exceeded sales goals even before the end of the 2015 season (50).

In-the-Future: Buying Card (Cruise Stateroom Key to Make Purchases)
Passengers on Carnival cruises are assigned their “Sail & Sign” card which acts as their stateroom key as well as their means for charging items (food, drinks, merchandise, etc.) to their room for later payment. Additionally, these cards are color coded based on the number of cruise days they have accumulated as part of their Very Important Fun Person (VIFP) Club. By doing so, your Carnival server knows if you are a first-time cruiser or an experienced cruiser. And, passengers get more benefits based on more cruise-days experienced (9).

It is easy to imagine athletic marketers embracing this strategy. Here, fans would need no cash for concessions and merchandise. They would simply charge such items to their account and would periodically be billed (arguably directly to a credit card number already on file as is the case in the cruise industry). Many cruise passengers will attest that their onboard purchases were likely higher based on the convenience of simply signing your name and assigning your purchases to your Sail & Sign account. Similarly, allowing fans to easily charge all purchases to a pre-established credit card will likely increase in-stadium purchases (and revenue) as well as speed up service times at concession and merchandise stands.

The “Cards Cash” program of the St. Louis Cardinals allows fans to pre-load money (i.e., purchasing power) to their ticket to avoid cash sales in Busch Stadium (45). The Utah Jazz (56) offers fans the use of the Vivent Arena App. Using their ‘wallet’, fans load their debit or credit card information and make concession and merchandise purchases via their smart phones. Many teams sell gift cards redeemable for tickets and merchandise. However, these programs differ greatly from the cruise industry by requiring a pre-payment rather than an after-purchase payment.

Enhancing Ticketing Options
Buy-One-Get-One Tickets
Buy-One-Get-One (BOGO) ticket promotions can be an effective way of drawing fans (and larger groups) to the stadium or ballpark. The Los Angeles Dodgers work with corporate sponsor Union 76 to offer the “Dodger Double Play, a Buy-One-Get-One” ticket promotion. Drivers purchase gasoline at Union 76 stations and receive a code card. Winners can redeem BOGO tickets to selected Dodger games. The promotion runs for three months (April, May, and June). These BOGO tickets must be purchased online and prior to game day (28).

The Muskegon (MI) Lumberjacks, a minor league hockey team, offered a BOGO promotion for Valentine’s Day in 2018 (34). Such promotions can be very effectively introduced and promoted via a team’s social media. And, the presence of ticket deals provides incentive for fans to engage with the team’s social media platforms.

Early Bird Discounts on Tickets
It is common to use discounts to shift some consumer demand from peak period to off-peak periods when purchasing movie tickets, restaurant meals, and other perishable services. Dine-early deals (often known as “Early Bird” discounts) can be very effective in bringing some diners to restaurants early with the incentive to save money. Some athletic ticket sellers are effectively using Early Bird discounts to incentivize their season ticket buyers to renew their tickets for upcoming seasons. For example, Georgia Tech football lowers the price per ticket by $25 for early renewals. And, they enter these Early Bird buyers into a raffle to win one of two premium catered tailgate experiences (provided by a corporate partner) with redemption limited to non-conference games (23).

All-Inclusive Experiences
It is common for teams to sell ticket bundles such as Family 4-packs. However, some teams are enhancing such tickets by including pre-paid food vouchers. For the 2018 season, the Oakland Athletics offered their “Sunday Funday” package. For their 14 Sunday dates, the A’s offered four tickets and four meals (hot dog, drink, and peanuts) for a fixed total price of $60 (38). It is interesting to note that, in prior seasons, this deal was offered on Fridays before the move to Sundays for the 2018 season. Similarly, the Chicago Bulls offered an ‘all-inclusive’ ticket for day games during the 2017-18 season. The $25 per-ticket bundle included both tickets and food/beverage (hot dog, chips, and drink). Due to its popularity, the Bulls later extended the deal to select evening (or, non-day) games (14). The Brooklyn Nets offers similar Family 4-Packs (four tickets and $60 food vouchers) with packages starting at $125 for the 2018 season (6).

NYCVP is a travel expediter in the New York City area. As an expediter, they sell bundled travel experiences for interested travelers. For the 2018 baseball season, they offered five dates for their “New York Yankees Baseball Vacations” package. Fans get two night accommodations, an escort to/from Yankee Stadium, a pre-game party in an in-stadium bar, and are provided with unlimited beer, wine, hot dogs, and soft pretzels. Fans are also offered the opportunity to add tickets to a Broadway show, museum admission, Statue of Liberty, and other amenities to their NY Yankees vacation experience (37).

