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How Sports Ticketing Systems Are Transforming the NBA

The NBA is all about delivering sports enthusiasts the most elite athletic competition anywhere on the planet. Staying on top requires a full-court press that grows the game in the minds of future fanatics and in the hearts of tomorrow’s megastars. 

All of the recruiting, outreach, and development work takes place for one single reason: getting the top players onto the court at a live NBA event so the world can witness the spectacle that their virtuosity ignites. However, for franchise owners and league leadership, the live game experience is just the beginning of the competition. Every team is fighting to give their home fans the most incredible thrill possible for the price of a ticket, and the NBA as a whole is vying for attention from sports fans with access to multiple other premiere league experiences like the NHL, NFL, MLB, and MLS. 

With a constant battle to deliver live mind-blowing audio and visual extravaganzas for ticket holders, it’s critical to balance out revenues and expenses. Every cut in comfort, convenience, digital content, visibility, VIP opportunities, and production value translates to a potential loss of fan interest, and owners and venue operators are on a constant hunt for technologies and solutions that can save money while delivering a delightful fan experience. 

This is where sports ticketing systems using facial authentication are revolutionizing live NBA events. These easy-to-implement platforms are accelerating lines and saving six figures a season at the gate, all while giving fans the unforgettable futuristic live experience they’re craving. Better yet, these same systems can be used throughout the venue to maximize revenues and transform the way NBA franchises do business. 

If you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA basketball! Here’s everything you need to know about facial authentication ticketing to put the rest of the league on notice that your live game experience is here and it’s for real. 

The Cost of Producing a Live NBA Game

The average NBA team makes about $353 million every year from all aspects of its business, with top teams like the Warriors and Lakers bringing in over $750 million and $500 million respectively. Combined, the NBA saw revenues topping $10.5 billion in the 22/23 season, and those numbers are sure to grow. 

However, not all of that money goes straight into the bank. Expenses are high, and operations costs can top 16% of total team expenses. With ticket sales representing $1.2 million in profit per game and fan attendance up 2% over previous years, it’s critical for NBA teams to capitalize on the momentum by reinvesting in their product. 

Buying a Ticket

At the same time, families are paying more than ever for the chance to witness a live NBA game. The average family of four will spend $304 to go to the court, including tickets, parking, beer, and food—and that’s if they go with the cheapest options. Charlotte is the most affordable team at $158, but a Warriors game with a little splurge could quickly run over a thousand dollars for the night. 

Compared to the NFL, it’s about half the average cost, but that doesn’t mean lifelong NBA fans won’t start to feel the squeeze. Ticket prices have gone up nearly 6% for the 2024 season, and that trend is likely to continue as the league works to keep pace with other premium sports league experiences. 

Pain Points at Live NBA Games

The average NBA game saw 18,000 screaming fans walk through its gates, and the 2022/23 season obliterated the previous record for sold-out games at 791. Over 22 million people bought tickets, and the average night in the arena was at 97% capacity. 

It’s an extremely exciting result for the league, and it points to two major considerations every venue operator will have to take seriously as they move into the future:

1. On-site fan flow is going to be an extremely high priority at every game.

2. The problem is only going to get worse as teams deal with increasing attendance and seek out higher-capacity venues to meet demand.

Unfortunately, the value of a ticket is dependent on the quality of experience the NBA can deliver. To continue commanding price increases to cope with rising costs and technology investments they will need to ensure the sheer volume of attendees doesn’t become an obstacle to ticket sales. 

These are the key areas where traffic jams can drag down revenues and kill the energy for fans at high-attendance NBA games: ticketing, concessions, and merchandise sales.

The Ticket Gate

Every fan has to confirm their ticketing when they go to a game, and it’s a major bottleneck at any event. Large numbers of people arrive in a relatively short window of time, and they have tickets in a variety of different formats. Also, these entry points are where they often need directions to seats and help with basic orientation, which can further bog down the process and send lines out into the parking lot. 

As a result, these areas represent major liabilities for venue operators as they are some of the most expensive and resource-heavy to manage. Sports ticketing systems that can address these challenges while reducing costs are some of the most sought-after solutions in the live event industry.

Concessions

People want to enjoy themselves at the game, and that means buying incredible food and beverages during their stay. Unfortunately, every second they spend standing in line is another possible highlight they’ll have to watch on SportsCenter the next morning. 

For venue operators, FOMO at an NBA game isn’t just a fan concern: long wait times can quickly lead to lost revenue. In a fan survey conducted by Oracle, 59% of fans say they would grab a beer and some snacks at least once more than they already do if they didn’t have to worry about the long lines. 

Merch Sales

Jerseys, basketballs, and hats represent big money to NBA franchises, and having a superstar on your roster can translate to huge profits on merchandise at the game. Steph Curry gear is the top seller so far in 2024, and league merchandise accounts for well over $1 billion in revenues every year. 

Of course, like concessions, nobody wants to wait in a long line for their favorite jersey when they can watch the guy wearing it dunk over half the Warriors’ defense on the court. Finding solutions that reduce every aspect of transactions at the arena—from wait times to ease of sales—will be key for maximizing profits at the game. 

