Well, We Broke Even [NFL Season Ticket Experiment]

I may have slightly over-estimated the potential with our NFL Season Ticket Experiment. We made $47, or $23.50 each. Our initial investment was $2,032. We now have $2,079, or 2.3% more than we started with.

So for all intents and purposes we broke even, but definitely learned a few good lessons. But before I get into what I’d do differently, here’s the data:

And broken down by section:

OK, so why did we barely profit and what would I do differently?

  • The 15% commission is the commission from StubHub. We didn’t even attempt to try to sell them elsewhere. If I did this again I might try Craigslist, Twitter, Facebook, or even starting my own site to try to avoid the commission and/or make more per ticket.
  • StubHub is easy to use, but also very competitive, which led to us being conservative in our pricing. We didn’t want any unsold tickets. Perhaps we could have made more if we were a little more risky.
  • We originally listed the season tickets as a package. There was no activity but we didn’t pull them and split them into individual games until almost the start of the regular season. I think this was part of the reason that we were conservative in our pricing.
  • We were slackers and didn’t even attempt to sell the pre-season tickets. We probably could have gotten $10 or $20 a pop. Instead I just aggregated the price of those into each regular season pair of tickets.
  • We sold two pairs of tickets to a friend at face value (502 for both the Giants & Raiders game). Since we didn’t sell the pre-season games these were actually at a loss. Also – that Giants game on Thanksgiving (as much as it sucked) was a very popular ticket so we probably cost ourselves some profit there.
  • We waited until we received the tickets to put them up on StubHub. We should have done it as soon as they charged my credit card. If we were to do it next year, we could list them as soon as StubHub allows for it. This time we missed out on all of the July and August buyers.
  • The cheaper tickets were more profitable. Some of that is because of the ones we sold to our friend, but mostly I think it’s because the seats weren’t all that much worse and the face value was $40 less per pair. Both seats were in the upper-deck and on the ends. Had one been lower-deck in the middle, it would have been a different story. Just a hypothesis here, but I think the most profitable tickets are at the extremes: cheap seats like we had in 524 and super expensive seats in the lower level.
  • While NFL attendance is still pretty good, I think people are a little more cautious in their discretionary spending. The demand isn’t quite as high as we had hoped, which made StubHub all the more competitive. Even if a stadium sells out, there’s a big difference in ticket prices if the demand is 50% over capacity vs 1% over capacity.
  • I deeply regret signing up for all of the other season ticket waiting lists. They bombard my email, snail mail, and phone with all sorts of ticket offers (except season tickets of course…which I don’t want now anyway).

With all of that said, I don’t think we’ll do it again. I enjoyed it. I’m glad I did it. But it was a decent amount of work. I don’t plan on being in Denver any time soon, nor am I a big Broncos fan.

I should probably just stick to making money with my day job.

Update 8/15/2017 – Andrew Naylor has written an excellent book Investing In NFL Season Tickets in which he runs his own 3-year experiment with the 49ers and dives deep into the math, which gets more complex when you start factoring in PSLs. He was nice enough to reference this post in his book and send me an advanced copy once it was complete.

15 comments on Well, We Broke Even [NFL Season Ticket Experiment]

  1. Jakob says:

    Very interesting experiment. I really enjoyed reading your posts on it. People almost never tell you about ways that didn’t make money. But you can only REALLY learn if something’s profitable if you go ahead and try it. That’s my thinking with my real estate photography gig. Basically throw enough ideas on the wall and you will find something that sticks HARD.

    There’s a small but finite chance that any given idea will make a lot of money. So execute on enough ideas and it is a virtual guarantee that you will hit on a gusher eventually, it’s only a matter of time. By simple arithmetic, it’s a near certainty. And the journey is at least half the fun anyway. 🙂

  2. Adam,

    Thanks for sharing this. Very interesting indeed. In a way I am glad this is not a profitable business. The purist football fan side of me would be bothered that die-hard fans would have to wait longer for season tickets.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Scott – I totally agree. It’s nearly impossible to only sell to fans without selling to brokers, BUT I think sports would be a lot better if there wasn’t a black market on tickets. Teams would make the same amount of money, but you’d get a lot more hardcore fans in the seats at lower prices.

