In years past, getting a good price on Super Bowl tickets wasn’t rocket science. Fans just had to wait until a day or two before kickoff, and prices inevitably dropped. Their patience was rewarded: tickets often cost thousands less than they had earlier in the week.
That strategy no longer pays. As a result of the National Football League’s more hands-on approach to ticketing, the market has changed dramatically. Inventory is one-tenth of what was available in 2015, and prices are rising as the game approaches, not falling.
The cheapest ticket to see the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in chilly Minneapolis is $4,150, up about 51 percent since Saturday, according to aggregator TicketIQ. Average prices right now are on pace to be the second-most expensive since the site started tracking in 2010.
“This type of market is more regulated, more secure, and more managed,” said TicketIQ founder Jesse Lawrence. “It’s also more expensive.”
The NFL began to push for control after the 2015 Super Bowl, when the market was held hostage by a consolidation of tickets. When prices soared, brokers who had sold tickets on spec were unable to fill orders. Many buyers never received their tickets.
Just a few months later, the NFL owners spun off their hospitality unit, investing in the new company, On Location Experiences, alongside Bruin Sports Capital and RedBird Capital Partners. On Location put together premium packages — tickets, accommodations, exclusive parties and access — and last season sold Super Bowl tickets direct to the public for the first time. This year its inventory is even bigger, thanks to On Location’s acquisition of rival PrimeSport.
The new stability is important for the NFL in the wake of the 2015 debacle, said On Location Chief Executive Officer John Collins.
“It’s a terrible look for any rights holder when a fan writes a big check to get to a game, then finds out that what he bought isn’t what he thought he bought and he can’t get into the stadium,” Collins said on the Bloomberg Business of Sports podcast. “The motivation for the league is to give fans certainty.”
This is part of a wider trend in the ticket market, where the official promoters of high-demand events (playoff games, concerts, Broadway shows) are working to curb the influence of ticket brokers. Taylor Swift, for example, is limiting the number of tickets available for resale for her current tour by using advanced screening, dynamic pricing and a series of drawn-out pre-sales. No single show has sold out, but scalpers are less involved in the process.
Super Bowl buyers have yet to catch on. TicketIQ’s customer service lines have been swamped this week with confused buyers wanting to know why ticket prices aren’t falling, Lawrence says. “And the answer is, ‘They used to, but that’s no longer the case.’ This is the new reality.”