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  • Brett Zalaski

Fans as Commodities: The Biggest Problem #SportsBiz is Creating During #COVID19


One of the major functions of a #sportsbiz sales rep to their team is as a marketing tool. Sure, it's awesome that they sell...but it's also the organizations way of humanizing the team to its fans AND marketing their ticket packages. There's immense value in well-trained, on-message sales reps that runs well past what they sell.


Over the years, I've heard the sports industry compare itself to the hotel industry, airplane industry, movie theater industry, and private plane industry...among many others. The problem with those comparisons is that it forgets that who it's squeezing with its end product decisions are people that have rooted for their teams for decades, have had their team logo tattooed to their leg, have traveled great distances to watch their team play, etc. Those other industries are commoditizing people because they've already made a decision to travel, or go to the movies, etc. We're commoditizing the lifeblood of our organization...and the reason we have jobs to begin with. Those relationships fans allow us to have with them should be cherished...not maximized.


Because when we focus on fans as commodities we do things as an industry like not reach out to them when the pandemic happened (no outbound sales), we cut headcount on the people who can be interacting with them (furloughing or letting go sales reps), and we make assumptions on how to keep our fans safe without asking them how we can keep them safe (I've seen very few back-to-play surveys).


As shitty as it is that we can't play games or truly sell tickets, it's worse in a lot of ways for our fans. And assuming they'll come racing back whenever we play again, throwing themselves into tight places with 30,000 other fans, when we haven't been consistently communicating with them couldn't possibly make us more inside the #sportsbiz bubble.


We need to be calling our fans. We need to be offering innovative ticket packages to make them comfortable spending money now. We need reps to do that. We need to be devising back-to-play strategies with fan safety at the forefront of all of our decisions...not their money.


For a long time we've assumed fan avidity. If we lose a fan through escalating ticket prices or poorly trained reps we shrug and we don't care. 'There's always another one,' we say to ourselves. This cavalier attitude is coming home to roost in some leagues...and it's not too far around the corner for others...especially if we fuck up our handling of selling and connecting during #COVID19.