For over a century, air shows have captivated onlookers with breathtaking aerobatics and breakneck speeds. But, like many classic events, air shows have had to evolve to meet the changing needs of modern crowds.
The Oregon Air Show draws in tens of thousands of spectators each year — thanks in large part to new, multi-dimensional attractions. Realizing that today’s crowds want rich, interactive experiences, the Oregon Air Show added additional performers (like a historically accurate, WWII-era singing troupe), artisanal food and drink vendors, and opportunities to toast with the pilots in person after the show.
The problem? Between 2012 and 2014, growth had stalled. Despite their best efforts, ticket sales were flat for the third year in a row. And the team had a serious roadblock to increasing ticket sales: their unstable ticketing system.
To keep expanding each year, the 28-year-old air show needed a deep understanding of their attendees — and their ticket sales. But to make sense of their attendee and ticketing data, optimize their marketing, and engage each new generation of attendees, they had to overcome serious technological challenges.
When Bill Braack first joined as President of the Oregon Air Show, he identified a big gap — and a big opportunity. With over 70,000 attendees each year, multiple ticketing tiers, and four days of events, they were sitting on a wealth of complex attendee and sales information. But pulling even basic event data often took the team up to two hours each day.
“Our ticketing system’s reporting was severely lacking,” he says. “It should have been simple to see how many tickets we’d sold on Friday, or how many of each ticket class we’d sold for the weekend. But it wasn’t.”
With the goal of better reporting in mind, Braack pushed for his team to start the interview process for a new ticketing provider. “Changing a ticketing system is somewhat scary,” says Braack. To mitigate their fears, the team met with several potential partners, and evaluated each closely.
The air show approached these companies with three key goals:
> To accelerate their sales using real-time event data — and to improve their pitch to potential sponsors with granular attendee data
> To power a first-class experience with customized reserved seating
> To take attendee engagement to new heights
While all of the ticketing platforms the team evaluated could sell a ticket, technology was the deciding factor. “What made Eventbrite stand out was the technology behind the ticket,” says Braack. He didn’t need a ticketing company — he needed “a software company that has a ticket division.”
In the first half of 2016, the Oregon Air Show donated over $1.6 million to local causes, supporting organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the Returning Veterans Project, and the Hillsboro Schools Foundation. To continue driving ticket sales and supporting their community, the air show drives their business decisions with data.
“We can see at a glance how our areas are performing, so we can better structure our marketing efforts as we reach out to our guests.”
— Bill Braack
“We can see at a glance how our areas are performing, so we can better structure our marketing efforts as we reach out to our guests,” says Braack. “Right now, if I was to take a coffee break, I could check the Eventbrite Organizer app and see that my photo pit area is at 88% on Saturday, or that President’s Club is 70% sold out.”
Braack uses this data to guide marketing decisions. Each week leading up to the show, the team meets with their marketing agency to align on the latest results and adjust campaigns accordingly. For example, if sales are lower for family garden tickets, the team can ask the agency to launch more promotions targeted towards families.
The team also uses real-time event data to accelerate sales. When a certain ticket type is sold out or nearly sold out, they will indicate that on the Oregon Air Show website. “The red letters, ‘sold out’, are like a steroid for sales on our website,” says Braack. By emphasizing ticket availability, attendees have a higher sense of urgency to buy in — and buy sooner.
With so many different ticket types and price points, Oregon Air Show has to make sure each experience is differentiated. “Reserved seating has let us take things from a general admission environment to a VIP environment. Everyone has an assigned seat, and the highest paying customer really gets a premium experience,” says Braack.
For example, VIP patrons can purchase an entire box in a sky chalet for a private, intimate occasion. Patrons to the beer garden or family garden can pick seats at circular tables, which make for a more communal experience. And those less interested in food and drink can still score a front row spot through a non-dining reserved seating area.
The team is able to easily design and assign tickets to all of these areas with the Eventbrite reserved seating feature. Then, they can maximize profit by charging more for their best seats.
First, Braack used DoubleDutch to create an Oregon Air Show app centralizing their agenda, map, social media feeds, and sponsors, all in one place. The app encourages attendees to join in on the conversation by showing all social media activity in one location. The team also sells additional sponsorships within the app. Next, the team connected the app directly to ticketing in Eventbrite through a free integration. With the integration, attendees get instant access to the app right after purchasing a ticket. The sync is automatic, saving time for the team, and ensuring everyone is encouraged to download the app in a timely manner.
With Eventbrite, Braack has access to over 130 free extensions to various partners in the event technology and marketing space. “There are so many tools inside Eventbrite,” says Braack. “I’m always checking the extensions page to see if there’s something that makes sense to add to our event.”
“My favorite thing about Eventbrite is the technology and innovation. There are a lot of companies that sell tickets. We want a company that’s focused on the technology behind the ticket.”
— Bill Braack
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