The Value of Charging for Experiences

More and more marketers are putting a price on their experiences—literally. From Activision’s Call of Duty XP to the NBA’s Hoop It Up, the brands that are charging for experiential access say they’re pulling more qualified audiences, avoiding unqualified buyers and subsidizing some or all of their event budgets. But, why?


By putting a price tag on experiences, marketers pull die-hard hyper-relevant targets who want to interact with their brand. Example: Vans Skate Parks, which for years offered access to its branded skate park only to paying “members.” The 50,000-sq.-ft. inline outlets offered a hipper, cleaner, more secure indoor skating environment than the typical municipal park. Kids and parents recognized the value and didn’t mind paying.


Think of it as a crowd controller. An admission event fee can help control throughput, weeding out the non-core end-users you don’t want to connect with anyway. How crowded would the Universal CityWalk in Orlando be if they didn’t charge that $8 parking fee? Example: Heineken used a five-market 3-on-3 Triple Team Challenge that charged an entry fee of $100 per basketball team. Had the tournament been free to enter, the program would have been mobbed by non-hoops wannabes, compromising the original objectives of connecting with die-hard basketball fans.


Incorporating some kind of tariff helps with the bottom line. Events are getting more expensive, and an event admission fee component alleviates some of the budget pressure. When a program is self-liquidating, as procurement calls it, it’s easier to get budgets approved.

There are six types of admission mechanisms to choose from:

  • Entry Fees allow a guest into an environment.
  • Per-action Fees charge for a specific activity.
  • Per-time Fees for a specific length of time.
  • Initiation Fees hit consumers with an initial charge to participate (and other costs as they engage the event)
  • Access Fees allow a guest into an exclusive area of an event (useful with interactions built for best customers).
  • Membership Fees are used in long-term programs to capture a loyal group of constituents.

How much should you charge? It’s a slippery slope. Build the price around what the target will cough up, not how much you need to get the budget approved. Done right, people will focus on the activity, not the $20 they’re paying. But adding an event admission fee structure into your marketing is a bold move, and it’s not always easy to pull off. Remember to think about the experience first, and the revenue last—start with the dollars first and the guests will never show up.

Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. Chief Marketing Officer, Doodle owner and lover of all things chocolate.