Celtics Turn to Data Analytics Tool for Help Pricing Tickets

Team exec touts seven-figure ROI since last summer

When the performance of Paul Pierce and his teammates isn't selling out TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics use a data analytics tool to come up with ticket prices that will put fans in the seats.
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When the performance of Paul Pierce and his teammates isn't selling out TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics use a data analytics tool to come up with ticket prices that will put fans in the seats.
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Boston Celtics executives are taking advantage of a data analytics tool for the first time in their annual January task of setting prices for the 18,600 seats in TD Banknorth Garden.

The NBA team installed the StratBridge.net tool from Cambridge, Mass.-based StratBridge Inc. in August to monitor consumer demand through real-time displays of sold and available seats in its home arena. Now team officials are also using the tool during the monthlong project to set base ticket prices for the next season, officials said.

The new tool has helped the organization quickly develop promotions and sales strategies to fill available seats and to analyze revenue based on long-term sales trends, said Daryl Morey, senior vice president of operations and information for the Celtics.

Dynamic View of Trends

"Until we had this tool, it was very difficult to create dynamic packages, because our ticket providers didn't have a rapid way to see which seats were open," Morey said. "Now we can actually see in real time every single seat and how much it is sold for."

The basketball team has already seen a "seven figure" return on investment fueled by five-figure revenue boosts every one to two weeks since it began using StratBridge.net last summer, according to Morey.

Before using data analytics, sales executives used Excel spreadsheets to adjust pricing, Morey said. In that system, pricing could be adjusted only for all the seats within each of 12 large sections in the arena, he added.

"It was a leap of faith looking at the data at that level," Morey said.

Using the analytics tool, for example, planners found that ticket buyers tended to favor aisle seating in certain sections; as a result, the team now focuses on marketing the inner seats.

Now, in the ticket office, group- and individual-ticket sellers can see an image of the arena seating chart on a plasma TV screen with different color blocks indicating real-time availability and revenue for home games. Sales executives can access this information from their desktops to study buying trends and design new promotions.

"It spurs people to get more excited about their job -- they are not waiting a month and a half for their commission check before they see the results of a sale," Morey said.

StratBridge.net extracts data from internal and external sources and displays it visually in Internet browsers and Microsoft Office applications. The analysis can be presented to users in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe PDF files.

Bill Hostmann, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said companies trying to market "perishable" products like basketball games, hotel rooms or live TV broadcasts are beginning to turn to this type of data analysis, which was first perfected in the airline industry.

"You're seeing more and more of this kind of analytical functionality being embedded in the application itself as a part of the process, as opposed to being done on a quarterly or weekly basis," Hostmann said. "The ROI is very fast on these types of applications."

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