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Q & A with Matt Seu from the NBA Milwaukee Bucks
In this exclusive interview we sit down with Matt Seu, Director of Premium Sales at the Milwaukee Bucks, to discuss his insights and experiences in the world of ticketing. The Milwaukee Bucks are a professional basketball team based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and welcomed over 700,000 fans to the Fiserv Forum in the 22/23 season.
Can you share some highlights from your journey in the ticketing industry and the pivotal moments that have shaped your career?
I started my career at the University of South Carolina, my alma mater, selling season tickets. From there, I moved to Oakland, California to work with the Oakland Athletics doing membership service. In Oakland I had significant professional growth, moving from a service rep to service manager, then to oversee our Ticket Sales & Service teams as a whole. The pandemic really affected the state of our business and being able to rebuild our sales team in Oakland following that is one of my proudest accomplishments.
As I sought out my next challenge, I wanted to try something new, so I ended up with the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum as the Director of Premium Sales. With the Bucks and Fiserv Forum, we oversee Premium Sales for all events coming through the building, including concerts and shows which is a totally new experience for me.
Could you summarise the significance of the fan experience and how developments in the premium hospitality sector align with this importance?
Fan experience, to me, is the most important thing that we have control over in premium hospitality. Especially in sports, we don’t have control over the success of the teams playing in our building, so creating a fantastic fan experience is essential to weather the ups and downs of sports organizations.
Continuing to try and elevate food and beverage options, plus otherwise inaccessible behind-the-scenes experiences are a constant focus to keep our fans engaged no matter how a team may be performing.
How has the ticketing industry evolved over the years, and what key trends or changes have you witnessed during your career?
One of the biggest shifts I’ve seen since starting my career is how much ticketing has shifted from a person-to-person sales process to an online, self-service style experience. When I started in my sales career, every ticket package we sold besides single game ticket promotions were done through a sales rep. Now, most teams not only sell their season ticket plans online, but also sell game by game group tickets and premium rentals through their websites.
As we primary sellers must compete with the growth of the secondary market, our fans being able to transact online is key.
What are the most significant challenges that industry professionals are facing?
One of the biggest is how easy it is for someone to stay home and still enjoy a live event. With different streaming services and livestreaming platforms, there are more ways than ever for fans to keep up with their teams without seeing them play in person. The solve for this goes back to creating the best fan experience possible so that fans WANT to be in our buildings, rather than at home.
I also think that driving buyers to purchase from a primary ticketing channel is getting increasingly more difficult in our industry. There are many different secondary market options out there now where buyers can essentially shop around for the best pricing, regardless of the risk they might be taking on by purchasing through a reseller. Teams/arenas need to continue to show the value in buying directly from them vs. a secondary seller.
Technology has played a major role in transforming ticketing. Can you elaborate on the role of technology in the industry's present state and how it has impacted operations and customer experiences?
Taking ticketing mobile over the last decade has been a significant change for the positive in our industry. The initial years of change were difficult due to the level of education for fans/buyers, but the longer we go with mobile ticketing the simpler it’s gotten due to younger generations being so technologically savvy. While we may not be using the Fox Office or Will Call window as much, fans being empowered to manage their tickets from anywhere at any time has simplified the experience for both fans and organizations.
With the introduction of digital ticketing and mobile apps, the way customers purchase and use tickets has drastically changed. How has this influenced your strategies for engaging customers and ensuring seamless experiences?
With the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum, we have our own dedicated app that our fans can use. This has allowed us to engage with our fans whether they are in the arena or not. With consumers relying on their phones more and more to make purchases and navigate events, the more that we can do to create content for them to stay engaged with our apps is vital.
The live events industry, including ticketing, has faced unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How has your organisation adapted, and what lessons have you learned from this unprecedented period?
I think for our fans, the biggest thing was creating an environment that was comfortable for them to return to in our building. While I was with the Oakland A’s, we slow-played fans returning to our ballpark like most MLB teams had to. We started by selling seats in specific, spread-out pods. We also allowed our season ticket holders to return slowly based on comfortability, allowing them to pause their memberships for a time until they were ready to return.
For our own employees, we’ve seen many teams take on a more hybrid approach to work, allowing more flexibility for staff to work from home. We proved in the pandemic that we could take our operations online and still generate revenue at a high level. Giving that flexibility to employees helps a company culture significantly.
Can you share your vision for the future of the ticketing industry?
We’ll continue to move towards mobile/online in all aspects of our businesses. Fans will be trained to self-serve online more than ever for their ticketing needs. By having more fans engaging with us online, we’ll also be able to collect more data to better serve and better segment our customer base.
This will allow teams to create experiences that can cater to all types of fans, including fans of their teams that aren’t geographically able to attend our events. The larger the reach a team has, the larger their potential revenues can grow. The teams/organizations that find the most success will seek out international reach and ways to monetize fans from anywhere.