Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DBJ's Ultimate Season Ticket Holder Package proposal

I spent part of the morning filling out the Columbus Blue Jackets' season ticket holder satisfaction survey, and it got me thinking about things related to attendance, tickets and renewal of my particular package for next season.

As background, I renewed as early as I did last season in no small part due to the fact that obtaining a season ticket package for this 2012-13 season meant that I was guaranteed a seat in the all-star game festivities.  We all know how that turned out.

So, given the fact that there will be no All-Star Game enticement this time around, what will it take to get season ticket holders for next season?  The team has been below the playoff qualifying line all season long - often in the NHL's sub-basement, although it appears that they're clawing their way back to something approaching respectability - and the bloom is being held on the rose only through the purge of hockey operations management.  That's enough to keep this fan hanging around, but it's fair to wonder if it's enough to make me interested in dropping another big check when I could instead grab seats on a per-game basis.  So what's it going to take?

The Blue Jackets appear to be fishing around on the same point, asking for relative preferences on things like player/team access, merchandise, special events and the like.  But as I was thinking through their list, an idea came up - one that they didn't mention.  So let me take a stab at something I would find acceptable if not downright exciting: Shared Risk - A partnership between the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans.

Permit me to explain...

I'm a quarter season ticket holder, and I gather that my seats cost $45 each on the single game market through TicketMaster.  With my quarter season package, I pay $38 each - a savings of $7.00, or 15%.  Make a note of that number, for it will be important as I go forward

The Blue Jackets' goal in every season should be to make the playoffs at minimum, and it is something I would willingly pay full freight for.  At the same time, I have a very, very hard time finding enthusiasm to swallow my 15 percent discount only to see the team challenging for the top draft pick.  So let's work this into a formula where the team shares in the risk of ticket pricing through its on-ice performance.  Try on this rough model (in a 16-team Eastern Conference, as it appears the Blue Jackets are headed that way):

  • Playoff qualifying (Top 3 in the Atlantic Division or one of two Eastern Conference wild cards): Full price tickets - no discount
  • Missing the playoffs by...
    • 1-2 points: 10 percent discount
    • 3-5 points: 15 percent discount
    • 6-10 points: 30 percent discount
    • 11 or more points: 50 percent discount
    • Last place in the NHL: 75 percent discount
Let's keep expanding upon the prior thinking.  Again, I'm happy as a clam to pay full price for a team that plays playoff hockey.  Missing by one or two points means that we have a genuine playoff run on our hands, which provides sufficient entertainment to give some of my discount back.  At the same time, it's not successful against the the team should give something back to their ticket package investors.  

Missing the playoffs by 3-5 points means that the team has demonstrably improved but still fell short of a legitimate playoff run.  I'll take my normal discount, thank you.

Then you start entering the world of fan disappointment.  A six-point playoff miss in 2011-12 would be 10th place in the East, and a 10-point miss would be 12th.  We're starting to talk draft lottery at this point, and the team is going to have to start giving greater concessions.

Missing the playoffs by 11 or more points in 11-12 means 13th or worse in the East.  That's downright unacceptable.  I can live with "effort" and "not being outworked" in this transition year, but we've seen that not being outworked can actually result in wins with a roster that lacks superstar talent.  So, given our new hockey operations management and a full offseason to work over the roster, I think that this is territory that fans should be rewarded for their extraordinary patience with a refund of half of their ticket prices.

Last place in the NHL is totally out of the question.  Giving 75 percent back is actually generous to the team.  

This risk is totally insurable, just like player salaries are insurable against injury.  Buy a policy (surely Nationwide Insurance could help work out the details if not underwrite the risk), and the team's financial position will be secure for a season while the team strives to not just avoid being bad but start being good.  

Take your swag, free food nights and suite parties.  Take your q's and a's, tunnels of pride and backstage passes.  I'll give all that - gladly - to see the team actually win.  Because that's what I've wanted all along.

But don't you dare take away my playoff ticket purchasing priority!


