Xeikon Hopes European Soccer Results Kick-Start U.S. Ticket Printing

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Joos N.V., a printer based in Turnhout, Belgium printed 1.2 million on-demand tickets for the Euro 2000 soccer tournament that ended last month when France triumphed over Italy.

Xeikon, which manufactures the digital color press used in the project, calls the experience -- its first in events ticket sales -- a success, as the results met the predictions it made at the start of the tournament.

The Chicago-based firm's DCP 320 D press and its software applications, according to Joos, were instrumental in the success of the print run. But a Xeikon spokesman also said his company was looking forward to taking part in on-demand business with U.S. events marketers after helping Joos meet the needs unique to the European soccer tournament.

Euro 2000 pits one country against another and has had an unfortunate tradition of nationalistically inspired violence between fans that has sometimes ended in deaths. For this reason, the system put together by the two firms for printing the tickets had as much to do with security as it did with marketing.

People who ordered Euro 2000 tickets were required to give their home address. That information was then converted into database files according to each fan's nationality. The transaction system was constructed to only allow German fans, for example, to buy tickets in the pre-allocated Germany cheering section.

Additionally, each ticket had a barcode unique to the purchaser's name, making certain that, with proper stadium procedures, only one consumer could use the ticket. The barcode feature also better ensured that scalpers would not sell tickets to people of other nations, which would promote mixed ethnic seating and the potential of mayhem.

To prevent stray tickets from escaping the production room, Xeikon cut and bound the tickets into covers directly from the roll. The company also embedded images into the ticket paper to make counterfeiting more difficult.

"Security is a big issue with football ticket printing; a lot of money can be lost on forgeries," said Marco Stam, ticketing operations manager for Euro 2000.

On the marketing side of things, the database used in the project had to consider that much of the design of each ticket depended on the game locations and the teams involved, as the tournament was played in eight different European cities. The full-color tickets brandished photos of the appropriate stadium as well as logos of the varying corporations sponsoring the events.

The different nationalities of the fans also affected the look of the ticket. French fans, for instance, received tickets designed with France's team colors and logos.

Now that Xeikon has Euro 2000 under its belt, it plans to market its experience in this area to American sports and entertainment firms that could benefit from the potential for ad placement and affinity marketing in ticket production.

"[Xeikon] does feel like there are major marketing opportunities here in adding value to high-profile events," said James Krouse, spokesman at Xeikon. "They want to take it past the plain, black-and-white sort of ticket with just the seat number on it and make the tickets more as souvenirs. Also, the situation here would allow more focus to be on marketing rather than security."

Krouse said markets for on-demand printing have developed more slowly and less diversely in the United States than in Europe, even though the technology continually becomes more sophisticated and is available everywhere.

"A lot of marketers/printers have watched from the sideline to see how a lot of developments pan out before they get on the field, so to speak," he said. "And some marketers don't even know what capabilities on-demand printing offers them."

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