How to Sell Out

Its not easy, but it is a simple formula. No, I don’t mean give up your morals or sell your soul to the devil. I’m talking about how to sell all the seats at your games or events….how to get the place full of people who are pumped and excited to have a great experience. Before we jump into the formula, I will preface this in saying that the formula works better when you have a solid mission, vision and values in place. If you have that framework to guide your effort, this work will have a flow to it. You’ll be able to easily ignore certain ideas that come up and know for sure when something is a solid fit and “on brand”. The mission, vision, values will be your insurance on whether you picked right or wrong.

Principles to Selling Out Games and Events:

1 – Home team

2 – Visiting team

3 – Celebrity

4 – Non-game entertainment

You have to tell people why they should spend their two most valuable resources on your games or events. There are too many options out there now and just putting it out there for people to figure out on there own just won’t work anymore. Learn these principles, commit to mastering every possible component of each and then tell people what you’re doing. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Now let’s get started in breaking these down a bit shall we?


The home team principle accounts for everything that makes the program what it is – the coaches, players, traditions, win/loss record, venue, location etc. There’s alot that goes into marketing the “home team” in terms of getting to a sell out and for many organizations that’s enough, meaning that’s all you need to talk about. The reason why there are three more principles after this one is because not every program has this foundation. Some might argue you should focus on these things first and I agree – but, if you have a solid team of employees covering all aspects of the business who are all working on getting games to sell out, the more of these principles you engage, the more likely you’ll see success quicker.


I get a lot of push back on this one from time to time, but if the goal is to sell tickets and you’re not currently doing enough of that, then seek out people from the visiting team to buy tickets. Ideally, you don’t want visiting team fans at your home events, but for some programs, this is how you start a fanbase. Jon Spoelstra talks about this in great detail in his book Ice to Eskimos. If a team is struggling with attendance, certainly you have to look at what you have to offer, but one short-term fix is to make the games intersting to fans of the other team while you work on the other principles that get you to selling out. Not everyone is interested in what you’re doing, but some people are defiintely interested in the other team. The better the overall matchup, the better value for your ticket buying customers. Build on that.


This one works because of association and goes back to one of the core reasons why brands associate with the figures the public admires. By associating a “celebrity” with your team, the perceived value of your program goes up; I don’t have any scientific data to prove this, although I’m sure it’s out there. Think about all the famous movie stars, artists, musicians and other famous people who endorse fashion brands, cars, accessories and everything else that sells. Those brands attach themselves to those people so that when the public sees those people they like with those brands they don’t know about, they will associate the positive traits of the person with that brand; and will hopefully therefore buy that item. The Lakers are well known for doing this is the sports world. Jack Nicholson anyone? I’m sure there are musicians who are well known for surprise visits from other talented musicians. Maybe some aren’t surprises and are actually on the bill to perform. Put on your PR hat and let your audience know that famous people like your team and go to your games.


This is probably the principle that most of us think of when we think of a game experience. It’s the stuff that’s happening when the team isn’t actually playing – the music, the videos, contests, promotions, bounce houses, mechanical bull, fast pitch machine, beer garden and so on and so on. This is the stuff that can also lure fans to your games! One of my favorite jumbotron games is the ball that is visibly hidden under a hat or something and then shuffles around for 30 seconds. At the end of time the audience is supposed to guess under what hat the ball is located. It’s an age old slight of hand trick that people still love. Don’t over think this principle. If you’re not intentional about creating non-game entertainment that people actually like, you’re doomed. This is also the piece where you can create and celebrate your community culture. What makes your place unique? Your town? Whatever it is your community values, this is the way for you to showcase what that means.

Home team, visiting team, celebrity and non-game entertainment are the four principles that when intentionally considered will help you sell out your games or events. If you want to sell out, you have to give people of many interests a reason to be there. When you find out who your followers are and give them what they want along these four principles, clearly articulated, they’ll show up for you and it’ll be an amazing thing.

Here’s to your success – go forth!

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