Going from worst-to-first in the NFL’s AFC South division and a deep run into the playoffs was bound to boost ticket sales for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But the impact on the team’s fortunes is getting gaudy.
“We have more than three times the total number of deposits that we received all of last year” on potential season ticket sales, said Chad Johnson, senior vice president of sales and services for the Jaguars.
The “deposit” campaign asks for fans to make a $100 non-refundable deposit for general or $250 deposit for prime season tickets they want to purchase for the 2018 regular season. It’s usually an indicator of how well ticket sales in general will go for the upcoming season and after nearly a decade of slumping sales due to repeated losing seasons, Johnson said the turnaround is substantial as the Jaguars prepare to play the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship Sunday.
“The spike really started to happen when we solidified a home playoff game [versus the Buffalo Bills Jan. 7],” Johnson said. “It’s been pretty consistent day by day from that day on. We’ve been doing about similar numbers each day from the time of our first [home] playoff game until now.”
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But Sunday’s NFL AFC Divisional game that saw the Jaguars defeat the Steelers in their home stadium in Pittsburgh brought an even bigger spike in deposit season ticket demands. Not only were Jaguars fans excited about that game, but the franchise launched what Johnson called probably the most intense marketing campaign in team history with advertisements inundating television, radio and digital outlets.
There was a spike in deposits on Sunday afternoon and Monday said Johnson, who declined to release specific numbers of deposits on season tickets..
A phone call to the number for deposits and ticket purchases listed on the Jaguars.com ticket information led to a sales representative who said ticket prices haven’t been fixed yet. The sales representative said, “We are expecting a slight increase” in ticket prices prior to the regular season games.
“We have a fully integrated marketing campaign that includes radio, television and digital,” Johnson said. “You typically will see that we will increase our marketing efforts around the game….
“This is the strongest market push we’ve placed. Excitement is at an all-time high. The schedule for next year is great. It’s our opportunity to capitalize and continue to allow our fans to support this team,” Johnson said.
Kristi Sweeney, associate professor of sport management at University of North Florida, said she’s not surprised there’s a huge increase in demand for Jaguars season tickets. But she’s more impressed that the franchise went into advertising blitz mode and didn’t presume fans would automatically sign up for seats.
“Kudos to the Jaguars,” Sweeney said Tuesday. “Winning is a key driver in ticket sales and attendance and that’s one thing the Jaguars were lacking with over a number of seasons… .
“It’s a blitz [in advertising]. But it’s also an opportunity. So, when the opportunity presents itself, you really can’t overdo it,” Sweeney said.
Other NFL franchises such as the Steelers or Green Bay Packers routinely make the post-season tournament so they don’t have to gear up ticket campaigns such as the Jaguars did this playoff season, Sweeney said. The Jaguars still could have blown the opportunity.
“Was it overkill? I wouldn’t say it’s overkill. I think it’s taking advantage of the timing and the opportunity. When you think of how many people were watching the games, clearly they have seen a return on that investment, at least with those deposits. When people are watching those games, they think, ‘I have to buy now,’” Sweeney said.
Johnson said priority of season ticket options still rests with current season ticket holders. But those putting forth the deposits are in a position to get the next best choices.
“The timing is unique right now in that the first thing we have to do is have season ticket renewals and those typically launch two weeks after the season ends and we haven’t launched that piece yet,” Johnson said.
“What we’ve been doing now is we’ve been taking deposits for our fans who would like to purchase season tickets next year,” Johnson said.
But even if the deposit is not used to buy season tickets for the entire season, the money stays on the customer’s account so they could use it during the season to apply to group ticket purchases or mini-packs for a limited number of games which usually go on sale toward the end of the season depending on the schedule.
Current season ticket holders can renew or upgrade to different areas of the stadium, increase the number of tickets along with other options.
Then fans making the deposits get to weigh in on the purchases but only after the current season ticket holders get their choice.
“They key for the deposit and the timing is what’s most important. If you give us a deposit saying you’ll buy season tickets next year and give a financial commitment now, that will put you in line for selecting your actual locations once they are made available,” Johnson said.
The renewal process of current season ticket holders get priority. But Johnson said after that, those making deposits on potential season tickets get their bid on seats based on the time they made their deposits and it will be in that chronological order.
“After we go through that entire list [of current season ticket holders], then we will open it up to the general public,” Johnson said. “What’s most important right now, based on the volume of transactions we have and the inventory that we will have available, we anticipate that there will not be any 100 or 200 level [closest to the field] inventory season tickets remaining after we finish this deposit campaign.”
The current season ticket holders will have the chance to renew and review their options about two weeks after the last Jaguars game to be notified of their choices. Then the franchise will give those season ticket holders about a month to finalize their decision. Following that, the Jaguars open up choices for the deposit customers.
“The time line of that will fluctuate based upon the volume of deposits we have,” Johnson said.
While the Jags are one game away from going to the Super Bowl, Johnson said ultimately the windfall for the franchise from what has been a Cinderella season will be profound.
“We’re most grateful for the fans. There’s definitely an increased excitement in our office. We have no doubt that we will sell additional season tickets and that there will be a financial impact on the organization,” Johnson said. “Most importantly, we are focused on Sunday’s game. But this has been a lot of fun.”