Celtics are seventh NBA team to join new ticketing trend


The Boston Celtics this week became the newest team to sign up for what might be the fastest-growing company in the sports ticketing space.

The company is Arizona-based ReplyBuy and it allows fans to opt into an on-demand ticket program through text message. Fans give the team their phone number, email and credit card, and when tickets become available the team sends a text to the fan with an offer. The faster to the trigger, the better the seat.

The transaction time is like nothing the sports ticketing space has ever seen. After receiving the text, the fan is asked to reply by typing in a short code and add how many tickets he or she wants. Within seconds, a text is sent back confirming the amount of tickets, the amount charged to the card, a link to the bar codes for the tickets and an email with the receipt.

Teams who have been shown the technology have been blown away. Seven NBA teams -- the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves and now the Celtics -- are clients of the company, which only launched in November.

"This is the Uber for ticketing," said Celtics chief marketing officer Shawn Sullivan. "You put in your info and when we have Celtics tickets, we will find you."

Sullivan said that, with ReplyBuy, the Celtics are able to offer tickets to engage a younger fan, which teams are so interested in reaching.

"You see kids today and they're not going to take a call from you and they aren't really using email too much either," Sullivan said. "With text, they get it right away."

Ease of transaction is another reason why Sullivan said he wanted to use ReplyBuy as the newest way to sell tickets.

"Any ticket provider that has tickets left on a certain night wants to reach people who are immediately in the area," Sullivan said. "People are conditioned to think that the team doesn't have tickets and they're not likely to stop by the box office. We send them a text and maybe they're at a restaurant near the arena. Maybe they now decide to go instead. This could be the new version of will call."

ReplyBuy co-founder Josh Manley, whose background is in e-commerce, said he believed that replying to a text to complete a purchase was an untapped frontier.

"There was just so much fragmentation in mobile and we thought why shouldn't we use the most universal form of communication on the planet -- a text message -- and let fans complete a transaction," Manley said. "It's conversational commerce."

ReplyBuy makes money by taking an undisclosed percentage of each sale sold through the company's platform, which provides teams with a dashboard to monitor messages sent out and deals consummated.

"Our goal is to arm fans with access, speed and simplicity," said Manley, who chose to push his reply to text business into sports first because of his fandom.

Angel investors in the company include two early YouTube employees and Mario Martinez II, a Phoenix Suns courtside season-ticket holder and investor as well as other Arizona-based minority partners.