Time for a Review of Olympics Ticketing?

The London 2012 Olympics are nearly upon us. Yet still come the news stories circulating about problems with ticketing.

There does appear to have been a lot of negative coverage in the media about either failure in the systems or, more interestingly, about adverse reactions to the adopted ticketing processes.  LOCOG initially did not mention or blame Ticketmaster for early system and process failures, but later mentioned their contractor when advertised booking and exchange procedures did not work first time.

Let us not forget that Britain is on course for having one of the highest genuinely sold capacities for the Olympics events.

But the question needs asking (and the answers need to be considered for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014) whether the whole rigid process required by the Interntattional Olympics Committee is the cause of the problems, employing out-dated practices and sales allocations to a 21st Century event in the digital world.

Many Box Office Managers reeled in shock when Ticketmaster explained problems with allocations of tickets were because manual updating of the website could not keep up.  Journalists had a field day with the premium priced packages for the hospitality industry, sponsors, etc. and of course some mystery shopping quickly revealed fraudulent practices.

Why in 2012 is not ticketing for the Olymics for every country on one global system?  The issues are much more about how high-demand on-sales are handled.  Olympics ticketing needs to escape from the practices of the past and start delivering clean technological solutions fit-for-purpose for today.  

The London 2012 Olympics are nearly upon us. Yet still come the news stories circulating about problems with ticketing, some reporting “unsold” prestige premium package tickets, sponsors re-selling tickets, fraudulent practices in other countries, comments about low capacity events in some places, and some about delayed delivery of tickets from suppliers in other European countries.

There does appear to have been a lot of negative coverage in the media (some reflected on this website) about either failure in the systems or more interestingly about adverse reactions to the adopted ticketing processes.  LOCOG initially did not mention or blame Ticketmaster for early system and process failures, but later mentioned their contractor when advertised booking and exchange procedures did not work first time.

Let us not forget that Britain is on course for having one of the highest genuinely sold capacities for the Olympics events, with a very large proportion going to UK attenders, and, despite the glitches, the majority are going to see things they wanted to see.

But the question needs asking (and the answers need to be considered for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014) whether the whole rigid process required by the Interntattional Olympics Committee is the cause of the problems, employing out-dated practices and sales allocations to a 21st Century event in the digital world.

Many Box Office Managers reeled in shock when Ticketmaster explained problems with allocations of tickets were because manual updating of the website could not keep up.  Manual? The planned ticket exchange mechanism appears to have had major software failures when first introduced.   Journalists had a field day with the premium priced packages for the hospitality industry, sponsors, etc. and of course some mystery shopping quickly revealed fraudulent practices in the pricing of the packages and what was sold as components – driving in the Olympic athelete and VIP lanes seemed inappropriate.  Corrupt figures from the past turned out to be controlling ticketing in some countries and with control over companies selling prestige packages.

Why in 2012 is not ticketing for the Olymics for every country on one global system with one central management of the inventory and ticket issue?  Actually the logistics of the number of events and the capacity is not that great.  The issues are much more about how high-demand on-sales are handled.  It also helps to have the venues built in time to ensure the seats you are selling actually exist – Britain beat that problem this time, it appears.

Just as procurement of security has revealed how easy it is to buy incompetence, the whole of Olympics ticketing needs to escape from the practices of the past and start delivering clean technological solutions fit-for-purpose for today.  Any review of Olympics ticketing needs to look forward while learning from the bad practices of the past.

Mark Perryman in The Observer argues for bigger changes to the Olympics: http://t.co/gwM3cw53

Plus his new book: http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/articles/196-olympics/15899-a-games-of-two-halves

Any review of Olympics ticketing needs to look forward while learning from the bad practices of the past.

Drip-Feed – Olympic tickets’ slow release

With little publicity until after the on-sale started, the London Organising Committee of the 2012 Olympic Games made some new tickets available and released further unsold tickets on Friday 11th May at two hour’s notice to those ticket purchasers initially disappointed in 2011 when tickets first went on sale.  This is apparently part of a strategy to reduce presssure on the ticket sales website by drip-feeding the release of additional tickets over the next fortnight, until a general release to the public of all remaining unsold tickets on 23 May.  There are also additional tickets for events to be added on 29 May.

Over a million people were “disappointed” in the original on-sale – some believing they had been successful then told there were no tickets for them – and they can now purchase up to 4 tickets for one session provided they apply before 17 May – and are successful.  According to Locog announcements, tranches of seats for specific events will be released each day, with unsold tickets being carried forward to be generally available on subsequent days.  Already there are reports of further disappointments, according to BBC News.