How Facial Authentication Is Changing the Face of NBA Ticketing

Ticketing solutions that reduce traffic jams and contribute to the NBA live game experience represent one of the greatest opportunities for the NBA to reduce expenses. Better still, facial authentication-based ticketing delivers the same benefits for concessions and merchandise sales as it does at the ticket lane.

By embracing facial authentication platforms, the NBA will position itself to handle its increasing crowds while simultaneously cutting costs. By implementing the technology across all possible use cases, the league can transform all aspects of live-game operations into a competitive advantage over other premiere sports leagues. 

Accelerating Ticketing with Facial Sports Ticketing Systems

Facial authentication technology uses biometric data to confirm a fan’s identity and ticket purchase in as little as 300 milliseconds. To do this, NBA teams simply partner with a top tech firm that specializes in facial authentication solutions to allow fans to set up profiles and then implement facial sports ticketing systems at the venue. 

When fans purchase their tickets, the information is linked to their facial profile in a similar way that airline tickets are added to virtual wallets. Then, when they arrive at the game, all they have to do is give a quick smile to a tablet utilizing facial authentication software. The facial sports ticketing system instantly confirms their seating, and they’re ready to get in on the action.

Not only is this system fast and seamless, but it allows fans to attach multiple tickets to a single facial profile. So, that family of four that’s spending $304 to see an NBA game won’t be fumbling for a minute to make sure everyone is accounted for—mom or dad can take care of everyone with just their face. That’s why these Express Access lanes move 4x faster than traditional entry lanes. 

The Value of Facial Sports Ticketing Systems

There are a number of ways facial authentication solutions translate to higher revenues for NBA teams at the gate. For starters, these systems take up much less space than traditional systems, and they require far fewer staff members to operate. They’re also highly reliable and accurate, and the top solutions boast 99.7% accuracy with a 0% reported false positive rate. 

Today, Wicket is the undisputed leader in facial authentication solutions for sports applications, and they have already partnered with several NBA franchises to implement their technology. Their software is simple to use and pairs with off-the-shelf consumer hardware, so it’s easy to train employees and can be onboarded in as little as 30 days. Also, team branding stays at the forefront of the experience, and Wicket makes it easy for franchises to roll out their facial ticketing program with on-brand marketing that’s familiar to fans. 

Once it’s active, facial authentication solutions offer dramatic speed and cost savings at the ticket gate. The average Express Access Lane saves $8000 a year—per lane—and those numbers are multiplied by every entry point that utilizes it. On top of that, fans absolutely love the experience, and the speed and convenience are welcoming and intuitive additions to the live game experience. 

Without a doubt, sports ticketing systems that utilize facial authentication are going to be the future of the NBA, and the faster teams get on board, the faster they’ll be able to leverage their competitive operational advantage. 

Additional Live-Game Applications

The same speed and revenue benefits that NBA franchises experience at the gate translate to a wide variety of applications throughout the arena. The identical facial authentication software and hardware that speed up ticketing can be adapted to anywhere long lines and extended wait times plague the NBA fan experience. 

Concessions and Merchandise

Food, beverage, and merch sales are only as profitable as the cost of running the booth and the speed of their transactions. Fans won’t wait forever for a hotdog or beer, and vendors who can offer a quick in-and-out can entice hungry families to make an extra stop. And the faster they can turn over their lines, the more money they’ll be able to put in the bank. 

Facial authentication systems can be linked with payment information to drastically speed up transaction speeds and reduce the number of staff it takes to operate a kiosk. With a quick facial scan, patrons can settle up and be on their way back to their seats much faster than when they have to dig through their wallets for a credit card. And if vendors niche down on a highly desirable product with services like Express Beer lanes, they can serve their patrons at a staggeringly fast pace. 

Internal Access and Credentialing

In addition to creating a stellar fan experience, NBA game producers have a tremendous number of behind-the-scenes challenges to manage. Players, security staff, vendors, announcers, and team personnel all need to be issued IDs and provided with access to appropriate parts of the arena. 

These processes are expensive, and they require a lot of data input and on-site staff at access points to manage. By using facial authentication systems, all access permissions and credentialing can be handled through one simple digital solution. Not only does this technology make it quick and easy for everyone from Steph Curry to the guy working the curry stand to clear security, but it ensures a lost ID won’t be a time-wasting hassle (unless they leave their head at the hotel too!). 

Facing the Future of NBA Games 

Sports ticketing systems using facial authentication are revolutionizing the NBA experience one smiling fan at a time. By accelerating ticketing with this exciting technology, NBA franchises are able to boost their revenues without adding to the cost of the average NBA ticket for fans. 

And because it has so many applications in the NBA arena, facial authentication solutions will be an increasing source of competitive revenue for both individual teams and the league as a whole. 

Find out more about what facial authentication software can deliver for your fans and your bottom line to take your live game experience into the future. 

About Wicket

Wicket Software is a privacy-first facial authentication platform provider with patented computer vision AI technology that enables sensational event experiences for fans, guests, and employees with frictionless touchpoints that delight users and strengthen security.

Wicket has been in use since 2020 and deployed for facial ticketing, credentialing, access control, and payments in numerous sports stadiums, at major conferences, and in corporate office environments.

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