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Morning Edition Airs New Series On Sports Fan Experiences

As the nation gets ready for Super Bowl Sunday, WBUR’s Morning Edition tackles how professional sports franchises make decisions about the “fan experience.” WBUR Sports & Society Reporter Shira Springer teamed up with MIT Sloan School of Management’s Ben Shields to ask leaders at the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins how fans can justify the money and time invested. This series will air occasionally through 2020. Stay tuned for more!

Over the last few decades, sports have become big business and big entertainment. Super Bowl Week, the corporate-party-fueled buildup to Sunday’s showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, is the ultimate example. The cheapest ticket currently available to Super Bowl LIV is more than $4,000. That comes as no surprise to fans. The high cost of being a fan — the time and money cost — is now part of the experience. It’s a non-negotiable.

To understand why it costs so much to be a fan, we asked top executives from the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins for their perspective. They pointed to several factors, including the social element, the challenges of supply and demand in a sports-obsessed city, and the desire to provide more personalized—and ostensibly better—service to fans.

Bottom line: Teams are selling more than the game.

Fans wouldn’t buy tickets “if there wasn't something completely unique and irreplaceable about the experience,” says Patriots chief marketing officer Jen Ferron. “Something we pride ourselves on is having that communal aspect on game day.”

We also asked fans whether they think it’s worth it. The communal aspect factored heavily into what made the fan experience valuable.

Listen to the full segment here.

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