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Leafonomics: Coke "Zero Fans First" Game

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I'm interested in economics. The old adage "everybody has a price" in my mind is really more of a fundamental law of the universe. This is the first post in a series about ticket prices, tickets in general, and the economics of the Maple Leafs having a lot more fans than seats. I went to college in Boston, and worked at a large ticket scalper there, so I have some insight into the situation, along with rooting for the Red Sox, and Patriots in addition to God's Team - I never get to see my teams live.

Stubhub, a popular combined website for American ticket scalpers to sell their wares, has tickets available for the "free" Leafs game on 9/22 here. (Dear readers, please don't pay money to see preseason hockey.) The tickets available as of the writing of this article are:

  • (2) Sec 323 row 8 @ 64/ticket.
  • (2) Sec 320 row 8 @ 69/ticket.
  • (2) Sec 312 row 15 @ 70/ticket.
  • (2) ACC Club Sec 105 row 28 @ 147/ticket.

Since they're supposedly free, that's obvious price gouging, but maybe because there's no overhead, ticket scalpers won't sell their tickets for as much as they regularly do. A week later, the St. Louis Blues are in town. Let's see how much tickets go for on that night:

  • (2) Sec 323 row 16 @ 40/ticket. This is probably comparable to the tickets above due to being so far back.
  • (2) Sec 319 row 11 @ 65/ticket. Comparable.
  • (2) Sec 312 row 18 @ 75/ticket. Uh, save $5 a seat and go see Buffalo play, I guess.
  • (2) ACC Club Sec 105 row 28 @ 148/ticket. Save a whole dollar at the free game!

This isn't an enormous sample size, but it's enough for me to explain the realities of getting hockey tickets in Toronto. In any city where demand (the number of people who want to see a team play) outstrips supply (the number of available seats) ticket prices aren't set by the club anymore, they're set by the free market. In Boston the face value of tickets is irrelevant, just like in Toronto, because everyone is willing to pay more. We can conclude that the base price of the ticket has no effect on how much you can turn around and sell it for.

If that's true, then getting free tickets to the Coke game would be like getting free tickets to any preseason Leafs game. I don't know about you, dear reader, but if someone gave me free tickets to a game I didn't care about I'd scalp them and invest the profits in going to a game I wanted to attend, and the gross majority of people who win this contest will probably do the same. Don't take this as sour grapes, it's just the realities of cheering for a team with a lot more ticket demand than ticket supply, and Coke is getting a ton of advertising out of a preseason hockey game.

So who wins and who loses in the Coca-Cola Zero Fan First Free Hockey Game (Buy Coca-Cola Products)?

Winners:

  • Coke, by tapping in to the large audience the Leafs have cultivated.
  • The 4,000 people who are lucky enough to win free tickets to a preseason game.
  • Snarky bloggers who get to make jokes like Coca-Cola "Zero Fans First"! Haha! Take that rich Coca-Cola corporate types!
  • MLSE, who just sold out an entire building in one swoop.

Losers:

  • The other 6 million Leafs fans.
  • People who win free tickets expecting to see good hockey (insert Leafs not good at hockey joke here).

The next post in this series is going to explain how I've managed to buy face value tickets to the Leafs in each of the past three seasons.