What’s driving up prices for sporting events? Taylor Swift is one factor. So are inflation and pent-up demand.

3 mins read

It’s a great time of year to be a sports fan, but if you want to see a game in person, be ready to pay more than you would have a year ago.

Ticket prices for sporting events were up 18.9% in September as compared with the year-earlier month, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The National Football League’s season started in September, and that was probably a major factor in the price jump, said Jesse Lawrence, CEO and founder of the ticket platform TicketIQ. Among the four biggest professional sports in the U.S. — football, basketball, baseball and hockey — football tickets are typically the most expensive, Lawrence said. When the NFL season begins, it drives up the overall average price paid for sports tickets. 

The average price of NFL tickets in 2023 is $612, compared with $468 in 2022 and $418 in 2019, according to TicketIQ data. 

Consumers paid on average $109 for tickets to sporting events in August 2023, compared with $89 a year earlier.  Americans spent $36 billion in total to watch sports in person in August, compared with $29 billion in 2022, according to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

The average resale price for a ticket to an NFL game in 2023 is $435, up 22% from $356 in 2022, according to TicketIQ data provided to MarketWatch. For Major League Baseball, it’s $114, up 21% from $94. National Hockey League tickets are selling for $227 this year, compared with $191 last year. For the National Basketball Association, it’s $215 this year, compared with $206 in 2022. Resale prices are usually a bit higher than the primary sales price, but they reflect consumer demand more accurately in real time, according to TicketIQ.

MLS, the top-flight North American soccer league, has also seen attendance figures and ticket prices jump — to say nothing of Apple TV+
streaming subscriptions — for matches featuring the legendary Argentine player Lionel Messi and his Inter Miami side, though that phenomenon has been hobbled by Messi’s recent leg injury.

Rising prices across the economy have contributed to the increased price of sports tickets, Lawrence noted. Prices on consumer goods and services were up 3.7% from a year earlier in September. Inflation has come down from the 41-year high of 9.1% in June 2022, but it’s still more expensive than it used to be to put on an event, because the costs of labor, rent and supplies have all gone up, he added. 

Read: Want to watch every NFL game this season? Here’s how much it will cost you.

People want to get back to stadiums and watch their favorite teams

Price increases are also being fueled in part by pent-up demand now that pandemic-era restrictions at sports stadiums have been lifted.

“People realized how much they truly value communal experiences, which is what sports provide,” said Mark Burns, sports analyst at industry intelligence company Morning Consult. “Fans missed the passion, the energy that a stadium provides.” 

Fans are spending more money on sports events in other ways. They seem to be willing to travel more to see games in person this year. Across sports categories, fans are traveling 7% farther in 2023 to see their teams compared to 2022, according to ticket sales and resale platform Vivid Seats. 

The ‘Taylor Swift effect’

Another reason that some specific games — namely, Kansas City Chiefs games — got more expensive in September and could get more expensive in the future, analysts said, was Taylor Swift. 

The singer showed up at a Chiefs game on Sept. 24, apparently to support Travis Kelce, the tight end who is rumored to be dating the singer. Swift appeared at Chiefs games two more times in October. 

Popular interest in Chiefs’ games rose and ticket sales soared, with fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Swift. The Vivid Seats’ page selling tickets to the Chiefs game against the Minnesota Vikings saw a 273% surge in traffic after Swift’s second appearance on Oct. 1, and the game between the two teams on Oct. 8 was the hottest home ticket for the Vikings in 14 years, a representative of the ticket-selling platform told MarketWatch via email. 

Read: Taylor Swift expected to attend another Travis Kelce game as her fans keep buying Kansas City Chiefs gear and tickets

Prices for tickets to the Oct. 1 Chiefs game against the New York Jets jumped after news reports that Swift would be attending. The lowest ticket price rose 43% to $124, and the highest ticket price increased 28% to $511, according to TicketIQ’s real-time data. 

Swift’s Eras concert tour has had a measurable economic impact on the cities that have hosted shows, with fans spending money at hotels and restaurants and shelling out an average of $1,327 to see Swift’s shows, including ticket prices, clothing and travel expenses. 

See: Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’ sets opening-weekend record for a concert movie

Swift now seems to be bringing her economic golden touch to the NFL. But will she make an impact on prices across the league? 

“She definitely does for the games where she showed up, no question,” Lawrence told MarketWatch. But for games where she is not on the scene, there might not be any effect, he added. “I don’t think that’s enough to move the markets in any way that would show up in your consumer pricing data,” he said. 

Taylor Swift is arguably more popular than the NFL, but the size of her impact will also depend on a few factors, Burns told MarketWatch, including the time of the game, the city hosting it, and the popularity of the Chiefs’ opponent. 

“She’s changing the American economy with her tour, [which is] obviously supermassive. She’s still changing the few games she’s going to, as well, in terms of ticket prices, which is pretty incredible,” Burns said. 

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