  1. Somewhere, the 8,000 people on the Toronto Maple Leafs season ticket wait list are laughing at you. They are happy to pay an average ticket price of $145 USD to see Blue Jackets quality hockey.

    1. Only 8,000?

      Seriously, this is a totally different hockey market. Greater Toronto has over 5.5 million people and is the hub of Canadian commerce and media (hype). Metro Columbus has 1.8 million people and shares economic and cultural power with two other cities in the state. The Leafs have been around since 1917, while the Blue Jackets are in their twelfth NHL season.

      Let Toronto laugh. There's no way that local ownership (or pretty much any NHL market) can have the same income expectations that they have up there.

      Never mind that this team has zero winning tradition. Leafs fans can at least celebrate how great it was when their grandparents were going to games!

      No, the Blue Jackets need to make concessions to attract fans. They have done so in the past, and this is another way to do so.

    2. How do injuries, player requests to be traded, and the necessity to battle the buckeyes for broadcast time equate into the refund formula? Do you pay your season ticket fees into escrow? A refund doesn't incent me to buy a season ticket, one of the cheapest in the leauge on average. A refund helps me lower my standards as a consumer. The league didn't play hockey for a year because the owners wanted cost certainty. This will go over like a turd in a punch bowl. Not to mention the league would never let this happen. Imagine what the Senators would be going through right now? Laying off ticket sales people and hot dog vendors because of the likihood they'd have to pay back collected revenues would be greater.

    3. I somewhat agree with your position on refunds. That's why it's shared risk. If the team actually makes the playoffs, ticket holders pay more than they would under the current plan. If the team sucks rocks once again, the team has to reprice their tickets to reflect their diminished product.

      The formula is based entirely on standings points. Insurance covers the unpredictables, but The Buckeye Problem probably is an uninsurable risk.

      As for how it would go over, I don't really care. I'm a fan, not a team owner.

      And there is precedent for this type of action. (Here's another truncated piece, but NHL teams were mentioned.)

      As for layoffs/cost certainty, that's why you insure the risk. Pay your premium, keep the finances stable. Let the insurance company money issue the refunds if the season goes sour.

  2. You expect to get a discount because they don't meet your expectations of playoffs every year? Do you want this team shipped off to Canada quicker than Mason losing a shootout?

    1. Actually, read closer and see that my expectation for next season is that they're within 5 points of the playoffs. Go look at the 11-12 Eastern Conference standings and see that I'd like the team to get nothing lower than 10th before expecting any additional discount beyond what I'm currently receiving as a quarter season ticket package holder.

      On the flip side, I'm also willing to give this year's discount level of 15% back to the team in a heartbeat if they make the playoffs. In fact, I'll give 5% of that 15% back if they come up short at the wire.

      This actually is quite fair. It just places direct financial pressure on the franchise from its core ticket holders to win. (Keeping in mind that the team would insure against potential losses, of course.)

  3. Agreed after 12 years I don't won't want anymore crappy water bottles, blankets, hats, posters, bobble heads, pucks, T shirts, backstage passes, meat and greets, tunnel of pride...etc.

    Lower my tickets prices (or gaurantee you wont raise them) and give me one quality gift a year.


  4. I'm not sure why everyone is throwing you under the bus DBJ. It's a very well thought out plan, but I doubt the higher ups in the organization would consider this since they're already losing money as it stands. As for the comparison to Toronto, just shut up. That's like comparing the income generated by the Toronto Argonauts to the income generated by Ohio State football or athletics.

    1. Appreciate the thought, Money.

      As for losing money, the only way this plan loses (additional) money for the club is if they don't improve...and then the losses are capped. They'll have to buy an insurance policy to protect against the potential losses. which will cost the team money. The insurance pays for itself if the team improves and they pocket additional ticket revenue under my formula.

      And I undertand Morgan's point - that people in other markets (like Toronto) are willing to shell out a lot more for "NHL Hockey" (surely not to watch the Leafs!). Thing is, they aren't in Columbus for a host of reasons - including past performance.