While most people sat at home and watched the Super Bowl, eating chips and throwing
Super Bowl Parties, 70,081 people were lucky enough to be in the stands for Super Bowl 53.
While many took in the barn burner of a score, 13-3, from their own homes; some people got to
watch the defensive showcase from a seat with a ticket price of $22,584. There were eight seats
sold at midfield for a grand total of $180,675. Excluding box seats, the average ticket price was
anywhere between $2,500 and $3,000 with resale ticket prices skyrocketing after that. While
you may be wondering if these people were first in line that morning or if they had been camping
out for a week, you would be wrong because they actually bought their ticket from a licensed
ticket dealer months ago.
Unlike regular NFL games, the ticket system for the Super Bowl is entirely different.
According to espn.com, the NFL distributes about three quarters of the tickets to each team.
The teams then let the tickets funnel down to their players. The other quarter is spread out
between partners, sponsors and the media. The simplest way to explain how the Super Bowl
works is there’s no primary market. You cannot buy a ticket at face value, says Mike Lipman,
owner of TicketsofAmerica.com and White Glove International. Only a relatively small portion of
the tickets are available to the average person. Even most of these tickets are purchased
immediately with the plan of selling them on the secondary ticket market. Interestingly enough,
most of the “public” tickets are purchased months in advance, long before the teams have even
been set. No laws actually prohibit the sale of tickets at a speculative price, essentially allowing
ticket prices to skyrocket. Sellers aren’t even required to possess the tickets until the fan
actually physically needs them for the game.
For the average football fan wanting to go to the Super Bowl, they must buy tickets that
are attached to “NFL Experiences.” These packages include everything from travel planning
and hotel accommodations to weekend activities such as concerts and even pre-game parties.
The issue with these ticket packages is that they value the ticket way above face value. Some of
these accommodations can reach prices about $15,000 per seat, although the cheaper ones
are valued at around $6,300 per seat. The benefit of purchasing an NFL Experience ticket
package is that customers are buying their tickets directly from the NFL and are guaranteed
their tickets. For fans looking to spend as little money as possible, they are forced to buy their
tickets from ticket brokers that charge whatever price they feel is best. Fans that are season
ticket holders to their respective Super Bowl participants are also only entered into a drawing to
win the ability to purchase these ultra-exclusive tickets.
However, for roughly 75% of seats, they are filled in a much different way. The NFL
allocates 17.5% of tickets to each team playing in the Super Bowl. The remaining 32.5% of
tickets are distributed among the league’s other 30 teams. Under the terms of the NFL’s
collective-bargaining agreement, every current player has the option to buy two seats at face
value. If they’re playing in the Super Bowl, they can buy up to 15 tickets. These 15 tickets are
generally distributed to the player’s friends and family. According to Lipman, “Their families go
and they really don’t need the money. But you’ve got some players that need it, like to have the
extra spending money. They take that ticket and they resell it for double, triple face value.”
Major NFL ticket brokers will seek out to form good relationships with players and coaches so
that they will be able to purchase their Super Bowl tickets from them. For the other roughly
quarter of tickets, they are distributed among major NFL sponsors as well media sponsors.
There is also a small portion dedicated to donations to military families and youth football
For many, going to the Super Bowl is a once in a lifetime opportunity that few people will
ever get the chance to experience. However, there is a stadium full of people that get to go
every year and they could have gotten their tickets any number of ways ranging from being
related to a lineman to purchasing a Super Bowl Ticket Experience Package for over $20,000.
Although many have the fantasy to someday watch the country’s biggest sporting event live, the
market forces behind Super Bowl tickets makes that dream ever more unlikely.
USBC Journal Writer
Class of 2022