Themed-Group Tickets
Passengers on cruise ships often choose cruises that cater to their themed-group, such as NASCAR fans, bridge players, LGBT travelers, and others. The Kansas City Royals offer “Themed-Group tickets” to encourage members of self-identified groups to take in a game together. Example themed-groups in the 2018 season included Kansas State fans, pet lovers, Autism awareness, teacher appreciation, Boy Scout Night, Star Wars, nurses, and others (27).

Flash Sale Ticketing
In addition to merchandise sales discussed earlier, flash sales can also be used to stimulate ticket sales. In February 2018, prior to the start of the regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals held a 12-hour flash sale for tickets. The available $5 tickets were for any Monday-Thursday game in 2018 (excluding Opening Day) and were available from 10:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Fans were able to purchase up to eight tickets per game. And, buyers were given a $5 voucher (Cards Cash) redeemable at concession stands or merchandise booths in Busch Stadium (32).

Teams can also tie the flash sale to some specific date or event. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers offered tickets priced at $4.26 during a flash sale held for games May 2-4 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the 2016 season. This promotion was sponsored by U.S. Cellular and ended on April 26 (i.e., 4th month, 26th day). The Brewers also partnered with sponsor WTMJ 620 AM to offer a discounted $6.20 tickets for the June 20 game (i.e., 6th month, 20th day) (33). Readers can imagine a $7.04 Flash Ticket Sale for a July 4 (i.e., 7th month, 4th day) baseball game. The University of Illinois (52) held a Father’s Day flash sale of tickets for the 2018 home opener in football. Fans were required to buy a minimum of four tickets to get the $9.99 promotional price. All tickets were delivered just in time to be given as Father’s Day gifts.

In-the-Future: Future Game Ticket Discounts during Games
Visitors to Disney World Parks (Orlando, FL) are familiar with the company’s efforts to sell the benefits of Disney Vacation Club membership to park guests. While guests are enjoying their Disney experience, they are offered discounts to commit to future visits to Disney properties. Intuitively, this model presents an opportunity for increased in-stadium sale of future game tickets. Today’s fans can be offered the opportunity to purchase future game tickets at a discount with the stipulation that the discounts disappear at the end of the game or event. Mini-plan and single game tickets can be offered for remaining games. To date, there are limited examples of this intuitively attractive strategy. While future tickets are commonly sold on game day, they are rarely discounted with incentive to act now.

Expanding In-Stadium Food and Beverage Options
Value Menu Pricing
Many Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs) such as Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and others have embraced value menu pricing to attempt to lure diners to their restaurants. Research suggested some sports fans were avoiding concessions altogether given the high prices and perceived poor value. With the Fall 2017 football season, Mercedes Benz Stadium replaced the venerable Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta. During stadium construction, the Atlanta Falcons promised the introduction of a value menu to offer the lowest concession prices among major league sports, including: $2 hot dogs or pretzels; $3 slices of pizza or nachos; and $2 soft drinks. Falcons officials noted continued research that showed consistent fan frustration with higher concession prices. Their goal was to enhance the fan experience and to remove the dissatisfaction with higher food prices and the tendency among some fans to simply not purchase such items while at the stadium (40).

At the end of 2017 NFL season, these 50% reductions in food and beverage prices compared to the Georgia Dome resulted in an 11.6% increase in per-fan spending. Fans ranked Mercedes Benz Stadium first in terms of quality, value, speed of service, and variety. And, interestingly, there was a 10% increase in early fan arrivals, indicating some consumers purposefully choosing the in-stadium dining options over those outside of the stadium (4).
Many teams have followed the lead of the Atlanta Falcons. For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars announced planned reductions in concession pricing for the 2018 season. Popular items such as hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, nachos, bottled soda, and fountain drinks will all cost $5. And, fans will be permitted to bring outside food into the stadium, though it must be unwrapped and limited to a one-gallon, clear plastic bag (41).

Combination Meals
Diners are familiar with price bundling, particularly in Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs). Here, buyer’s purchase an entrée, side dish, and drink for a price lower than the price of purchasing these items separately. Over one-third of QSR transactions include the sales of such combo meals (48). For the 2018 season, the Baltimore Ravens revamped their in-stadium concessions (and philosophy). Formerly a la carte items can now be purchased together at a substantial savings. For example, a Stadium Burger combo meal (burger, fries, and bottled water) sold for $12.00, down from $19.25 when items were previously purchased separately (3). For the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions offered two combo meal options: (a) hot dog, chips, and soft drink for $10.00; and (b) hot dog, chips, and draft beer for $12.00 (18).

