There is a long tradition of football being associated with Thanksgiving.  Families across the country gather to eat a hearty Thanksgiving feast while watching a couple of NFL games.  For decades the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have each hosted a game on Thanksgiving and in 2006 a third Thanksgiving game was added to the schedule to give other NFL teams the opportunity to host a Thanksgiving game.

This year the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints are playing in Dallas, the New England Patriots are playing in Detroit and the Cincinnati Bengals will play against the New York Jets in the New Meadowlands Stadium.  Since pro teams playing on Thanksgiving was initially set up as a marketing tactic to entice people to attend games, it is fitting that we take a look at how ticket prices in the secondary market for turkey day games compare to the rest of the regular season.

  • The average ticket price for the Patriots @ Lions game is 216% of the average ticket prices for the Lions previous home games.  This is the biggest jump in average ticket prices out of the three Thanksgiving games.   Although the Lions are 2-8, the Lions are actually a respectable team this year and their record is a little deceptive.  The Lions have lost a few close games this year and are not playing like a 2-8 team.
  • The average ticket price for the Saints @ Cowboys game is 154% of the average ticket prices for the Cowboys previous home games.  At first glance it might not be clear whether the jump in prices for this game is due to the game being played on Thanksgiving or the Cowboys making a coaching change and winning their last two games.  Delving a little deeper into the data we see that the Cowboys two post-Thanksgiving remaining home games are big divisional rivals, the Eagles and the Redskins, and the average ticket prices to those games are $181.24 and $203.16 respectively.   It seems like the increase in ticket price for the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game is partially due to the Thanksgiving effect and partially due to a renewed sense of confidence in the Cowboys team.
  • The average ticket price for the Bengals @ Jets game is 81% of the average ticket prices for the Jets previous home games.  It is a little bit surprising that the average ticket price for this Thanksgiving matchup is approximately 20% less than the average ticket price for the Jets previous home games.  There are two possible explanations for the decline in ticket price to this game.  First, the Bengals have panned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL.   The Bengals were picked by several analysts to be a Super Bowl contender and going into the game against the Jets, the Bengals are 2-8 coming off of a painful loss to the Buffalo Bills.  Second, there is not a tradition of going to a Jets game for Thanksgiving.  Jets fans have grown accustomed to sitting around the TV with their families watching the Lions and Cowboys games.

Its clear that playing on Thanksgiving has a  significant positive impact on ticket prices in the secondary market for the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions.  These teams have a long tradition of playing on Thanksgiving and their fans most likely have a tradition of going to these games.  New York Jets fans are not accustomed to going to the stadium to see the Jets play on Thanksgiving and this is likely the reason for the discounted ticket prices on the secondary market for the Jets Thanksgiving Day tickets.