Mendoza School of Business

The Future of Sports Ticketing

Author: Marshall King

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Robert F. Easley is a Professor of Information Technology, Analytics, and Operations in the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Robert Easley – Department Chair of the IT, Analytics and Operations Department

Easley Sees an Opportunity

As discussion of online ticketing takes place among fans of all sorts and even in Congress, Rob Easley sees an opportunity.

The John W. Berry Sr. Department Chair of the IT, Analytics, and Operations Department at the Mendoza College of Business is researching online ticketing and how it could be better.

As long as there were tickets to events, someone has been reselling them at a profit or loss or covering costs. Not much research could be done on that — until it went online.

Now the “secondary market” as it’s called provides all sorts of data for Easley and his colleagues. He was consulting and looking at data from the ticketing office at the University of Notre Dame back when most seats for football games at Notre Dame Stadium sold for the same prices. Notre Dame has switched to matrix pricing where seat prices vary based on location and the quality of the opponent. That complicates pricing and “getting that right was hard,” said Easley, who worked with colleagues on that issue, while other colleagues worked on related issues such as how to do constrained seating during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Easley published “The Future of Sports Ticketing: Technologies, Data and New Strategies” with Övünç Yilmaz at Leeds School of Business, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Mark E. Ferguson at Darla Moore School of Business, the University of South Carolina.

Yilmaz has studied the hotel industry’s pricing and Ferguson has researched these and many other areas of tiered pricing. With Easley, they’re investigating how to set ticket prices using information that’s available from purchases online from ticket sellers and resellers. Partnering with those sellers provides data that informs action.

The Fan Experience

Sports companies in particular are concerned about the fan experience and want people to perceive the ticket sales as fair. “There is a sophistication, especially in the devoted fans,” said Easley. “They know how this works. There is frustration too, especially when dealing with an algorithm and a bot that got in ahead of you.”

In their newest paper, the trio of researchers explores how ticket sales are changing, including sales after a game starts and offering value to the fan in exchange for flexibility. 

“You want to sell out,” said Easley. Filling the seats at a game provides more direct revenue and looks better on television. “There are a lot of creative ideas out there for how to fill these events.” For example, Notre Dame has offered packages to fans with varying seat assignments, sometimes with a lower per-game price. 

Easley and his collaborators point to areas of further study, including how fans accept and understand dynamic pricing that could change as teams’ records change or ticket demand rises. 

Fan perception of different pricing methods is a huge differentiator, he said.

While many people think of sports analytics as stats-based studies of three-point shots, fourth-down conversions or player performance, Easley points to the importance of research on ticket sales and pricing. “Really this is the major area where professional firms spent a lot of resources for many years,” he said, noting that the focus on fan satisfaction and revenue, rather than performance, drove research.

Additional data from secondary markets, perhaps stemming from partnerships with companies that operate them, could change how we buy tickets and how much we pay.

Additional Research:

Data-Driven Sports Ticket Pricing for Multiple Sales Channels with Heterogeneous Customers

Primary Market Dynamic Pricing for Sports, Ticket Theory and Application

The Value Based Pricing Determination Matrix for Pricing Method Selection

Financial Impact of Dual Vendor Matrix Pricing and Sole-Source Contracting on Implant Costs





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Topics: Research