All-You-Can-Eat Dining
Many restaurants offer all-you-can-eat specials, especially on traditionally slower days. The Los Angeles Dodgers offer a game ticket and all-you-can-eat menu starting at $35 (depending on the opponent) in the Right Field Pavilion. The All-You-Can-Eat menu consists of items that have traditionally provided large profit margins (Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, Coca-Cola products, and bottled water). To lower costs (and increase service levels), most items are served self-service. The All-You-Can-Eat menu is available 90 minutes before game time and ends two hours after the game begins (29).

“Early Bird” Discounts on Food and Beverage
Much like the above discussion of Early Bird discounts for tickets, the Chicago Cubs currently offer an early bird discount on concessions by reducing prices by 10% on all food and non-alcoholic beverages for the first hour after the gates open. This strategy allows the stadium to compete with other Wrigleyville vendors for the pre-game meal purchases (15). For the 2018 season, the University of Texas hosted a pre-game party on “Bevo Boulevard” which included happy hour pricing on beer and wine (5). Also, for the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions offered the “Power Hour” happy hour for the first hour after the gates were opened. This period was extended to two hours for Sunday Night and Monday Night games. During this period, concessions are reduced by an average of 60 percent (18).

In-the-Future: Pre-Paid Season-Long Dining
Cedar Fair Amusements offers a Season-Long Dining Pass at their Amusement Parks (such as Knott’s Berry Farm, Cedar Point, Carowinds, King’s Dominion, and others). For $99, pass holders are entitled to two meals per day per park visit (11). College sports season tickets holders have purchased access to (say), seven home football games, 15 home basketball games, or 25 college baseball games. Teams could consider season-long dining plans as add-on’s to their season ticket plans.

In-the-Future: Family Meal Deals
Family visitors to Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, New Jersey) can choose between two Family Meal Deals: (a) pizza, caesar salad, fries, and four drinks for $39.99; or (b) chicken strips, fries, and four drinks for $39.99 (43). Parents find such meal deals attractive as they save both time and money. To date, there are few examples of this strategy being implemented in-stadium. What has been more common is to bundle a ticket and a pre-paid concession into a value price. For example, the “Canes Fam Value Pack” includes four tickets and $40 worth of pre-paid concessions for as little as $130 for one of eight select Carolina Hurricanes hockey games during the 2018-19 season. This deal is not available the day of a game (10). The Tacoma Rainiers (Minor League Baseball) have partnered with sponsor Little Caesars to offer family meals deals that have included tickets, caps, in-stadium food, and after-game Little Caesars pizza (46).

In-the-Future: Refillable Drink Cups
Cedar Fair Amusements also offers season-long drink plans at their parks (11). For around $30, guests purchase a refillable drink cup with unlimited refills for the season. Season ticket holders could be offered season-long drink plans as add-on’s to their season ticket plans.

Expanding Tailgating Options
All-inclusive Tailgate Experiences
Sandals Resorts provides all-inclusive vacations at sixteen 5-star resorts located on six separate islands in the Caribbean. Guests are treated to luxury dining, unlimited beverages (including alcoholic drinks), water sports (scuba and snorkeling), land sports (golf and tennis) and entertainment. For one fee, guests enjoy an all-inclusive experience (42). A key benefit for guests at all-inclusive resorts is the promise of a hassle-free vacation experience.

For football tailgaters at the University of Mississippi, Southern Traditions Company has been providing a hassle-free tailgating experience since 2009. For $3,500 for the season, fans get a premium spot on “The Grove” (game tickets not included), set-up and take-down services, tents, televisions with satellite connections, tables, chairs, and rope lighting. Upgrades are available including: fans, larger televisions, additional tents, enhanced speakers, and matted flooring. Catering service is available but not included in the standard fee. The company also offers service for football games at Mississippi State, Louisiana State University (LSU), Texas, Baylor, and Tennessee (44). Similarly, Tailgater Concierge provides all-inclusive tailgating services for University of Southern California (USC), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Oregon, Michigan, and Illinois football games (47).

Georgia Southern University partnered with a local builder to build field-side luxury tailgate suites. These 400 square foot ‘mini homes’ offer four televisions, wet bar, air conditioning, and private bathrooms. Guests can grill their tailgate meals on their porches. Full catering service is also available. This unique experience is reserved for higher-level donors and includes tickets, parking, and season-long storage (21). For the 2018 season, packages started at $15,000 and included tickets for 18 fans and four parking passes (22). This members-only area provides luxurious and hassle-free experience much like the Sandals Resorts referenced earlier.