BBC sports news correspondent James Pearce said: “Presumably they had kept quiet for fear of demand being too great for a website which has sometimes struggled to cope.”  Once again media coverage is questionning the fairness of the sales method, with restricted access to particular groups of customers and not all events being on offer at the same time.

Lord Sebastian Coe, defending the LOCOG ticketing arrangements on BBC TV’s Sunday morning Andrew Marr show said: “75% of the 11 million tickets that were available are in the hands of the British public. That’s a commitment we made right at the beginning of this process, and at the end of this process we will deliver it.”

With little publicity until after the on-sale started, the London Organising Committee of the 2012 Olympic Games made some new tickets available and released further unsold tickets on Friday 11th May at two hour’s notice to those ticket purchasers initially disappointed in 2011 when tickets first went on sale.  This is apparently part of a strategy to reduce presssure on the ticket sales website by drip-feeding the release of additional tickets over the next fortnight, until a general release to the public of all remaining unsold tickets on 23 May.  There are also additional tickets for events to be added on 29 May.

Over a million people were “disappointed” in the original on-sale – some believing they had been successful then told there were no tickets for them – and they can now purchase up to 4 tickets for one session provided they apply before 17 May – and are successful.  According to Locog announcements, tranches of seats for specific events will be released each day, with unsold tickets being carried forward to be generally available on subsequent days.  Already there are reports of further disappointments, according to BBC News.

BBC sports news correspondent James Pearce said: “Presumably they had kept quiet for fear of demand being too great for a website which has sometimes struggled to cope.”  Once again media coverage is questionning the fairness of the sales method, with restricted access to particular groups of customers and not all events being on offer at the same time.

Defending the LOCOG ticketing arrangements, with varying degrees in the past of acknowledging the role of Ticketmaster, Lord Sebastian Coe told the Andrew Marr show: “Seventy five per cent of the 11 million tickets that were available are in the hands of the British public. That’s a commitment we made right at the beginning of this process, and at the end of this process we will deliver it.”  He acknowledges that there is a huge disapoointment factor for an event with such high demand but does not address the many questions about the fairness of the ballot process, and the website failures and time-outs which have dogged the on-sale process.

A session is planned for Europe Talks Tickets in Madrid 23-25 May 2012 to hear about the progress and process of London 2012 Olympics Ticketing.

BBC News coverage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18045550

 

Not so Happy New Year for LOCOG

It is not a happy new year for the London Olympics ticketing operation.  LOCOG, the London organising committee, revealed first on 4 January that there were 10,000 double bookings for the Synchronised Swimming event – meaning 10,000 people have to be either re-seated or disappointed with alternative events.  There are said to be 1.3 million tickets for Olympic football and around 500,000 Paralympic tickets still available for sale until the final release of tickets in April.

If that wasn’t an embarrassing start to 2012, then on 6 January, LOCOG launched the official ticket exchange re-sale market that morning – the only mechanism by which the public can legally re-sell or exchange tickets – only to have to announce the suspension of the market hours later because many people could not upload their tickets for re-sale and the availability of tickets shown on the Ticketmaster-run website was out-of-sync with actual availability.

Once again this has drawn serious criticism of the Ticketmaster-run ticketing operation for the London Olympics and Paralympics, with extensive media coverage, adverse comment on the recurring failures in the system, and one must think reputational damage for Ticketmaster, now clearly identified by LOCOG as responsible for the problem website.

The Daily Telegraph report for example said: “The flawed system left thousands of potential buyers and sellers of tickets angry and frustrated, and prompted the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games to lay the blame squarely at the door of their ticketing partner Ticketmaster.  Ticketmaster has provided all the infastructure for the heavily criticised Olympic ticket process but until now Locog has defended its involvement.”

 While the intention is to re-start the exchange and re-sale market as soon as the technical difficulties are resolved by Ticketmaster, this represents considerable disruption of a tight planned timetable.  The exchange and re-sale market was only planned to run for a short time, until February 3rd, and for any members of the public who found they had unwanted tickets after the previous ballot processes, this is their only legal opportunity to sell the tickets or exchange them for preferred ones.

