The high cost of rooting

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Many people who are sports fans often grouse about the ever-skyrocketing cost of attending a live game, whatever sport it may be. If one brings their spouse and say, two kids, to any major league sporting event, the cost is likely to be well over $100.

The New York Giants are one of many teams who have embraced the concept of Personal Seat Licenses (PSL’s). PSL’s are a one-time payment for permanent control of a home game seat in a team’s stadium. In the Giants’ case, the purchase guarantees the owner’s right to purchase a season ticket, provides the purchaser with control of successorship of the tickets, a benefit now only available for direct family members. The PSL stays active on the condition that the season tickets are purchased annually.

The Giants recently had to engage in a delicate marketing strategy when it was announced some of the PSL’s at their new stadium, to be completed in 2010, would run upwards of $20,000, which caused much backlash and criticism among fans and the New York media.

One avenue the Giants used to market the new PSL’s was direct mail and e-mail. A letter mailed to current season ticket holders said the price of PSL’s was due to the $1.6 billion price tag of the new stadium, which the Giants are solely financing. The Giants said revenue from the PSL’s is needed to fund the construction, especially since they are not receiving any public financing to build it. In the case of many other recently built sports stadiums, voter-approved tax increases were used to partially fund the construction.

They also tried to convey sympathy about implementing the PSL’s. John Mara, the team’s owner, on the Giants Web site says, “We have spent months exploring our various options regarding the financing of the construction of the new stadium,” said Mara, “Given construction costs and NFL and lender requirements for paying down our debt, and after much thought and analysis, we decided this PSL program is necessary. All the net proceeds from the sale of PSLs will be used to fund construction of the new stadium.”

I think pointing out that the stadium will not be publicly financed, and conveying the idea that it was a gut-wrenching decision to implement PSL’s, can be a good marketing strategy for the team, in light of the fact some people will have to pay $20,000 just for the right to purchase season tickets.

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