Yesterday, we wrote about free tickets we received from Life Time Fitness for Friday's Timberwolves opener. Today, a new promotion via Facebook was brought to our attention, whereby U of M students could get free admission to Thursday's Gophers vs. MSU-Mankato exhibition men's basketball game.

In light of both of these things, we started wondering (again) about a model in which many, if not all, sports tickets were given away -- with the money being recouped on the back end instead of via a straight-up ticket sale. A guest poster on Darren Rovell's Sports Biz site a couple years ago talked about a "Freemium" model for sports.

It feels like we're inching closer to a time when some type of hybrid ticket system might work. Truth be told, we find ourselves less inclined to flat-out go to a game as a fan than we did, say, 10 years ago. Going in person used to be an exclusive privilege; slowly, thanks to inflated prices, the increasing comfort and ease of watching at home and other factors (like, say, we're just getting older), our attitude has shifted. And we know from talking to others that we're not alone.

But we also know this: When we get free tickets, we are likely to go. And when we get free tickets, we are likely to arrive and spend money because "hey, we got in for free" is always in the back of our mind.

In this way, the tickets aren't "free." It is, of course, a strategy. The Gophers want students in the building so they might buy tickets later -- or at least so they'll buy some concessions at that game. The Timberwolves tickets were purchased by Life Time, so there is some value at least in the initial transaction; and they, too, are hoping fans with the free tickets will come back for another (paid) look or at least spend money while they are there.

But what about widespread use/acceptance of this model, even for events that sell better (like, say, Wild or Twins games)? Maybe we'll get to a point someday where tickets are either $250 or $0, depending on the level of service you want and where your seats are.

The caveat in all this is that we do not have a business degree. We are just observing what we think is a marketplace shift. More sophisticated thoughts are always welcome in the comments (as, of course, are the less sophisticated ones). #firechildress

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