Postseason run could prove ‘super’ for Falcons’ sales in new stadium

Two years into their efforts to sell personal seat licenses for the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Atlanta Falcons may have found their most effective sales tactic: a run toward the Super Bowl.

Seat license sales have rallied along with the team’s on-field performance in recent months, rising from less than 33,000 at the start of the season to more than 41,000 now.

Even so, that leaves around 20,000 seats for the Falcons to attempt to sell before the retractable-roof stadium — under construction next to the soon-to-be-demolished Georgia Dome — opens for the start of the 2017 season.

The Falcons had sold 41,102 seat licenses as of late last week, according to Michael Drake, the organization’s senior vice president and chief revenue officer. And the team said it has received a significant number of leads on potential additional sales since defeating Seattle to advance to the NFC championship game.

The Falcons face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the Georgia Dome’s final football game, with the winner going to the Super Bowl. It would be just the second Super Bowl berth in the 51-year history of the Atlanta franchise.

Tom Smith, a professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, whose specialties include the economics of sports, predicted the Falcons will see “a super huge spike” in seat-license sales if they win Sunday.

“If the Falcons win, they’ve got two weeks (before the Super Bowl) to flood the airwaves with more commercials about PSLs,” Smith said. “It’s a huge opportunity … to have people out there pounding the pavement, going to corporate and different entities, saying, ‘Don’t you want a piece of this?’

“It’ll get a boost for sure.”

Personal seat licenses — one-time fees for the right to buy Falcons season tickets over the next 30 years — are a part of the financing plan for the $1.5 billion stadium. PSL prices range from $500 to $45,000, with 10 percent due at time of purchase.

The Falcons’ most recent official sales report to the Georgia World Congress Center Authority was through Nov. 30. At that point, the team had sold 37,455 seat licenses for a total of $190.8 million, according to figures obtained from the state agency through an open-records request.

That included 4,630 club seats for $103.1 million and 32,825 non-club seats for $87.7 million.

The updated figures provided by the Falcons indicate an additional 3,647 seats have been sold.

Through late last week, the Falcons had sold licenses for 5,301 club seats and 35,801 non-club seats, Drake said.

Drake has seen the impact of on-field success on PSL sales before, having helped oversee the San Francisco 49ers’ sales for Levi’s Stadium, which opened in 2014. The 49ers sold out of seats months before the first game in the Santa Clara, Calif., stadium.

“I was fortunate enough in San Francisco that we had an NFC championship game run and a Super Bowl run in the two years leading up to opening,” Drake said.

But he said he is “a little too superstitious” to talk publicly about what a Super Bowl could mean to Falcons sales.

To this point, he said, “the data would tell me” the recent sales boost “has more to do with the football season in general and the urgency of, well, this is the final season in the Georgia Dome.”

Robert Boland, director of the sports administration master’s program at Ohio University, said postseason success stirs sales for pragmatic reasons as well as emotional ones.

If fans perceive their team’s tickets will be in high demand, as is generally the case with championship-type teams, “more people feel forced to lock in with season tickets rather than buy games on the a la carte market,” Boland said.

The $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium will have 71,000 seats, and all seats sold as Falcons season tickets will require a PSL.

The Falcons haven’t said how many seats are in the PSL inventory, but after excluding seats that are part of sponsorship deals, in suites or held out for group sales and other purposes, the number of sellable seats to the general public is believed to be around 61,000.

“That number is moving around as we continue to do sponsorship deals,” Drake said. “It’s not quite that much, but somewhere in that range.”

Since the Falcons began PSL sales in January 2015, some long-time season-ticket holders have said they are being priced out of their seats, especially in prime locations in the lower bowl.

“What makes some people frustrated is having to buy an option to buy a seat,” Emory’s Smith said. “I don’t know that a playoff run makes that more palatable, but I imagine that for some people it might.”

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