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Are Super Bowl Tickets an Oracle for the Luxury Consumer?

Tuesday, 31 Jan 2012 | 1:08 PM ET

ConvergExMarket Group’s Nicholas Colas takes an annual look at “Super Bowl economics” to get a peek into the mind of the luxury consumer.

New England Patriots fans wait in line to pick up their Super Bowl tickets at Gillette Stadium.
Boston Globe | Getty Images
New England Patriots fans wait in line to pick up their Super Bowl tickets at Gillette Stadium.

If one looks just at the price of a ticket to the game at Lucas Oil Stadium— either the face value printed on the ticket, or the price you’d actually have to spend on the street — there hasn’t been much inflation since last year.

Before you begin fretting that this a signals tougher times to come in the luxury consumer market, however, Colas suggests one also consider all the other costs that would be associated with attending the event — there, the prices are skyrocketing.

According to Colas’ research, Enterprise rental service is charging $84 a day for a small car this weekend in the Indianapolis area. Two weeks from now, the price drops to $29 a day.

Flights to game are less expensive from the Boston area, but the cost of both tickets is significantly inflated this weekend. Colas said round-trip airfare is running $910 from the Big Apple and $650 from Beantown. Again, looking two weeks into the future, when Super Bowl hysteria dies down, the price of these fares drop to $282 from New York to Indianapolis and to $349 from Boston.

And if you say, “Forget it, I’m not flying and renting a car at these prices” and decide to drive to the game instead, you’ll still be digging in deeper into your wallet to rent a hotel. Even budget hotel chains such as Super 8 and Choice Hotel's Quality Inn, which usually charge about $74 for a weekend, are running about $350 this weekend. Colas also found a hotel called America’s Best Value Inn, which was charging $950 for the weekend. Normally, a room at the Inn costs less than $100.

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Still, there are questions about why ticket prices are not higher. From 2010 to 2011, the scalper’s price of a Super Bowl ticket rose along with the economy, jumping to $2,000 from $1,300. Right now, the cheapest tickets for Sunday’s game are about $2,000.

Colas says it’s easy to argue they should be higher. The teams facing off — the New York Giants and New England Patriots — hail from population-dense areas, so there's more competition for tickets. Also, the price of a 30-second ad has set a new record, some $4 million. There also are fewer seats in the stadium, which alone could have pushed prices higher.

Colas said he’ll be watching to see what happens as game day approaches. An article in Bloomberg doesn’t bode well, though. Its research found that the average ticket pricefell to $3,982 from $4,311 since Jan. 27, according to data released byTiqIQ, a ticket event aggregator that tracks listing from StubHub,Ebay, TicketNetwork, and TicketsNow.

The least-expensive ticket was priced at $2,090, down from a high of $2,400 on Jan. 27, which may seem like a huge bargain compared to the most expensive ticket purchased on the NFL Ticket Exchange, the league’s official resale website. That ticket was sold last week for $16,480.

“One thing I know,” Colas said, “Next year, it won’t be a problem to set a new street price for the Super Bowl, regardless of whatever the economy may bring. It is in New Orleans.”

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.

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