Save Your Sports Ticket Programs

By Tony Knopp

When the time comes to cut costs, tickets and luxury suites are a popular target. But they shouldn't be, and here's why. Corporate sports ticket programs can bring in new customers, energize a workforce, and reinforce a fun and dynamic culture. Who doesn’t want to go to the big game or concert? In today’s economy, however, a “fun and dynamic culture” is not as important to some as the bottom line and lead to companies cutting valuable assets. Below are the five simple ways to avoid your tickets being downsized in an uncertain economy:

1) Stop Hiding the Tickets and Showcase Them. Rules best learned in kindergarten go out the door when tickets to the big game are involved. Everybody share or nobody gets them. A company buys tickets and the executives hoard them for themselves, claiming they are concerned the staff will create an unmanageable stampede once informed about tickets. But the opposite occurs. The big games get used, the rest don’t, and finance has no choice but to cut budget when faced with stacks of unused tickets wasting away in drawers. 2013 Tip: Communicate tickets openly. Use roles or regions to make tickets available. For example: Only VP’s get access for the first two weeks, then directors, then everyone as the game gets closer.

2) Create good policy and avoid politics. Tickets are valuable. Everybody wants them which leads to managers often playing favorites, executives bullying ticket managers and important prospects being left at home. It is critical to have clearly defined policies for which requests will get priority, and openly communicate these guidelines to your team. Take out the guesswork and empower your ticket managers to do the right thing without fear of demanding executives. 2013 Tip: Distribute tickets by amount of potential revenue represented by the guest with no guest going to an event more than once per month (or an appropriate timeframe for your program).

3) Get an Executive Involved. It always helps to have friends in high places – especially when they can help you save your ticket program. Executives left in the dark on your process, no matter how strong you think it may be, are executives that cut tickets. Involve them in the high level crafting of your policy and keep them updated regularly on progress, wins and underperforming tickets. 2013 Tip: Common sense rule applies -- when a person believes they have ownership in tickets they are less likely to cut them.

4) Play Offense. Once you are asked "Are these tickets worth it?" your program is already in serious trouble. Don’t assume everybody knows how well things are going. Make sure the "tickets" get the credit when they helped pin down a tough prospect or were instrumental in signing a major deal with a customer two weeks after the big game. Regularly encourage your team with positive results and position tickets as a necessary business expense and not a boondoggle or hassle. 2013 Tip: Create a monthly report highlighting ticket wins including detailed lists of what customers have attended events recently. Showcase staffers using tickets to their advantage and point out the tax benefits created for the firm by your process. Be aggressive in pointing out successful tickets and the need for more while identifying those that can be dropped.

5) Get Tickets Out Of Drawers At All Cost. Teams lose, star players leave, games fall on holidays. Unfortunately, not every ticket is Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There are still teammates that want your tickets. Plan ahead for low-demand games with staff drawings and open communication. Donating tickets to charity carries tax benefits and can help a good cause. All tickets are assets and should never go unused. 2013 Tip: Include low demand tickets on your employee discounts page and donate any unused tickets to charity for a tax deduction.

About the Author
Tony Knopp is Co-Founder & CEO of Spotlight Ticket Management , a provider of corporate sports ticket management, enabling companies to measure the business impact of sports and entertainment assets while staying compliant. He can be reached at aknopp@spotlighttms.com.