2013 BCS National Championship Tickets: A Retrospective

January 9, 2013

People always ask the question “When should I buy tickets to the event that I want to go to?” Although I spend my days looking through data and watching how game tickets trend, the answer to this question tends to be very tough in certain circumstances. One of those instances was this year’s BCS Title game between Alabama and Notre Dame.

On the morning of November 17th, it looked as if Oregon and Kansas State would run the table and play for the National Title. At the time, the average resale price for the BCS National Championship tickets stood at $1,753 with a get in price (lowest price available) of $759, not shabby at all. By the end of that Saturday though, the entire title picture was turned upside down. The Ducks and Wildcats were beaten, which allowed Notre Dame and Alabama to jump into prime position to play for the title. As you would expect, ticket prices jumped with the possibility of these two storied programs facing off for the National Championship; average price jumped 20% overnight and the get in price spiked over 18%.

In the preceding two weeks, as Notre Dame and Alabama clinched their title births, average resale price and get in price continue to rise and reached their highest levels at $2,975.44 & $1,800 respectively. During this period is when fans began asking me “When is the best time to buy?” My response at the time was to buy now; I couldn’t foresee a soft market for a game between teams with 25 total championships and Notre Dame returning for the first time in over 20 years (Think Oregon v Auburn in 2011 in terms of demand – avg price was $3227). Looking at the data before, during, and immediately after the SEC Championship game, which sent Alabama to the championship, I continued to believe that there would be solid demand for this game and that demand would hold prices at the current levels, if not increase. It wasn’t until the Sunday after the SEC Championship game, that I began to get the feeling that demand and quantity were at levels that would not be able to sustain those lofty prices.

When looking at major and high priced events the first trend I tend to look at quantity. It may seem slightly unusual to project price trends that you would look at how many tickets available, but it generally paints a good picture of the ticketing landscape for that event. In this case, right after the SEC Championship game there were over 10,000 tickets available on the resale market for the BCS Title match up. To put that in comparison, Sun Life Stadium seats just over 80,000 people, which means the resale market had available 1/8th of the seating capacity. Although not entirely unusual for other events, such a large quantity for a game of this magnitude was very surprising. This high quantity stayed fairly level for the next couple weeks after the championship match up had been set. All of this led me to believe that there was an extremely large broker presence for this game, since there was the general belief that this would be a big money ticket.

What ended up happening was a steady decline in ticket prices over the next month. Prices for this game dropped over 47% between November 17th and the day of the game. In comparison, last year’s title game over the same period only dropped a little over 26%. So why such a big discrepancy year over year, when two college football powerhouses are playing? Besides the large quantity available for this game, proximity of the teams has played a major role as well. Buyers and sellers tend to play a game of cat & mouse initially until prices reach a level that the consumer feels comfortable with. Last year when LSU took on Alabama in New Orleans we saw prices level out about 10 to 14 days before the game, with a get in around $1,000-$1,200 depending on where you bought your tickets. A major reason prices were able to flatten out for this game at a fairly high cost was due to the proximity of the teams. New Orleans was a car ride away for both fan bases, so most looking to attend the game were able to save money on lodging and airfare, thus allowing them to spend more on tickets. Also, due to the location of the game, it gave fans the opportunity to buy their seats relatively close to game time.

The problem this year was that as prices started to make their major fall in price, about two weeks before the game, there was no longer enough time and/or it was no longer cost effective to book your trip down to Miami. This caused prices to continue to drop all the way until game time.

Another factor that likely led to this major drop in price was the fact that Alabama fans have been shelling out big bucks over the past 3 years. At some point there is a limit to a consumer’s disposable income and a third BCS championship in four years may have hit that point for most Crimson Tide fans.

The final average price for this year’s BCS Championship game was $1,496 with a get in right before the game of $500 (standing room only). People who ended up buying tickets in the beginning of December ended up paying over $1,300 more than those who purchased them day of the game. The 2013 BCS Title game is a great example of how hard it is to predict when to buy, but more so the level of demand for such as high priced ticket.