Tailgating Concierge
Hotel guests look to the concierge for information about local tickets, attractions, and other information about the host city. Similarly, the ability to link fans with turn-key all-inclusive tailgate support while out of town can enhance the game day experience of the most loyal fans. Out-of-town fans can drive/fly to the game site without hauling their own tailgate gear. And, where the distance between parking and tailgating are great, pre-planned tailgating can provide fans the peace-of-mind that they have a spot with the needed gear for their tailgate party. The availability of such services can be a fundraising partnership for an athletic department. For example, Tailgater Concierge contributes a portion of game day revenues back to the school (19).

Indoor Tailgating Locations (in Both Winter and Summer)
As any cruise passenger knows, space on a cruise ship must serve a variety of functions. For example, a Comedy Club doubles as a trivia location. Or, the main showroom doubles as a bingo parlor. Many schools are now opening more of their indoor spaces to their tailgaters. The University of Wyoming allows fans to tailgate in their indoor football practice facility in the “Pepsi Pregame Zone” (55). The University of Michigan uses its Indoor Track Facility for pre-game parties (53). A dedicated indoor tailgate space can also be constructed (and provide a sponsorship opportunity). The Green Bay Packers opened the “Johnsonville Tailgate Village” in Fall 2017. Fans are able to enjoy a climate-controlled environment that connects with the stadium. The facility can be open-air for warmer days and closed-door for colder days (26). This partnership features two Wisconsin-based firms with Johnsonville (a meat packer) offering products that are staples at tailgate parties (hotdogs, sausages, etc.).

As illustrated above, we have seen the migration of successful hospitality practices to athletics marketing. Both hospitality operators and athletic marketers are service providers competing for guest/fan loyalty in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The migration of customer relationship programs and enhanced game day experiences (including tailgates) represent a good fit. Most athletic competitions already offer food and beverage options so these strategies are ripe for adoption as well. Finally, entertainment venues (like athletic marketers) ticket their events which makes migration of successful ticketing strategies likely. The lists presented above are illustrative rather than exhaustive. And, a few strategies that are intuitively appealing are advanced for consideration. It is expected that strategies successful in the hospitality industry will continue to migrate to athletics marketing, much to the benefits of fans and teams alike. Guidance for athletic marketers are presented below.

Hospitality marketers strive to achieve the highest levels of guest satisfaction. High levels of guest satisfaction lead to guest loyalty and, ultimately, to profitability (57). Hospitality marketers are selling experiences, such as dining experiences (i.e., an evening at the restaurant), entertainment experiences (i.e., an evening at the theater), or personal challenge experience (i.e., a rafting trip or demanding training session at the gym). At the core, athletic competitions offer fans an entertainment experience with the added benefits of food, dining, fellowship, and group affiliation (i.e., alumni back on campus supporting their alma mater). For these reasons, successful strategies in the hospitality sector can often migrate to athletics. Below are some recommendations to guide their implementation.

Be Willing to Experiment
Many of the above strategies can be tried on a per-game basis. For example, a “combo meal” or “family meal deal” can be advertised in stadium with extra signage at concession stands or pushed on a team’s social media platform. Then, their sales can be tracked to determine if adequate sales occurred and whether the practice should be continued. Further, a BOGO ticket deal, or even a ticket flash sale, can be announced with short notice for any game where ticket sales seem to be lagging.

Be Willing to Follow-the-Leader
As has been said before, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Operators are encouraged to follow the lead of others while customizing activities to their team, venue, or community. During the 2018 football season, the University of South Carolina held a one-day flash sale for tickets for their season opener versus Coastal Carolina University. Tickets were $18.01. The significance? The University of South Carolina was founded in 1801 (54). As noted earlier, the Detroit Lions expanded their early bird specials to two hours for Sunday and Monday evening games. Fans were encouraged to come to the stadium and combine their tailgate and game experiences (18).

Be Willing to Engage with Partners and Sponsors
Many of the strategies outlined above provide the opportunity to engage a team’s partners and sponsors for their mutual benefit. For example, drink and meal specials can be the exclusive domain of a restaurant sponsor with advertising building brand awareness for that partner. The Tacoma Rainers (minor league baseball) work with Little Caesars to do a “Family Meal Deal” with a twist … fans get coupons for Little Caesars for use before or after the game (and not in-stadium) (46). Ticket deals (such as buy-one-get-one) can be presented by a sponsor (such as the Union 76 BOGO deal of the Los Angeles Dodgers referenced earlier). Flash sales for tickets or merchandise can be broadcast by a media partner and hosted by an area restaurant or sporting goods retailer. Such activities enhance the benefits of affiliation for a team’s sponsors.

