Association of Marketing Theory and Practice Proceedings 2011


2009-10 NBA Season - How has the Marketing of Tickets Changed?

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Conference Track

Sport Marketing

Publication Date



NBA teams are reporting an erosion of their season ticket base over the last view years. As a result, the sales areas of partial plans, group sales, and individual sales have been looked upon as a way to financial compensate for the revenues lost. The primary use of this study was to determine which marketing techniques were still successful, the pricing and expected tickets for the 2009-10 season, the effects of the secondary ticket marketing, and the effect of employment in the sales and marketing department. A questionnaire was electronically sent to all 30 of the NBA directors of marketing.

The Recession- Is it Effecting the Marketing of Tickets for the National Basketball Association? The recession and the shrinkage of disposal income for households has increased the competition within the entertainment industry, professional sports teams are using a variety of marketing to increase home game attendance (Burton & Cornilles, 1998). Ticket sales is an adjusted revenue stream which is unlike many of the other revenue streams. Revenue streams that involve long term contracts are as follows: naming rights of buildings, signage, television, radio, club box and suites. Sport marketers are constantly searching new and improved techniques to increase the bottom line. The importance of sport marketing was explained in the scholarly research of Schlossberg (1996), Spoelstra (1997), and Mullin, Hardy, and Sutton (2000). Furthermore former NBA executive with the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, and the New Jersey Nets Jon Spoelstra (1997), “ticket are the lifeblood of professional sports”. The importance of “butts in seats” effects other revenue streams such as the following: parking, concession,


In order to determine the best marketing techniques used during the 2008-2010 NBA season, an expert panel of 5 individuals in the area of sports sales and marketing was asked to examine the 20 marketing techniques that were used in the Dick and Dick (2007) article. The subjects that were chosen because of their expertise were: John Nash, General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers; Frank Sullivan, Director of Group Sales of the New Jersey Nets; Pat Williams, Vice President of the Orlando Magic; Jim Van Stone, Vice President of Sales for the Washington Capitals; and Scott Loft, Vice President of Ticket Sales and Services for the Miami Dolphins.

These 20 techniques were sent to the NBA marketing directors who were asked to rate each one on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = very ineffective to 5 = very effective) in terms of the effectiveness of each technique in increasing NBA home game attendance. The response rate was 66%, with all 30 NBA teams responding. All of the panelists agreed that each used these 20 techniques to increase home game attendance at NBA games to some extent.


Among all strategies that the sales personnel used, group sales strategies; face-to-face meetings; web-based offers; email offers; mini-season packages and data base mining are most effective. The use of external ticket-exchange software and booster clubs/special memberships are among the least effective. Most franchises hire more than 10 full-time sales persons, some of the franchise have full-tine sales persons as many as 45. Seven of the franchises did not hire any part-time sales personnel. Other franchises kept some part-time sales personnel, of which two of them hired as many as 20 part-time sales persons. The number of full-time and part-time sales persons did not change during the 2008-09 season and are expected to remain the same for most of the franchises during the 2009-10 season. Prices of season tickets, partial-season tickets and group tickets stayed the same for most of the franchises. Though, some of the franchises decreased prices of individual tickets to increase sales. Other changes the franchised made during 2008-09 include value-based packages, discounted prices, longer payment plan, group packages, cutting marketing investment in traditional media and shifted to internet based applications. Most of the franchises believe that during 2009-10 season, the sales of group tickets will increase. Franchises’ responses regarding the sales of season tickets, partial-season ticket, and individual tickets during 2009-10 vary greatly, with some anticipating the sales to drop while others expecting the sales to increase. Still some of the franchises think the sales will just stay the same compared to 2008-09 season. The evidence shows that secondary ticket market does not help with the franchises’ sales effort; sometimes it even has a negative effect on it. Few franchises believe the secondary ticket market has a positive effect on the franchises’ sales effort. The sales strategies franchises will employ during 2009-10 season include: flexible payment plan; value-based proposition; data base mining effort; training on sales team skill set; discounted or froze ticket prices; web-based marketing.

About the Authors


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