In a statement LOCOG said: “We want buying and selling Olympic and Paralympic tickets through Ticketmaster to be a good customer experience, and so we will reopen the site once Ticketmaster have resolved these issues.”  The issues appeared to be ticket purchasers being given misleading statements that selected tickets had been secured when users clicked on ‘proceed to checkout’, when actually the tickets were not secured until the system had refreshed, usually ending with customers being told the tickets were not available.  There was also a major failure that prevented many re-sellers from uploading their unwanted tickets to the website, undermining the point of the market.

James Pearce, the BBC Sports Correspondent commented: “This is another major embarrassment for London 2012. Ticketing has been problematic from the very start.  The website, which is run by Ticketmaster, simply has not delivered the high-quality service which was expected.  During the initial sales period it crashed at crucial times, and now it has failed again during the resale phase.

Of course part of the reason for this is the huge demand for tickets, and London 2012 cannot be blamed for that, but the simple fact is that both London 2012 and Ticketmaster have had years to prepare for this.  At a time when London 2012 is trying to encourage the public to get behind the Games, many Olympic supporters are instead feeling let down and angry by the failures of the ticketing system.”

The service was still suspended on Monday 9 January when the Coalition Cabinet met at the Olympic Park to mark 200 days to go to the start of the Olympics.  The sponsored link if you put “Olympics tickets re-sale” into Google is ViaGoGo which it is illegal to use in the UK to re-sell Olympics tickets.  Google is reportedly profiting from advertising revenue for illegal services generated by its automated advertising system, according to a BBC investigation.

Read more: Metro coverage: http://www.metro.co.uk/sport/886707-london-2012-olympics-ticket-resale-website-still-suspended#ixzz1itFcmU7a

BBC coverage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16430850

Confusion dominates on-sale for Olympics 2012

When the on-sale started for London Olympics 2012 tickets on 15th March, media coverage started reporting problems based on the exclusive deal with Visa and confusion by the public on how the ticket sales process would work. The initial glitch over card expiry dates has been fixed. Paul Williamson and organising committee colleagues have defended the process, though apparently not appeased critics.

Visa came into heavy criticism from the public when the on-sale started for the London 2012 Olympics on Tuesday 15th March, amidst confusion about the purchase process. People were surprised initially that only Visa debit or credit cards could be used for payment. This was http://tobuyaccutane.com a benefit granted to Visa as a major sponsor of the Games. Then cardholders discovered that they could not complete the application process if their Visa card expired before August 2011. The latter turned out to reflect the timings of the purchase process.

The on-sale is in fact an application to purchase tickets, and, once all applications have been received by 26 April, there will be a ballot to allocate the available tickets. By mid May this will enable organisers to establish the charge to be made to each successful applicant, and the card processing will run from mid May to mid June. This does mean of course that cardholders will need to maintain adequate credit to cover their maximum possible ticket purchase through the processing period. Successful applicants, if their card payments are also processed successfully, will be advised in July of their allocation of tickets.

Visa moved quickly to fix the card expiry date glitch, and by Monday 21st March applications for cards expiring after April 2011 will be accepted, they say. However, applicants whose cards expire in April 2011 will have to wait until their card issuer supplies their new card before they can make their application. The organisers point that their deadline is 26 April and new cards are normally issued well before the month of expiry.

Despite their informative website and widespread advance media coverage, the London organising committee have found themselves criticised by the public, with adverse coverage of the complexity of the application and purchase process. For example, The Guardian had a feature piece on the ramifications of the process. And Paul Williamson appeared on BBC Radio 4’s MoneyBox programme to explain the process, meeting bewilderment from the interviewer about why it was being run in this way.

The wait to be issued their physical tickets, and the six month gap before successful applicants can re-sell their tickets through the official London 2012 scheme, seems to surprise some, yet in Vancouver for example, the re-sale scheme only started four weeks before the Winter Olympics. This is designed to stop touting and force re-sales to be only at face value. Perhaps people applying for tickets in the hope of re-selling them are only just realising the process is carefully planned and controlled to impede them at every turn.

Anti-Touting Measures for London Olympics

As the first London Olympics 2012 venue is completed – the Velodrome – the organising committee have announced tough anti-touting measures ready for tickets going on sale on 15 March 2011. And Advertising Standards bans re-seller Seatwave’s “guaranteed delivery” promise.

The Olympics are different, and while the UK usually offers limited consumer protection against ticket-touting practices, there are special rules and regulations for the London Olympics in 2012. London 2012 Chairman Lord Coe says everything will be done to ensure the “greatest sporting event on earth” does not become “the greatest scam on earth”.

