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What NFL Ticket Prices Say About the Economy


Two weeks ago, the good people of Atlanta were thrilled to see within the Case-Shiller 20 City Index that the average home price increase in their city (+4.4% month/month) was among the best in the nation. While the news surely fueled hopes that perhaps the long awaited housing recovery had finally arrived in the 9th largest city in the nation, at least one pundit says, not so fast.

Nick Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx argues that things may not be turning around in Atlanta (and elsewhere) just yet, given that average ticket prices to attend a Falcons home game are down 8.1% this season. This is the biggest drop among the 30 NFL cities, according to Team Marketing Report data. Further, he says his own research of NFL attendance and ticket prices reveals all kinds insights, most of which are troubling.

"It's telling us that the overall economy still isn't as strong as it was back in 2007," Colas says in the attached video, citing a 4.5% drop in NFL attendance from 2007. "It's also telling us that the upper-end consumer is still retrenching, they're still pulling back. They haven't felt the burst of either better employment numbers or better income and they're actually attending fewer games."

Before you dismiss his work as a folly, consider that the NFL regular season is 17 weeks long, includes the critical holiday season, and takes place in 30 major metropolitan areas. Colas also calculated "capacity utilization" of stadiums by factoring the percentage of unsold seats, and discovered "a good 5, 6, 7 points of capacity utilization difference in those cities where the housing crisis never really bit -- like New York City - or areas like Florida, where it got trounced."

His "off the grid(iron)" analysis isn't all bad news, but did highlight what he calls "the startling difference'' between various cities and teams, many of which saw pricing and/or attendance gains.

Still, he points out that ten teams lowered ticket prices this year "because they see that attendance numbers are actually slowly creeping downward." For him, a broad-based increase in attendance, particularly in the housing-hammered areas of the south and southwest, would clearly imply an uptick in confidence.

"We worry about deflation, Ben Bernanke worries about deflation, as it turns out, a lot NFL stadiums and NFL team owners are thinking deflation as well," he says. With one taking action via lowering rates, while the others take action by lowering prices.