By partnering with Ace Ticket, the Boston Red Sox are gently edging closer to the new era of secondary-ticket sales while shielding themselves from criticism that fans could have been expected to make about a similar arrangement with StubHub.com.
This past week, the Phoenix broke the news that the Sox were opting out of the agreement struck this past year that made StubHub the official ticket reseller of Major League Baseball. On Saturday, the Boston Globe reported that the team signed a one-year agreement for Ace Ticket to be the organization’s official “offline” ticket re-sale agency for season-ticket holders.
Sam Kennedy, the Sox’ senior VP for sales/marketing, calls the deal with Ace Ticket “a straight advertising relationship.” The team will gain revenue by placing Ace’s name on the scoreboard for three innings during each game and on a billboard near Fenway Park’s right-field fence. Unlike MLB’s deal with StubHub, in which teams will receive a percentage of revenue for tickets re-sold though StubHub, the Sox will not make money on Ace Ticket’s ticket re-sales, sparing the team accusations of double-dipping.
In explaining the Sox’ decision — apparently unique among MLB’s 30 franchises — to opt out of the StubHub partnership, Kennedy points to the squeeze on getting into Fenway, which is the smallest ballpark in baseball, with the most costly tickets.
The Sox have made more efforts than any other professional sports team to maximize the number of unique visitors to Fenway, he says, “[But] in the case of ticket availability, when you have under 39,000 tickets to sell [per home game] and 14 million fans, it’s an unsolvable problem.” Because of this incredible demand, the team opted to take a slow approach, he says, choosing not to get into the lucrative secondary-ticket-sales market this year.
Kennedy pointed to another reason why the team sided with Ace. “Our biggest concern, frankly, is fraud,” and the potential distribution of counterfeit tickets through Internet sales. “We felt it was incumbent on us to direct people to an offline location endorsed by the team,” he says, adding, “We found that Ace had the best reputation in the industry.”
Brookline-based Ace, which was launched in 1979 and now has seven Boston-area locations, is a familiar name for Sox fans, thanks to commercials aired by the company during game broadcasts.
Via e-mail, StubHub spokesman Sean Pate reacted to the Sox’ decision this way: “We’re disappointed the Red Sox have elected not to participate in the StubHub/MLB ticketing partnership. The team will always have the option to integrate our two systems. Regardless of any official designation, Red Sox fans will continue to see the best selection of seats and prices on StubHub, as they have for many seasons. Ticket prices at StubHub are driven by hundreds of different sellers competing with one another, where conversely, at brokerages like Ace only one party dictates the pricing.”
Ace Ticket founder Jim Holzman, however, says that both companies offer a wide range of tickets and that Ace has several advantages, including a guarantee that the tickets it offers are actually in stock, as well as complimentary pickup and delivery.
As a unique franchise among Major League Baseball, the Sox, Holzman says, are better off dealing with a local business that has operated for almost 30 years, winning recognition for its efforts and giving back to the community through charitable donations. “I’m thrilled with the deal,” Holzman says, likening it to a victory of a local David over a national Goliath.