Does winning matter? Helping NHL teams boost ticket sales

At Canopy Labs, we are curious about how a sports team’s fan base grows and shrinks in relation to its performance. Starting with the NHL, in this post we will explore how performance affects ticket sales in different markets and conclude with a set of tips how ticket vendors can use these insights to boost sales.

When does winning matter?

It is intuitive that home game attendance should be positively related to a team’s performance. Having a great season and pushing for the playoffs? Games should sell out. However, not all fan bases are created equal.

To better understand this dynamic, we began by looking at regular season win percentage and average home attendance percentage for each of the 30 NHL teams over the past 11 seasons, since the current 30 team format was instituted. For each team, we calculated the impact of games won in a season on arena attendance in order to find which markets care most about their team’s performance when deciding to attend games.

Winning matters more in the US than Canada

Comparing Canada and the US, we found that team performance was about 4 times better of an indicator of game attendance for American teams than for Canadian teams. Factoring in average season attendance and ticket prices, our analysis shows that a single extra win in the regular season would grow ticket revenues by $142,000 for an American team compared to $69,000 for a Canadian team. In markets such as Toronto and Edmonton, games continue to sell out despite team performance. On the other hand, a real relationship between winning and attendance can be found amongst most American teams. The markets where this is most evident are Chicago, St. Louis, and Washington.

Chicago and Toronto data over the past 11 seasons

Implications for ticket vendors

This analysis provokes a thought starter around boosting effectiveness of outbound sales for sports team ticket vendors. Particularly in markets where there is a strong relationship between team performance and attendance, the outbound sales team should pay particular attention to the importance of the prevailing team performance on ticket sales and adjusting their sales and communication strategy accordingly.

Three tips to boost ticket sales

With new platforms and technologies, teams can use a combination of existing customer data and analysis of how team performance impacts attendance to boost ticket sales. Below are a few tips to get you started.

#1: Segment your customers

Begin by locating the segment of fans whose purchase behaviour is most influenced by the prevailing performance of the team. This is accomplished by overlaying each customer’s historical sales against the team’s past performance and testing for dependency.

#2: Determine the correct time lag

For each customer, consider testing different “lag” factors to determine the timing of the relationship between team performance and sales. You need to know whether to expect an increase in ticket sales 1, 2, or 3 or more games after the team scores a victory.

#3: Send targeted communications

Finally, based on prevailing team performance, structure the outbound sales process and marketing messaging to reach out to the right fans at the right time. Set up an automated process that generates lead lists on a daily basis to help your sales reps maximize sales.

If you are eager to explore further, reach out to the team at Canopy Labs and we would be happy to help!

Written by Max Spear

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