Why do Super Bowl tickets cost so much? Inside the world of NFL fares, luxury packages, and ticket brokers with bags of cash
Nicholas Coe was on the fence about buying a ticket to see his beloved San Francisco 49ers play in 2024Sunday.
The lifelong fan has attended every 49ers playoff game over the past two years, howeverWe are In history, its average price reached more than $12,000 on some resale sites last week.
With just two days left until the big game, Cù wasn’t sure Friday if he’d be able to attend the Super Bowl in person.
Cù asked a Facebook group of 49 other loyal people in January for “tips on the best and most affordable ways to buy Super Bowl tickets.” The 100-plus responses were emblematic of a well-known fact about the big game: It’s nearly impossible for an average fan — or even a super-rich one — to make it to the Super Bowl.
Face value tickets, which are initially expensive, are rarely made available to the general public.
It wasn’t like that. But in the past few years, ticket industry experts say, a series of business decisions by the NFL to distribute coveted tickets have pushed prices through the roof — out of reach for most fans.
Impossible to sustain, by design
“It’s just a whole mystery how to attend without remortgaging your house to buy tickets,” Cù said.
That’s by design, according to Stephen Shapiro, associate chair of the Department of Sports and Recreation Management at the University of South Carolina.
Some tickets are distributed to NFL teams, or sold at face value to players, coaches and others associated with the sport. Others are given to corporate sponsors and partners of the league, such as CBS’ parent company, Paramount Global. (CBS is broadcasting the game, and it will also be broadcast on Nickelodeon and streamed on Paramount+.) Another batch of tickets then goes to an events company the NFL founded in 2010 called On Location Experiences.
“There’s usually no public opportunity,” Shapiro said. “Teams will have tickets that they can sell to season ticket holders, but even that is a lottery system. And then between sponsors and hospitality and partnerships with other businesses, tickets are pretty much talked about.”
Driving costs are increasing the size of the venue this year. Attendance atThe crowd is expected to be around 60,000, among the smallest in Super Bowl history. By comparison, nearly 68,000 fans attended the 2023 game in Glendale, Arizona, and about 70,000 the previous year, in Inglewood, California.
Face value tickets typically range from $950 for the nosebleed seat to $9,500 to be directly behind the teams, overlooking the 50-yard line. That’s a small fraction of what Super Bowl tickets sell for online.
Other buyers will have to accept secondary market sites like StubHub or SeatGeek; Ticket Brokers – People who buy and sell tickets for a living; Or upscale packages from the NFL’s “Official Hospitality Partner” on site.
Packages on On Location this week ranged from about $7,000 to more than $60,000.
The NFL did not respond to emailed questions. A spokesperson for On Location declined to comment.
An NFL investment vehicle that has a stake in the game
Nearly a dozen ticket brokers, sports management experts, academics and lawyers contacted by CBS News said the current structure makes it harder for fans to get to games — and increases the cost.
“How does a $4,500 ticket become a $14,000 ticket?” asked one frustrated ticket broker, who agreed to speak with CBS News on an anonymous basis because he is still dealing with the league.
“It’s greed, just greed,” he said.
He and others pointed to On Location, which is allocated at least 11,000 tickets each year, according to ticket brokers and other sources familiar with dealing with the NFL, as the reason behind the astronomical prices.
Before On Location became a factor, ticket brokers would sometimes sell Super Bowl seats for just a few hundred dollars above face value, and some would arrange flights and hotels for fans to attend.
“I was making, in many cases, $50 or $100 over the face value of the ticket, but I was happy,” another ticket broker told CBS News.
NFL executives started an equity fund in 2013 called 32 Equity to invest in companies and deals on behalf of teams, according to PitchBook, which tracks venture capital investments. Forbes’ 24th annual NFL team evaluations reported that the company’s investments pushed the average net worth of each of the 32 NFL teams to $3.48 billion, according to Global Corporate Venturing. Because it is a private fund, 32 Equity is not required to disclose its finances.
