3 ways to improve renewals when your team isn't in the playoffs

by eric little - sr. director of ticket sales & service at the phoenix suns
May 14, 2019

Not every team can make the playoffs (47% of NBA/NHL teams don’t, 62.5% of NFL teams, 66.7% of MLB teams), yet renewing season ticket members at a high level is a key to maintaining your base. Then you can take advantage when team performance swings back in your favor in future years. The strategies below can help you renew at a higher level across all teams and leagues.

Build genuine, authentic relationships with season ticket members all season long. These can be established in many ways but almost always face-to-face and at some point pre-renewals

  • -Meet for coffee or lunch

  • -Visit their office or home

  • -Meet at a game in the season ticket member headquarters

  • -Visit the season ticket member at their seat in-game

  • -Connect with them at a team-run season ticket member event

  • Give them a tour of the arena on a non-game day

Learn about them from personal and professional standpoint, while also sharing about yourself and weaving in the benefits of being a season ticket member that apply to them based on what they have shared. Learning their “why” for having a membership and then adding value around that is key. For example, “You said that you purchased a season ticket membership to spend quality time with your two kids and you plan to have them alternate games since you have two tickets per game. Since you are a full season member, you have access to our game exchange program. So within tiers of games, you can trade out the games you cannot attend in order to get more tickets to other games. That way you can bring both kids out to some games and maybe avoid games on school nights.”

Make a customized renewal pitch using the information you gained authentically.

The worst renewal pitch you can make is, “So have you received the renewal packet yet? What do you think?” It’s generic and what if they say that they haven’t opened it yet?

The ideal ask is something like, “I know that you got on board with this season ticket membership to spend time with your family and that your daughter Sarah’s favorite player is Devin Booker. One of my favorite moments this season was when Sarah met Devin at our Fantasy Camp event. The look on her face was priceless, and then I remember looking over at you. You could see the pride you had in providing and sharing moments like that with your children. Moments like that are why I do what I do, and I want to keep having moments like that with you next season. Let’s get you signed up!”

Understand that a “no” is better than hearing nothing, but a “yes” is best.

Sometimes members do not renew for reasons completely outside of our control: finances, health, moving, life changes, etc. When you have genuine, authentic relationships, season ticket members will often feel comfortable telling you early in the renewal process. A “Yes, I’m Renewing” is always the goal, but I’d rather hear “no” early on, then hear nothing after 10+ calls, e-mails, texts, etc. Imagine how you could use that time differently each day if you had just known they were a “no”?! Also, sometimes the reasons they are considering not renewing are within our control and we can still make an impact to ultimately win them over.

None of us in ticket sales and service can control team performance, but we can make an impact in numerous ways and it all starts with the relationships you build. If you are hearing things like, “I’m not sure about the team on the court/field/pitch, but you have been great, I love working you and I’m back for next year” then you have done absolutely everything you can!


Eric Little is the Sr. Director of Ticket Sales, Service, and Operations at the Phoenix Suns. He’s been with the Suns for 8 years and has spent the last 5 seasons as the head of season ticket member retention. He’s one of the most experienced sales and services leaders around and has a lot of first hand experience dealing with members and leading service initiatives. Prior to joining the Suns he worked at the Maine Red Claws of the NBA’s Developmental League. You can learn more about Eric by visiting his LinkedIN profile here.