Each summer, the Ohio State Fair is held in Columbus, Ohio, and has become one of the largest state fairs in the United States since it started in 1850. For the 2023 edition of the Fair, it was announced that over 1 million people visited the fairground, breaking the all-time attendance record.

The Ohio State Fair and Ticketmaster have been partners since the early 1990s and, during that time, have been through varying structures of ticketing as technology and fans’ needs have evolved.

Embracing a Shift to Digital Tickets

The Ohio State Fair has two ticket types on Ticketmaster.com — general admission for the fair and concert tickets for events at the Celeste Center inside the fair gates. A large portion of general admission tickets used to be sold at the box office as walk-ups, but that is starting to change.

“Pre-COVID, online admission tickets were a very small percentage of our sales. Since 2021, online sales have exploded,” says Alicia Shoults, Assistant General Manager at Ohio Expo Center & State Fair.

Part of the growth is attributed to the public’s knowledge and comfort with digital ticketing, but the Ohio State Fair also thinks their efforts in educating fans and marketing are critical pieces as they convert their fans from paper tickets to being fully mobile.

“We’ve used a variety of collateral to encourage fans to purchase online and in advance, including targeted email campaigns. Plus, we use signage onsite with QR codes so those that do show up without tickets can ‘skip the line’ and purchase right away online,” Jess Johnston-West, the Fair’s Public Information Officer, explains.

This tactic also dramatically reduced traffic at the box office, allowing quicker attention to those who need assistance with ADA and other troubleshooting needs.

Leveraging Insights for Strategic Decision-Making

As the Ohio State Fair and its guests embrace a digital ticket mindset, more online sales will ensue, giving the Fair more insight into who is coming through the gates.

“Ticketmaster’s data is one of the major sources of our demographic information. This data educates not only our team but also sponsors and vendors,” says Shoults.

For example, the Fair knows they have buyers from all 50 states, including every county in Ohio, plus Canada and Mexico. With this type of data at their fingertips within TM1 Marketing, the Ohio State Fair team applies that information to their marketing strategies, creating targeted segments and lookalike audiences while pivoting in real-time based on campaign tracking.

614 — Not Just an Area Code

Leading up to the 2023 Ohio State Fair, the marketing team deployed a flash sale on general admission tickets only on June 14, with a ticket price of $6.14. With the support of social media and email campaigns via TM1 Engagement, the Ohio State Fair sold over 20,000 tickets just that day. By the end of the 2023 Fair, general admission ticket sales were up over 85% year-over-year.

Our partnership with Ticketmaster over the past 30+ years has seen the evolution of how we engage with fair-goers in purchasing their tickets. In particular, the data that Ticketmaster reporting provides equips us with the information we need to find new and more fans.”

Alicia Shoults

Assistant General Manager at Ohio Expo Center & State Fair

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