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Devils hope 'flex membership' will capture new segment of the market

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The New Jersey Devils have rolled out a way to give fans and businesses many of the perks of season ticket holders, but with more flexibility about which games they spend their money on.

Known as a flex membership, the plan has allowed buyers to set up an account with at least $2,500 and redeem that money for tickets as needed and still be able to pick their seat, depending on availability. The National Hockey League team has sold more than 1,000 such memberships since introducing it earlier this year, with purchasers getting benefits such as discounts from single-game tickets, access to player events and discounts at the team store at the Prudential Center.

More than 80 percent of account holders have already started to redeem their investment since the Devils’ schedule came out in late June, said Shawn Doss, the arena’s vice president for ticket sales and service. Naturally, many account holders have already picked popular games against rivals such as the New York Rangers.

But for anyone still interested in such an investment, Doss pitched it as an option for both fans and business executives who want to entertain at the Newark arena — or anyone who falls into both categories.

“If you’re a business and you want to entertain your top three clients on a Tuesday night versus the Rangers, you can do that,” he said. “And then, if on that following Saturday, you want to take your family out with six tickets, you can do that.

“We’re giving the fans and businesses the ability to customize their investment with the Devils,” he added. “And then, most importantly, they’re now members, so the big change there is they’re treated like a season ticket member would be treated, because they’re valuable to us.”

Doss said the new program hasn’t cut into traditional season ticket sales for the Devils, which is the first NHL team to offer such a flex membership. Less than .5 percent of those members — roughly 9,000 season tickets were sold last year — have moved from season tickets to flex memberships, he said, so “this is truly like a new product that’s engaging a different segment of the market.”

Meantime, the Devils believe they’re protecting the investment of season ticket holders through a series of benefits that are still exclusive to them. Doss said those members still get the best prices on tickets, guaranteed seats for playoff games and perks such as a ticket buyback program that allows them to turn in five games they can’t attend and get a credit toward next year’s renewal.

“There are five or six things that make the season ticket package the best investment in the world still, which everyone in sports will tell you,” he said. “But this is an alternative.”

Doss also notes that “the notion of a flex plan is not very revolutionary,” pointing to packages that allow fans to buy six games ahead of time. But the new offering allows them to “be considered the highest customer” and have far more flexibility for the length of the season.

He said that’s what one major reason the team considers it to be far more than just a new mechanism for boosting ticket sales.

“It’s more of a long-term play of investing in our plans and letting them choose what they want,” Doss said. “It’s more of a play to allow customization and flexibility because that’s what millennials want, and that’s what the market wants.”

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