32. Equity has typically invested in companies that work with the league, including NFL data provider Genius Sports, retired NFL star Tom Brady’s TB12 brand, athlete recovery hardware company Hyperice, and software companies Appetize, Skillz and Strivr, it said. Front Office Sports reported. .
It invested and acquired On Location in 2015, according to PitchBook. On Location sells its tickets as part of packages that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, and includes perks like unlimited food and drinks during the game, hotel stays, live entertainment before the game and what the company describes as “bucket list experiences.” Hotel rooms and other facilities tied to the Super Bowl are booked months in advance, with the company setting high prices as a test to see what the market can bear, multiple sources familiar with the pricing strategy told CBS News.
One leading broker has defended On Location pricing.
“They’re trying to price a product within fair market value,” said Ken Sulke, president of LasVegasTickets.com and former president of the National Association of Ticket Brokers. “It’s their party and their tickets.”
Columbia University business professor Vicki Morowitz noted that ticket prices through distributors and brokers were dropping in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. These waves reflect the dynamic pricing model used by most ticket sellers, where prices rise and fall based on demand, she said. It’s a model that’s not always popular with customers, she said, citing complaints when high demand leads to higher prices in other industries.
“Uber and Lyft allow supply and demand to determine everything about how they set price, but in the eyes of the consumer, the economic reality of supply and demand doesn’t always match perceptions of fairness,” Morowitz said.
Ensuring tickets are on sale, along with pools of hotel rooms and other amenities, creates a “competitive advantage for On Location,” now owned by Endeavor Group — a multibillion-dollar global company, said Shapiro, the sports marketing professor. A sports and entertainment company in which the owners of the NFL hold a small minority stake.
In January 2020, Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc. On Location in a deal worth $660 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter. An NFL stock fund retained 13.5% ownership of the company, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel said in a statement at the time that the company would “evolve the way consumers and brands think about experiences that money can’t buy.”
In 2022, the NFL’s investment arm bought back its shares in On Location. Executives exercised an option to redeem approximately 40% of the company’s stock, and marketed Super Bowl LVI as On Location’s “largest hospitality event ever,” according to an annual investor brochure in an SEC filing.
Two months later, On Location became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the talent agency, which converted the NFL owners’ stake in On Location into a 1.5% ownership stake in Endeavor. The agency reported revenues of $1.344 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Bags of money, secret deals on the secondary market
The NFL’s control of the Super Bowl ticket market has ramifications in the secondary ticket market.
Whether players, coaches and other staff obtain and sell tickets is an open secret, according to brokers who spoke with CBS News.
A ticket broker called a CBS News reporter while driving in New York City with $85,000 in cash in his car, which he said was to buy Super Bowl tickets from an NFL employee. CBS News agreed to remain anonymous so the ticket broker can provide details about how the mediation system works.
Brokers said they often acquire tickets from people who received them at face value and chose to sell them for a profit: players, coaches, event sponsors, agents or their clients.
Many of these deals are done in cash, and it’s not uncommon to bring $1 million in cash to a Super Bowl city to buy tickets, the broker said.
The NFL began to crack down on such sales as its control over ticket sales increased. Every year it notifies employees that they are prohibited from selling their tickets.
“Coaches are terrified,” one ticket broker said, and some brokers say they are selling less.
This change also had the effect of raising prices, brokers said.
“Let’s just say that tickets will inevitably move, and tickets will move some routes. Inevitably, some will end up in the hands of major brokers like LasVegasTickets.com,” Sulke said.
Shapiro said the image of NFL employees cashing in on the game doesn’t mesh with the NFL’s fan-friendly marketing.
““From a general standpoint, I don’t think it would look good for the league if individuals associated with the league bought tickets at face value and just resold them for an obscene profit,” Shapiro said.
Even with the “outrageous” signs, Nicholas Coe said he was still thinking about pulling the trigger.
“I’m in a position in life to buy these tickets to go, given their size. But that’s a very high amount for three hours of entertainment,” Cù said.
“It’s just a small percentage of people who have the means and access,” Shapiro said. “We’re talking about the one percent that has to go.”
(Tags for translation) Kansas City Chiefs (T) San Francisco 49ers (T) Super Bowl