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Sports Ticket Sales: Build it. Sell it. Prove it.

Man with football on deskIf you want a job in real estate development the best thing you can do for yourself is to pull together some money, buy a dump of a house or building, fix it up yourself then sell or rent it out. It is a learning experience that demonstrates competence and can easily lead to another project or a job with a larger development company. There is always work for a self-starter with a proven track record, even if it’s just one in a row.

That works for houses but not for sports, right? You can’t very well go out and start your own team, fix them up and then sell them to show what a great executive or coach you would be. You are also not likely to start your own television or radio station to broadcast games. With teams and broadcast you need someone to give you a break; there is no way to build it. But there are two areas in the sports business where you can distinguish yourself, make a few dollars and build a name for yourself: journalism and tickets.

Sports journalism has changed a lot over the last few decades. Where once sports writing was the domain of a few old guys who had worked for the local paper for decades, now anyone can publish their own material on a blog, via email newsletter or on sites like BleacherReport and ChatSports. Add Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for a nice little publishing empire. In fact, if you are not already doing some or all of the above to build your reputation in sports, you may not be taking the whole thing seriously enough. Stop reading right now and go write something down.

The other place to make a name for yourself is tickets sales. The ticket office is the bread and butter of most teams. TV rights are huge and merchandise sales and licensing are icing on the cake but you have to start with a venue full of fans or nothing else will matter. Like team management, ticket offices are hierarchical and merit based. New hires come in at the bottom and work to distinguish themselves in order to earn promotions and climb the ladder. But the dirty little secret is that every team builds relationships with ticket brokers and other outside players. Brokers are part of the equation; they buy up excess inventory, fill seats that might go unused and influence pricing (for better or worse). The ticket resale industry may have a bad reputation but team ticket execs know the names of their local brokers and the best can use that influence to their advantage.

San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red WingsIf you have some hustle and little bit of money to get you started, buying and selling tickets could be a good place to start learning the business. You can put some money in your pocket and get on the radar of the teams you work with. If you are really good, ticketing could be your access point.

So, how to get started? First, concentrate on a market you know. If you love basketball, start there. If your uncle has season tickets for the local NHL team, maybe you can sell some of his games on consignment (Consignment = selling the tickets before you pay for them). Work with local teams so you can take advantage of the sentiment in the community and sell to people you over hear talking about the game in line for coffee. After you have sold a season of odds and ends and put some money in the bank, consider season tickets and look for good value.

Teams that do not do dynamic pricing are leaving money on the table (dynamic pricing = varying ticket prices based on a number of factors including time, day of week, opponent, promotion, etc.). The ideal team to buy season tickets for is consistently good and not yet using dynamic pricing. Do not skimp. Cheap seats do not generate big returns. Buy the seats that everyone else wants so you can sell high demand games at good mark ups then try to break even on the rest.

Once you have the tickets use resource available. Sites like unseat.me will give you easy tools to list all of your available inventory and connect it to Facebook and Twitter (Full disclosure: I run unseat.me). If you are selling in other markets like StubHub and TicketNetwork (which you should be doing) drive your buyers to those listings. Do not wait for buyers to find you there.  Take action.  You should also leverage the huge number of buyers on sites like Craigslist. Experiment with posting. Try listing everything you have. Then try only listing certain games or one game at a time. Try posting with pictures and without.  Try doing it all via email. Try posting in the market of your teams upcoming opponent. See what works for you and then do that more.

If you can’t sell something, use it. Go see who else sits in that section. See if you can buy their extras. See if they ever need a couple more seats nearby. Hand out some business cards. Take some pictures. Tweet about how great your seats are. Get to know the ushers. Go visit your ticket rep.

Tickets are one of the few areas in sports where a self-starter can make a name for themselves and make some decent money. This is no unpaid internship. This is hard work. This is high stress. This is big business. If you can sell tickets, you can write your own ticket. Teams always need people who can sell. But who knows, if you are good enough at this you may not want to trade up to a desk job.

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