The Black Friday flash sale. FANuary. Canes Pass. A Backyard Brawl discount. College rush. Military rush. Moving everyone downstairs for one game.
If your head is spinning with all of the ticket promotions that the Carolina Hurricanes have offered recently, you aren’t alone. But Canes vice president of ticket sales Sara Daniel says that they’re all in pursuit of the same goal: broadening the appeal to attend a Hurricanes game to a general public for whom the team primarily is identified through its nine-year playoff drought.
And it doesn’t hurt that the January 12 announcement of Tom Dundon’s purchase of a majority stake in the team happened at the same time the team was figuring out ways to draw more fans into PNC Arena.
“As Tom was coming into the picture, there were discussions about how we could make an impact and really engage the community, fill the lower bowl, and create the atmosphere that we all want to be a part of,” Daniel says. “It was a combination of a lot of different things rolling into the perfect storm.”
Dundon has emerged as the key figure in pushing the promotions over the line, with his directive to improve the fan experience quickly becoming the guiding principle in every department of the team. They might have happened on a smaller scale without the infusion of new ideas, but with Dundon in the picture, a bunch of little things quickly morphed into a few big things.
It was obviously a risk for a historically risk-averse franchise, but so far, so good. Sales for FANuary exceeded the team’s expectations, and the Canes Pass is trending in the same direction.
“We were hoping, and were confident, that they would do well, but both FANuary and the Canes Pass have done really well,” says Daniel. It’s bringing out a lot of new fans, and also bringing back former season ticket members who see what’s happening, all the positive momentum, everything that Tom is saying and doing. We have a lot of people jumping on board.”
And some of those buyers are making long term commitments for the rest of this season, as well. The Canes have sold more season ticket packages for the remainder of this season in the past two weeks, since the $97 Canes Pass was made available, than they did in the previous two months.
But the flip side of that success is a growing sense among a segment of longtime season-ticket holders that they feel left behind, as new ticketholders come on board paying a fraction of the full season ticket price. Daniel says that those fans are at the forefront of every ticket promotion conversation.
“Those fans are the foundation of the organization. They’ve invested a lot of time, money, heart and soul into the team. Absolutely they are at the top of mind with anything that we roll out. That was one of the reasons why it was important to take care of the season ticket members, which is why with the FANuary promotion we gave everyone free vouchers, as a thank you. We know the sale is going on, and we want to take care of you.”
The team pays close attention to social media, comments, phone calls, and other metrics to, as Daniel puts it, “take the pulse of the fanbase.” With any promotion, there will be compliments and complaints, and that dynamic plays into the decisions that are made.
The Canes’ commitment to taking care of season ticket members also extends to next year’s season ticket packages, typically announced around March 1. Plans are still being finalized, but Daniel says that the team will see to it that the impact of the recent promotions on existing season ticket members will be taken into account when planning next year’s campaign.
Also taken into account when pricing out next season’s packages is an inherent assumption that the promotions used this season, or similar ones, will be offered again next season. Unlike this year, when the promotions in some cases fell out of the sky, next year there will be an expectation baked into each sale that these types of promotions will be regular features going forward.
Ultimately, it’s in pursuit of a goal that’s long eluded the franchise: a stable, committed and ever-growing fanbase watching a successful team year after year.
“We all want to have a full building,” Daniel says. “It’s a matter of getting everything aligned. We have a short term and a long term plan. Give us time, but we’ll get there.”
Note: Our conversation with Sara took place before Tuesday’s announcement offering all ticketholders lower-level seats at Tuesday night’s game. The initiative was not a topic of discussion during our conversation and we were unaware of the plan before it was announced to the public Tuesday morning.