Early communication pays off for Berlin 2018 ticket sales
By Martin Ross
Organisers of the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin have succeeded in selling over 130,000 tickets with seven months to go until the event, attributing the figure to an early sales and communications campaign.
Berlin 2018 kicked off its ticket sales and online communication in August 2016 in a bid to engage as many fans as possible, before beginning on-site activation a year ago and then launching its European ticketing campaign in August last year.
Speaking this week at the Spobis conference in Düsseldorf, Frank Kowalski, the organising committee’s managing director, stressed the need to build awareness early for August's event, which will form part of the inaugural multi-sports European Championships (with the events in other sports taking place in Glasgow, Scotland).
He remarked: “We decided to do something that no one has every done – we started selling tickets two years before the event.
“We chose new paths to create awareness. There are 20 million Germans interested in athletics but it gets more and more difficult to reach people because the media tend to focus on different types of sport.
“We did a lot of communication and created an extremely high brand awareness for Berlin 2018. Our brand awareness of 67 per cent is unique. Nobody has been able to achieve a number like that seven months before the European Championships.”
Ticket sales breached the 125,000 mark at the start of the year as the DLV, the German athletics federation, praised figures “never before seen in the history of the European Athletics Championships.”
Places for the Saturday evening session and Sunday’s final day of competition have, not surprisingly, been the most popular slots for spectators.
The capacity at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium has been reduced from 74,475 to 60,000 and, upon going to market with the briefs, Berlin 2018 set a minimum daily target of 45,000 spectators. A total of 600,000 tickets are available across the six days of competition.
Kowalski noted: “I really think that on the Saturday when we sell a lot of tickets that we could reach the maximum capacity.”
Berlin 2018 issued a ticket supplier tender at the start of 2016 and went on to appoint Ticketmaster as its lead ticketing provider.
The organising committee and Ticketmaster have been able to come up with “disruptive ticketing strategies” that people didn’t expect, according to Kowalski, including a new printed magazine that “presents the athletes in a completely different way.”
Organisers will be under some pressure to deliver strong attendance figures, after Clemens Prokop, the DLV president, was critical of the size of the crowds at the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
Prokop flagged up the ticket pricing as the problem, as only 11,288 fans attended the morning session at the 25,000-seat Letzigrund Stadium on the first day of the championships, with 14,569 fans for the evening session.
Patrick Magyar, chief executive of the 2014 organising committee, then challenged Prokop to attain an occupancy rate of 75 to 80 per cent when Berlin plays host.
Tickets for the morning sessions in Berlin range from €15 ($18.68) to €40 and evening sessions are priced between €35 and €130 (there are also weekly passes available at prices ranging from €230 to €795).
Berlin’s Olympic Stadium plays host to German athletics’ annual ISTAF event and last year pulled in a crowd of 42,500.
The 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin attracted record ticket sales of 417,156 fans, a figure that was eclipsed last year as more than 700,000 tickets were sold when London staged the IAAF’s showpiece event.