Stay Focused on the Game Day Experience
From a fan’s perspective, a day at the ballpark or stadium competes with other entertainment options, which may include staying home and watching a variety of games on television. For this reason, athletic marketers are embracing hospitality strategies that focus on improving guest satisfaction with their game day experience. Below is a pointed quote by Detroit Lions Team President, Rod Wood, announcing changes for the 2018 season:
These fan-friendly, value-added food and beverage options are another example of us taking feedback from fans and using it to improve our game day experience. Over the past year we have spent considerable time working with Levy to get something in place that makes sense for our fans without hurting the quality or speed of service. We’re thrilled to be able to introduce these value options in time for the 2018 season. (18)

Fans are guests who commit to spend their time, money, and energy/emotion at a ball park or stadium. They have other options. Each team must work to be a preferred entertainment option. This philosophy must be embraced in an increasingly competitive market for the entertainment dollar. Fans will reward those organizations that do it well with their loyalty. The above strategies are offered to assist in this all-important effort.


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24. Grewal, D. & Levy, M. (2019). M Marketing (6th Edition). McGraw-Hill: New York, NY.

25. Intercontinental Hotels (2018). About us – Our history. Retrieved from:

26. Johnsonville (2018). Johnsonville Tailgate Village opens at Lambeau Field. Retrieved from:

27. Kansas City Royals (2018). Royals promotions. Retrieved from:

28. Los Angeles Dodgers (2018a). Dodger Double-Play: two Dodger tickets for the price of one! presented by 76® Retrieved from:

29. Los Angeles Dodgers (2018b). LA Dodger Pavilion party packs. Retrieved from:

30. Los Angeles Dodgers (2018c). Dodger Pride rewards. Retrieved from:

31. Lucas Oil Stadium (2018). Tour one of America’s premier sports palaces. Retrieved from:

32. Millitzer, J. & Clark, P. (2018). Cardinals selling tickets for $5 during Tuesday’s flash sale. Fox2 Now, St. Louis. Retrieved from:

33. Milwaukee Brewers (2018). Flash sale: get tickets to the Brewers upcoming series against the Angels for $4.26. Retrieved from:

34. Muskegon Lumberjacks (2018). Lumberjacks announce BOGO tickets for Valentine’s Day. Retrieved from:

35. Narayanan, S. (2017). Why push is critical to effectively promoting your flash sale. Retrieved from:

36. New York Jets (2018). Overview – Jets Rewards. Retrieved from:

37. NYCVP (2018). New York Yankee baseball tickets & vacations. Retrieved from:

38. Oakland Athletics (2018). Sunday Funday packs. Retrieved from:

39. PNC Park (2018). PNC Park tours. Retrieved from:

40. Rovell, D. (2016). Falcons to offer lowest concession prices in major team sports in 2017. ESPN Online. Retrieved from:

41. Ruiz, S. (2018). Jaguars reveal changes: no tarps, new uniforms, lower concession prices. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from:

42. Sandals (2019). All-inclusive resorts. Retrieved from:

43. Six Flags Great Adventure (2018). Discount meal deals. Retrieved from:

44. Southern Traditions Company (2018). The Grove tailgating. Retrieved from:

45. St. Louis Cardinals (2018). Cards Cash. Retrieved from:

46. Tacoma Rainiers (2018). The best family meal deal ever. Retrieved from:

47. Tailgater Concierge (2018). Tailgating made easy. Retrieved from:

48. Taylor, K. (2016). McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s used a simple trick to sell 100 million extra meals. Business Insider. Retrieved from:

49. The Ohio State University Athletics (2018). Football tickets. Retrieved from:

50. Tuchman, R. (2015). Why sports teams still selling season tickets are doomed. Forbes. Retrieved from:

51. University of Alabama Athletics (2018). Football ticket information. Retrieved from:

52. University of Illinois Athletics (2018). Football ticket flash sale for Father’s Day set for June 13. Retrieved from:

53. University of Michigan Athletics (2018). Parents & families – pre-game tailgate. Retrieved from:

54. University of South Carolina Athletics (2018). Back to school promotions scheduled for Thursday, August 23. Retrieved from:

55. University of Wyoming Athletics (2018). Pepsi Pregame Zone. Retrieved from:

56. Utah Jazz (2018). Utah Jazz 2018/19 season ticket membership. Retrieved from:

57. Walker, J. (2017). Introduction to Hospitality (7th Edition). Pearson: Boston, MA.

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