Sixers blazing new trails in selling tickets

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
4:35
PM ET
It's going on quietly, but no one in all of sports is working harder to sell tickets than the Philadelphia 76ers.

First consider that the team is coming off the best attendance increase in the game, up nearly 3,000 fans per game from the previous season. That's off a work stoppage -- with roughly 40 percent of the team's games in January -- and the team says it reduced the amount of comp seats it handed out by roughly 25 percent.

[+] EnlargeSixers mailer front
Philadelphia 76ersThe 76ers are sending out postcards to prospective ticket buyers with personalized shoes on the front ...
Friday, team CEO Adam Aron told ESPN.com the Sixers have doubled their season-ticket base (92 percent of season-ticket holders renewed with some prices raised) and quadrupled sales of their 10-game plans as compared to last year.

Fresh off buying the team in July 2011 for $280 million, owner Josh Harris and Aron have taken a bulldozer and redone everything. They flew in "American Idol" contestant Ayla Brown to sing the National Anthem at all their home games. They doubled the size of the dance team and the dunk team and booked quality halftime acts. Aron took to Twitter (@SixersCEOAdam) to reach out to the fan base and has accumulated more than 22,000 followers. Being good obviously didn't hurt -- as Derrick Rose's injury allowed the Sixers to knock off the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs last season, before falling to the Celtics in the second round.

[+] EnlargePhiladelphia 76ers mailer
Philadelphia 76ers... and fans' own website addresses on the back, where they can buy ticket plans.
In an effort to sell more 10-game plans this offseason, the team recently sent out a postcard that includes a personalized website and picture of a Sixers shoe with that person's last name on it. The team sent it to more than 40,000 people who the team believes have been to a game in the past two years. To trigger a response, the Sixers are offering a piece of the floor on which Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points (the team bought it last year for an undisclosed price and gave it out last year as part of a giveaway). To get that piece, a fan has to make sure his or her information is updated on the special website, answer a few questions and, of course, buy at least one ticket to a game to pick it up.

"Normal direct mail response is 2 percent," Aron said. "Our response so far is about 10 percent."

Aron said the mailing costs about $1.10 apiece, so it roughly costs him $12 to get a response. Knowing that a response comes with the purchase of a $50 game ticket or a 10-game plan, which averages about $400 per seat, he says it turns out to be good business. And then there's the behind-the-scenes detail that proves this isn't all fun and games. When a fan responds in any way, an instant message is sent to someone on the Sixers' ticket sales team so that they can follow up immediately.

I often hear people who work for teams complain about how hard it is to sell tickets these days. To which I usually respond, "How good are you at selling them?" Not many teams are as good as the Sixers in that category right now.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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