With the Patriots in their 5th Super Bowl this decade and the LA Rams still developing a fan base, most ticket market observers believed that prices for Super Bowl tickets would be cheaper than recent years. According to data from ticket market search engine TicketIQ, however, prices for Super Bowl LIII tickets remain high, with the average price for tickets for the Patriots and Rams matchup still hovering above $6,000 with the cheapest ticket going for around $2,750.
According to TicketIQ, the majority of demand is coming from the Patriots, with over 25% over shoppers to TicketIQ.com and the TicketIQ app visiting from Boston or New England and just under 7% coming from Los Angeles–even less than the 10% of shoppers visiting from host-city Atlanta. Experienced Patriots Super Bowl ticket buyers waiting for cheap tickets, however, may be disappointed. Despite grumblings about why prices aren’t falling even with the relatively tepid demand, 2019 may be the year that redefines the definition of what a cheap Super Bowl ticket looks like.
For the first five Patriots Super Bowls, ticket prices followed a script in which prices fall in the second week which conditioned fans to play the waiting game. Since 2015, however, Super Bowl tickets appear to be following a different script–one in which prices rise in the week leading up to the big game. The below Tweet from TicketIQ shows the difference in prices on day-of the game for the last four Patriots Super Bowls and Monday this week.
For Patriots fans wondering why prices are so much higher than the good old days, the answer lies in the 2015 Super Bowl market blow-up, which was driven by many speculative broker bets that prices for Super Bowl tickets would drop over the course of the two weeks leading up to the game—as they had done for most of the previous 10 years.
That bet, which had been fairly safe one for Brady’s first five appearances in the big game, went the other way in 2015. Between demand from Seahawks fans looking to make the short trip to Arizona, and the Patriots first appearance in three years, demand far outstripped supply. As a result, ticket prices shot up in the final week, with the cheapest ticket on the day of the game going for over $10,000, if you could find one.
Brokers who had bet that the market would come down found themselves in a short squeeze and many were unable to secure the tickets they had already ‘sold’. Some brokers who were on the hook for thousands of dollars simply walked away, leaving hundreds of fans stranded in the Arizona desert without a ticket to the game. The black mark on the league’s biggest event left a lasting impression, and received perhaps it’s most in-depth coverage in a video segment last week from ESPN’s Outside the Line titled How the wild world of Super Bowl ticket brokering can burn regular fans.
While individual brokers still play a role in the Super Bowl ticket market, the market is now largely managed by NFL On Location, the company started in 2016 and backed by the NFL to ensure that a blow-up like 2015 never happens again. This year’s game is the third being overseen by NFL On Location. As the below chart shows, in each of those years, prices have risen at some point in the week leading up the game–a dynamic that makes a profitable short-sell impossible, which is exactly the goal.
As for 2019, despite a drop in prices last night, prices are up still up 15% since the low point on January 25th when the cheapest ticket was available for around $2,500, before fees. While that may not be much consolation for Patriots (and Rams) fans looking for a cheap ticket on game-day, it could have been worse if the Saints no-call had actually been called.
As an academic exercise, we ran a model for what would have happened had the Chiefs and Saints made it to the Big Game in 2019. Between the Chief’s 49-year drought and New Orleans proximity to Atlanta, it would have likely been the most expensive Super Bowl we’d ever tracked. With that in mind, let’s rewind to Sunday morning before the beginning of the best championship game Sunday in NFL history. At that point, the cheapest ticket to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta was going for $4,000, with an average price north of $8,000. For a Chiefs-Saints LIII, instead of prices dropping 15% in week one, a Brees versus Mahomes matchup would have created tremendous buzz, both locally and nationally after their epic wins–sending prices up 15% amidst talk of a generational torch-passing. In that world, buyers at the end of week one would have been talking about a $5,000 get-in target, not $2,000. With a 15-20% week one increase, the average price at the end of week one would have been around $9,500, just short of the mythic $10,000 average price–a threshold achieved by only 2 events TicketIQ has ever tracked.
It’s also possible that prices would have gone even higher had corporate demand swelled. According to an article in Sports Illustrated, St. Louis based Anheuser-Busch was poised to purchase large quantities of tickets if the Chiefs had reached their first Super Bowl in 49 years. Other Kansas City companies like Hallmark and Sprint would have also driven up demand, especially given the fact that flights from Kansas City to Atlanta were available for under $200 on Priceline.com on Sunday after the conference championships.
As for the Saints demand, while New Orleans has less of a big brand-name corporate footprint, Atlanta is the biggest professional hub in the South, with lots of New Orleans natives who would have likely bid up ticket demand for the game. In that world, if Super Bowl tickets followed their recent upward-trend in week two, prices would now likely be north of $6,000 for a nose bleed. By that measure, the $2,750 you’ll have to pay for the cheapest ticket today might actually be a decent deal.