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Analytics Madness

Applying marketing data to March Madness resale models

As an avid college sports fan, every year I anxiously wait for March to roll around so I can lose myself in the pageantry and drama associated with the big dance. Outside of my alma mater, Maryland, I have little true rooting interest in any game. Cheering for tight games and upsets more than anything else, I grow envious of the crowd that gets to witness the likes of R.J. Hunter’s bracket busting 3-pointer as time wound down.

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While I have yet to attend a March Madness game in person, it is most certainly on my bucket list.

Planning a fictitious trip

Planning a fictitious trip to check an item off my bucket list, I started perusing StubHub for this year’s games. I was reminded that during March Madness, similar to conference tournaments, tickets are sold to sessions as opposed to individual games. For each of the eight host locations, there are two sessions on Day 1 (early and late) and one session on Day 2; each session has two games played back to back. A team must win on Day 1 to play on Day 2. If Maryland were playing, would I buy tickets for both days up front? If I bought both and they crushed my dreams with a Day 1 loss, I’d have to take a hit on the ticket for the second day if I chose not to attend.

Buying session tickets for a weekend at the NCAA Tournament is a gamble

Finding opportunity in a loss

The arenas could certainly capitalize on this scenario. After a fan with rooting interest just watched 12 months of hope vanish in 40 minutes, the last thing they want to do is think about watching the team that just beat them in two days. While reselling their tickets online may be an option for some, it may not be readily accessible for others. These fans, with unwanted tickets, should be marketed to and compensated for their loss.

Is there really a market?

Curiosity led me to utilize the openly available API that StubHub conveniently shares, to prove that resale after Day 1 sessions exists. Taking a quick look at the ticket data for newly listed Day 2 tickets in the Omaha Region during Day 1:

Ticket demand spiked in Omaha after Indiana lost in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

For those who don’t know, Indiana has a great fan base and supports their team in relatively large numbers. The fact that there was a huge bump in newly listed tickets for Day 2 after Indiana’s loss supports the theory of Indiana fans selling unwanted Day 2 tickets.

Some ideas for compensation

Point of purchase: Bundle tickets for both days. Make an offer to those who purchase tickets for both days if they agree at purchase to forfeit their ticket to Day 2 if their team loses on Day 1. The offer could be team merchandise, Day 1 food vouchers, or even a discounted purchase price of the bundle.

Exit of the stadium: Attempt to purchase tickets for Day 2 from people as they exit the arena. Merchandise would most likely be the best option for incentive here, as they may not want to go to the game but still love their team.

Marketing and distribution of tickets

Acquired tickets could be targeted at alumni in the area of the four teams that won on the first day.  Universities could offer these tickets at a discounted price to boost fan attendance at an important game. Furthermore, as a marketer, it is a great opportunity for the university to reach out on a positive note (the recent win) with a positive offer (great seats at a great price) to a prospective donor. Keeping ties with members/customers/alumni with substantive offers is rarely a bad idea.

In summation ...

March Madness is amazing, as is the data associated with it. We, as marketers and analysts, need to be creative in how we approach problems as well as opportunities. Thinking outside the box and leveraging information that is at your fingertips is just part of the journey.