      • Owen says:

        Yeah the black market, specifically StubHub has ruined ticket sales in my area. (Philly region and mostly for the hot ticket of Phillies games)

        Tons of regular season games would be sold out with hundreds and sometimes thousands of tickets available for purchase on StubHub. There are just way to many people now buying loads of tickets for re-sell.

        Adam- My brother and I had a little more luck with making money this year since the Phillies have been doing so well in the post season. We made back all our money for the season which allowed us to go to tons of games for free and once the playoffs came around we made a profit of a little over a 1k. Not to bad.

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Nice Owen! That’s the best of both worlds – you made a little money and still got to go to some games. I’m a Mets fan so if I lived a little closer I’d consider doing this again but more like you – half for profit, half for fun. As it stands now I’m about a 3 hour drive (on a good day) so I only go to a few games a year.

  3. Dale Ting says:

    Adam… did you sign up for Green Bay Packer tickets? I bet you can make some cash there. I’ve been on the waiting list for 9 years and tracked it on an excel sheet and projected when I’d get them. I’ll contact you in 91 years and let you know if it was profitable…


    • Adam McFarland says:

      Haha I did, but much like you realized that I won’t get them until I’m dead (or the longest living person ever…). I’ve been on the NY Giants list for about 5 years, which is probably the one other team that would be immensely profitable, but I think I’m 50+ years out on them too.

  4. Bran says:

    I have some experience in this industry. The most important thing is information. You HAVE to know people, or it is near impossible to make a good profit. Example….There is no team in the NFL that is completley sold out. If you know the right people you can get season tickets even when the the teams “website” will say they are sold out. I did this with the Colts through my contact. I actually just bought 4 more seats today. My advice would come down to this…..work on building your nextwork of people. Another tip is to have a current season ticket holder request more tickets instead of being put on the waiting list. Season ticket holders have priority over the people on the waitlist. When I first started I tried the whole buying from stubhub and then reselling them, and my experience was similar to yours. Good luck bud.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks Bran. There’s some great tips in there. I’m glad I did it but I don’t think I’ll be renewing again next year.

  5. I buy and sell NFL tickets. While it is a good idea to get the season tickets, you can find great season tickets from teams without waiting lists (Vikings this year.) I find my profitability is best on ebay, they only charge about 9% commission and you can make an extra $10/sale if you embellish S&H rates. I get Vikings tickets for $42/ticket and just throw them up for auction starting at .99 because people figure they are getting a great deal if they keep NFL tickets under $100/ticket, while that doubles me up.

    Another tip is to sign-up at http://www.seatdata.com; they have photos of the view people will have from your seats, slap that on your ebay auction and you will be golden. It really sucks people in when they know exactly what to expect view-wise.

    • Also, you must take advantage of the priority most teams give to season ticket holders in regards to buying additional single-tickets. You could have bought more Broncos/Giants tickets being a season ticket holder.

  6. William says:

    Very interesting especially since I tried the same thing last year and felt it was a success. My cost was 4 season tickets at $550 each. After going to 1 regular season game and 1 preseason I was able to sell the other 8 games and still turn a profit. If you did not had to pay the $300+ in commissions I think you would have been happy(er) with the outcome. I Avoid Stubhub, why would you pay someone else 15% and STILL have the buyer pay their “convenience” fees? EBay is decent at about 5-10%, but still why not sell DIRECTLY to fan via word of mouth, facebook, personal website, and/or craigslist? You offer them a ticket for CHEAPER than the box office, and you still make a profit!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      William. Thanks for the comment. I definitely agree – if we were to do it again I would bypass StubHub and try to sell them other ways like you mentioned.

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