Reserving Ravens tickets early, for a price

Posted: 7:00 pm Sun, April 4, 2010
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Want a guaranteed seat to watch the Ravens take on the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints or division rival Pittsburgh Steelers this season at M&T Bank Stadium?

You can grab one today — as long as you’re willing to pay extra.

The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to a one-year sponsorship deal with OptionIt, a ticket broker that sells the rights (or options) to buy face value, single-game tickets. The cost of an option to reserve tickets for Ravens home games on OptionIt’s Web site ranged Friday from $17 per seat for Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets to $68 per seat for Steelers tickets.

The company’s promoters say what used to be the luxury of Baltimore Ravens season ticket holders — or those fast enough to snatch up the 6,000 face value tickets the Ravens sell before the season — is now available to anyone.

Michael Proman, OptionIt’s vice president of marketing partnerships and development strategy, said buying through his company is different — and aims to be cheaper — than buying through an online broker like Ticketmaster.

“We always try to undercut the secondary market by 25 or 40 percent below what you would pay [closer to] the game with a broker,” he said. “It’s like a temporary seat license … only we feel this is much more attainable for a wide variety of fans, and not just those who can write a four- or five-figure check.”

Here’s how it works: Fans go to OptionIt’s Web site and buy the rights to purchase a face value ticket for a specific game. Options are sold in pairs, and are available even though the NFL regular season schedule hasn’t been released.

An option to buy two midfield 500-level tickets for the Steelers-at-Ravens game is $136; an option for the same two seats against the Cleveland Browns is $42. The face value of each seat, which the option holder buys at a later date, is $80.

As part of its sponsorship deal OptionIt can sell up to 100 tickets per game, said Baker Koppelman, vice president of ticket sales and operations for the Ravens. The Ravens have roughly 11,000 seats not owned by season ticket holders, and about half of those are used for hospitality sales and sponsorships.

He said the Ravens get a new sponsor out of the deal, but it also makes more tickets available to fans.

“We’re always trying to keep our eyes out for something new in the market,” he said.

Proman said once the schedule is released, that can increase or decrease the value of options. And, much like the secondary ticket market, NFL standings can boost or deflate prices during the season. Fans can also resell their options through OptionIt’s Web site.

Buying early on in the season for a game like Ravens-Steelers also gets fans more emotionally involved because their option’s value could go up as the matchup gets closer.

“I think it engages the fan a little bit more,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports marketing professor at the George Washington University. “People like to gamble, and while this is not gambling, it involves them in that whole, ‘I have a stake in this’ mentality.”

She said OptionIt is not the first company to come up with this idea but it’s better positioned than its predecessors. Some like (which started out as received a lot of attention several years ago but received bad press during last year’s Super Bowl after it couldn’t deliver tickets to everyone who had reserved one.

Proman said OptionIt only sells options to the tickets the company owns.

OptionIt has to overcome that backlash, Neirotti said. Other than the Ravens, the company has agreements with the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks in the NHL and the NBA’s Boston Celtics. The company had a soft launch last summer and sold tickets for Ravens, St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills games, but it did not renew with the latter two this season.

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