One of the fun parts about sports marketing research is that we get to delve deeply into the mindset of fans. In both the qualitative and quantitative space, a number of research techniques that borrow from the social sciences are quite useful in getting past generic, push-button answers to arrive at the deeper emotive rationale that so often drives fan behavior.
Simply put, what someone initially claims and what they ultimately do, are often quite different. Professional researchers know how to get past initial posturing.
That’s why I’ve always voiced my aversion to do-it-yourself, “mother-in-law” research. Ask someone who isn’t necessarily representative of the target audience straight out what they want, and you may not get an answer worth the effort that you put in.
That said, in new product development and ticketing research, there is nothing wrong with initially seeking out the most aspirational fan desires, absent any parameters, as an entry ramp to inform the ultimate pragmatic solution.
As a case in point, it’s telling that when presenting a number of ticketing concepts for target evaluation, absent pricing information, the more expensive options often fare well. Beyond the initial no-holds barred, cost-absent inquiry, we’ll next have respondents ascribe a number of price expectations, using a battery of price elasticity questions, that when statistically tested, yield acceptable price ranges for ticket options, again absent any dose of reality.
This can spawn internal brainstorming about how to potentially reconfigure current or future offerings to approximate that solution in a way that is both desirable for fans and profitable for the property. Secondly, it allows ticket marketers to immediately gauge gaps in what is being offered and what fans desire.
The third test, in conjunction with the first two, is even more telling. Here we have fans reevaluate their top choices from the initial, price-excluded test, adding in the realistic test prices. We often now will see premium packages plummet in mass audience desirability.
Of course, we’ll find those segments that still gravitate to the premium packages and thus provide a target profile for those potential customers.
But the beauty of this third test is that it further illustrates the gaps between aspiration and reality. Armed with data from each of these tests, and ideally initial qualitative exploration that evokes the emotional drivers to each concept, ticket marketers are now able to estimate demand of existing packages, to reconfigure them where needed, and to derive appropriate product positioning that can be integrated into marketing messaging.