JOHNNY CRAWFORD / AJC file
Photo: AJC file
Photo: AJC file

Georgia Tech changing ticket-sales strategy for UGA game

With an intention to optimize pricing, capture revenue and remove the middle man, Georgia Tech will test a different ticket sales strategy for its home game against Georgia in November.

The Tech ticket office will put tickets for the annual rivalry game on sale Sept. 9, but rather than selling them at a fixed price, will adjust prices based on demand, not unlike how secondary market websites like StubHub or Vivid Seats operate.

“Really, it’s about just having your finger on the pulse of supply and demand and how that affects pricing to make sure we’re accurately pricing and moving tickets at an optimum price,” said Mike Castle, Tech’s assistant athletic director for ticket sales and operations.

In the past, Tech has sold tickets to the Georgia game only through season tickets or a multi-game pack, in part to keep tickets in the hands of Yellow Jackets fans. That has had an effect of impacting sales of other games, however. Brokers purchasing season tickets have long sold tickets to more in-demand games like Georgia or Clemson at a premium but then sold the rest at much lower prices. Likewise, the ticket office found that Georgia and Clemson fans were buying the multi-game packs but using the tickets only for their teams’ games and then unloading the rest on secondary markets, which drove down the price for tickets for those games.

Both practices ensured revenue for Tech on the front end but undercut the ticket office’s ability to sell tickets to games other than the most popular matchups when secondary market prices were lower than Tech’s set prices.

In this approach, Tech can capture the full price that fans are willing to pay for games like Georgia or Clemson – many of them fans of Tech’s opponent – that in the past might have gone to ticket brokers. To that end, Tech has also reduced the number of season tickets it has sold to brokers.

“So the revenue is coming back to us, not the broker,” said Marvin Lewis, Tech associate athletic director for finance and administration.

Tech is calling it a “3D” approach – pricing will be data-driven, demand-based and dynamic in nature. The department will set prices based on recommendations from Atlanta-based Kaizen Analytix, which uses artificial-intelligence algorithms incorporating ticket transaction data and other factors to determine pricing models. The prices will begin at $130 for tickets in the upper corners of the east and west stands. (The seats in the upper north stands are part of Georgia’s 8,000-seat allotment.) For the 2017 game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the average ticket price on StubHub was $162.

“I could see (prices) changing daily, especially if tickets are moving quickly,” Castle said.

The approach for the athletic department to sell tickets at adjustable prices, particularly at prices that could escalate given the willingness of Georgia fans to pay heavy premiums to see the Bulldogs, might be off-putting to some fans who are used to teams sticking to set prices. Castle noted that Tech has rewarded its most loyal fans – its season-ticket holders – by offering them UGA tickets for $90 earlier in the year and now $100, a price that will remain no matter what happens with the public sales price.

The ticket office has also pushed a different product, the Stinger Mobile pass, which is similarly priced to multi-game packs (starting at $149) but grants entry to all seven of the Jackets’ home games. The difference is that the seats are assigned only at the stadium, making re-sale highly difficult.

Regardless, it’s a new venture with an objective of increasing revenue. Tech is facing a particularly tight financial squeeze. The department ran a $9.6 million deficit in the 2019 fiscal year and is projecting a $1.7 million deficit this year.

The sales strategy for the Georgia game is considered a test run for the athletic department. It’s possible that similar ventures could be used for marquee home games for men’s basketball, such as games against Duke or Louisville.

The ticket office will start a pre-sale Thursday. Fans can register through the single-game ticket-sales page on the Tech website.

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