Tickets go on sale 15 March 2011 – over a year ahead – and yet the police anti-touting Operation Podium has already made 32 arrests. LOCOG, the London organising committee, is adding a url checker on their website so that the public can go there and check that anyone offering Olympic tickets is official. Tickets can only be purchased from official sources.

Individuals cannot purchase tickets and re-sell them for a profit. There is a £5,000 fine for re-selling tickets through unauthorised channels for profit. Even e-Bay has promised to cooperate to filter out illegal resales through their sites. Instead, as provided for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, there will be an official exchange for people with tickets who cannot attend the event(s). LOCOG is working with the secondary re-sellers and ticket auction sites to ensure they comply with the law and don’t offer tickets for re-sale. Tickets can only be passed between family and friends without any increase in price. High levels of ticket checking will be deployed so that only valid tickets which have not been re-sold will be recognised for admission.

Unfortunately the UK got a bad name during the Beijing Olympics for the number of unofficial sites and unauthorised resales. The police proved unable to shut them down under UK law despite many sports fans being ripped off. Anxious to protect their reputation, LOCOG organisers are taking steps in partnership with the police to find and close unofficial outlets. The Metropolitan Police has a specialist unit dealing with the threat of organised ticket fraud at the Olympics, including bogus websites, fake tickets and touting. “Dawn raids” are promised on known touts once tickets are on sale.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Downing said: “Any criminal looking to exploit the Olympic economy will come on our radar, we will be watching them and we will target them.” Mr Downing said Operation Podium had compiled a list of “hundreds, moving to thousands” of touts who would be monitored in the run up to the Games. Many of them were persistent operators who had previously targeted the Football World Cup in South Africa, Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Beijing Olympics. He added: “We don’t believe this is low-level touting, it’s organised crime with a business model and we are looking to disrupt that business by seizing assets.” Google search already shows sites claiming they have tickets for all the Olympic events, including sponsored links.

Interestingly, the UK Advertising Standards Authority has banned re-seller Seatwave’s TV ads which quoted guaranteed delivery of tickets in time for events: http://tinyurl.com/6fn5ju2

For the 2012 OLympics, the 75% of public tickets will only be available to UK residents on the website www.tickets.london2012.com, with holiday packages provided by Thomas Cook. Each country has its own official sales channel for its residents.

Depressing that such measures have to be taken to protect ticket purchasers.

http://www.london2012.com/visiting/tickets/

Five Key Pieces of Patron Data

Some months ago, I posed a question on the GetAmbition Ning site – “what information we should ask for from a ticket buyer…..as a minimum?”

In light of recent funding changes that have or will affect many organisations, I thought it was worth re-visiting.

My first five were (in no particular order)

• First Name
• Email
• Mobile
• PostCode
• Data Protection Options

But, as those of us with box office backgrounds know, the time to ask five is not possible as you are trying to get a show in, those of you with non Box Office backgrounds, will be familiar with Box Offices telling you this. Time pressures aside, why are these five so important?

First name

Helps us personalise. We are selling a personal experience in many cases. Let’s address our audience as they want to be addressed – as individuals

Email

Email was becoming a dominant marketing channel some years ago. The prevalence of mobile handheld email devices such as BlackBerry and iPhones have meant we can get to the customer even when not at their desk or home PC – with up to date rich content.

Mobile Number

We see more and more people at the venues working with PatronBase only ask or use a mobile number to contact people. By 2008 almost 80% of households had a mobile phone(1); we can also use SMS and MMS technologies to deliver short information messages or even a ticket as a barcode

Post Code

A bit of a no brainer. With postcode and house number you can resolve the full address, something to ask the customer on their next visit. But with postcode alone at least we can use the information as part of reporting, analysis or funding applications.

Data Protection Options

Always a hot topic – “do I really need to ask that?” – is a question I often hear. All legalities aside, why would you not want to ask your audience how they want to communicate or receive information from you? The question can significantly increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.

I have been engaged with a number of organisations whose data collection could be described as ‘ruthless’ – one for example said they would refuse to sell a ticket to someone who would not give their email address or postcode. I did ask the question why they would do this, when perhaps the person was from out of town, paying by cash and had no wish to join the email list or receive a brochure. They did, I think, see that their policy perhaps needed some revising.

They have an access policy, a refund policy and almost always a staff comps policy, so why don’t a lot of organisations seem to have a data collection policy? We all know that the only data we want is good data. But we must look at why we want it and what we are going to do with it……. if anything. (But that’s another subject)

(1) Office of National Statistics

This is a historical post previously posted to patronbase.co.uk