Might Sagging Sales Trickle Down to The Field?
For many years, business in the NFL has been very good. The NFL is and has been “King” and if you doubt that for a second, next week, compare the TV ratings of this week’s NFL Draft to an NBA playoff game.
It will be a blow out for the gridiron guys!
The Ravens success as an organization, has paralleled that of the league. From day one, the stadium has been sold out; there’s a waiting list for PSL’s and despite the relative youthfulness of the franchise the Ravens rank as the 14th most valuable NFL team according to Forbes, at $2.3 Billion.
Making that number even more impressive is the fact that the Ravens opportunities for growth are limited, given that they are bordered by deeply rooted franchises with great traditions, namely the Redskins, Eagles and Steelers.
But is there a chink in the purple and black armor?
Unless you’ve turned a blind eye towards it, thousands of seats were left empty during several games at M&T Bank Stadium in 2016. More visiting fans invaded the stadium than ever before and fans bailed out early regularly, even with the outcome of games still hanging in the balance.
Have Ravens fans grown spoiled?
During John Harbaugh’s first five seasons the Ravens won playoff games, three times advancing to the AFC Championship Game and of course they won Super Bowl XLVII. But since they hoisted their second Lombardi, the Ravens have been postseason participants only once. Has losing since, made the product less attractive?
Other factors that may be contributing to the dwindling attendance include:
• The increasing costs to attend games
• The convenience of watching from home
• The plummeting costs and improved quality of HDTV
• Traffic and parking issues
• Public intoxication
• Concerns about safety in Baltimore
• Concession and bathroom lines
Perhaps none of these factors are an issue if the team is consistently winning; if the product is an exciting one; and if fans can identify with the team.
But let’s be honest, the Ravens haven’t been consistent winners for four seasons (31-33), they play a boring brand of football and the team lacks an identity.
Recently, a source brought an email from the Ravens’ sales staff to the attention of RSR. The email targets “select [PSL] wait list members” offering PSL’s, “at the original 1996 PSL pricing”.
Here is an example of the seating zones available and the corresponding price points:
• Zone D (upper midfield) – $2,000 per PSL (One-time fee, normally $3,500 per PSL) – example of available location = section 527, row 31
• Zone E (upper sideline) – $1,000 per PSL (Normally $2,500 per) – ex. Section 551, row 30
• Zone F (upper corner) – $750 per PSL (Normally $1,500 per) – ex. Section 522, row 28
• Zone G (upper end zone) – $750 per PSL (Normally $1,000 per) – ex. 537, row 24
So, the Ravens are now forced to offer discounts? Have the mighty fallen? Were all of those empty seats last season a signal of declining sales?
Of course, winning can take care of a lot these business issues and then the aforementioned fan inconveniences won’t seem so inconvenient. But it does beg the question, “Do declining revenues trickle down to the field?”
Stated another way, will business issues soon become player personnel issues and/or coaching issues? Might declining revenues force a win-now-at-all-costs approach?
Organizationally, the Ravens are a finely tuned machine, so it’s doubtful that a sagging income statement top line will affect the bottom line on the field in 2017. But if the Ravens finish the season on the outside looking in at the postseason, again, the team’s sales office will be forced to offer even deeper discounts in 2018, and they may even need the hope and promise that comes with a new coaching staff, to help revive that top line.
And clearly owner Steve Bisciotti will not accept a devaluation of his most valuable asset.
Winning is kryptonite for plummeting ticket sales. It’s a savior for a coaching staff and it turns an owner’s frown upside down.
But another losing season on the other hand…