The “Tom Brady effect” can be seen everywhere — on the scoreboard, in the standings, in every part of the NFL economy, globally.
And as Brady, who turns 45 next month, enters his 23rd and perhaps final NFL season, the Bucs are leveraging the strong demand for fans to see him play to help their attendance beyond stadium limits and even to next year, with or without him on the field.
“We have experienced an unprecedented amount of interest in season passes in recent years, and our goal is always to ensure that Buccaneers fans have the ability to see our games at Raymond James Stadium,” Brian Ford, the team’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.
Three years ago, the Bucs ranked 30th of 32 teams in NFL attendance with an announced average of 51,898, a figure that had dropped every year since 2015. But Brady’s arrival in 2020 after two decades with the Patriots changed everything. He led the Bucs to a Super Bowl championship despite limited crowds due to COVID-19 protocols.
Last season, the Bucs ranked 21st in the NFL, averaging an announced 65,372. That’s the biggest two-year growth of any NFL team still playing in the same stadium. The Bucs increased their average by 13,474 from 2019 to ’21, and the only other NFL team playing in the same stadium with more than 5,000 more was the Bengals (+13,146).
Tampa Bay was able to sell out every home game last year without selling single-game tickets, relying solely on season tickets, something they’re expected to do again in 2022, with limited season passes still available. In past years, with thousands of single-game tickets available at face value, the Bucs had a strong presence of fans from visiting teams — to be seen and heard — even in the lower level, a source of frustration for the home fans, players and coaches.
But now the demand for season tickets after Brady’s return is so strong that the Bucs are temporarily expanding their capacity, announcing last month that they’ll add 3,600 bleacher seats in an area called “The Krewe’s Nest” in the south end zone. That will push Raymond James Stadium’s capacity above 70,000, something done previously only when hosting Super Bowls and college football national championship games. First priority is going to current season-ticket holders, who are allowed to have up to six total seats between their previous commitment and the new end-zone tickets.
Greetings from Raymond James Stadium. Cool to see the additional temporary seating in end zones for Alabama-Clemson tonight. #roadtotampa pic.twitter.com/YajBcDgdwu
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) January 9, 2017
At a cost of $300 per game, if the new sections sell out as expected, it will bring $9.72 million in new revenue to the Bucs, plus whatever those fans spend at the stadium, with minimal expense involved. If Brady isn’t playing in 2023, the new seats can be removed to bring the stadium back to its normal capacity.
The high interest in seeing Brady and the Bucs play, combined with a star-studded home schedule, has sent the price of single-game tickets soaring on the secondary market. The cheapest seats are at least $200 each for all five 2022 non-division home games: Packers at $380, Chiefs $340, Bengals $276, Rams $266 and Ravens $210, per Ticketmaster, not including fees. Divisional games, with opponents in Tampa every year, are predictably less: $166 for the Falcons, $160 for Saints and $140 for the Panthers.
The cheapest seats to see the Bucs play are actually on the road, where the lowest secondary price is above $200 for just one game, the season opener at the Cowboys ($273 each). Tickets can be had for under $120 in five of the eight road games: Cardinals ($119), Panthers ($113), Browns ($104), Saints ($90) and Falcons ($86).
The interest in Brady and the Bucs is literally global. The team’s “home” game in Munich on Nov. 13 against the Seahawks is the NFL’s first-ever game in Germany, and the market has been strong. The NFL said it had more than a half-million ticket requests for a stadium with about 75,000 seats, and the league kept the face value of those seats reasonable, with no regular seats costing more than 155 euros, or about $155 U.S.
A small number of tickets were made available Wednesday to the Bucs and their season-ticket members, but those were gone in mere hours. One secondary ticket site, viagogo.com, has about 500 tickets available but all asking for at least $570, with the best 50-yard line sections drawing more than $2,600 each.
Tom Brady is coming to Munich with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 13th. We are happy! This will be cooler than the Oktoberfest. #Brady @Buccaneers @TomBrady #NFL @NFL @NFLDeutschland @SInow pic.twitter.com/x77hjnMywS
— Sports Illustrated Deutschland (@SIGermany) May 5, 2022
Back home, the demand for 2022 home tickets in Tampa is great enough that the Bucs have leveraged it to improve their 2023 attendance. When Brady briefly retired in February, enough fans didn’t renew that season tickets were briefly available, but when Brady came out of retirement 40 days later in March, the Bucs required that all new season-ticket holders would need to make a two-year commitment to their seats, citing “overwhelming demand and limited inventory.”
And to help limit the presence of opposing fans in the stands — from fans buying season passes but selling some tickets on the secondary market — the Bucs also opted to sell new lower-level season tickets only to fans with valid Florida driver’s licenses.
Now Bucs fans this summer saw another change to the season ticket policy. The team announced that fans would need to commit to their 2023 season tickets by Aug. 15, and would begin paying for them with monthly payments throughout the year before the actual games. So if there were any chance of Brady returning for a fourth season with the Bucs, fans had to commit an entire season before this year’s games would be played. Under the “Annual Membership Plan,” a fan can opt out of the commitment only if they do so a full year before the season begins, or if the team raises ticket prices by more than 7.5 percent.
“We have one of the most attractive home schedules in franchise history coming up this season, and we devised a policy for new sales that would ensure that Raymond James Stadium continues to provide our players with the best home-field advantage in the NFL,” Ford said in a statement. “We have always been very vigilant about ensuring that true Bucs fans have access to attending our games.”
The terms and conditions of obtaining a season ticket make it clear the team can monitor the resale of tickets and revoke a season ticket if they see a pattern of resale. “Holder acknowledges that the spirit of being a season ticket holder is not financial gain or other benefit by reselling the tickets, but embodies a desire to support the Buccaneers,” it reads. “Holder acknowledges that the Buccaneers may monitor ticket resale and/or transfer activity.”
The Bucs will open their season in September with two road games, playing at Dallas and New Orleans before making their home debut Sept. 25 against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a rematch of the 2020 NFC Championship Game. A week later, they’ll host the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes in prime time in a rematch of the Super Bowl played on that same field just 20 months ago.
Whether it’s Brady’s final season — in the NFL or in Tampa — remains to be seen, but the demand for tickets will be there, as will capacity crowds as he chases an eighth Super Bowl championship.
(Photo of Raymond James Stadium: Kim Klement / USA Today)