Monthly Archives: June 2011

So what is wrong with volleyball ?

Were you successful in the ticket ballot for the London 2012 Olympics ? First time around or in the second chance round that started yesterday at 6am ?

As I write this, the remaining tickets are for a handful of sports including: volleyball,  football, women’s boxing, women’s weightlifting and wrestling. This got me wondering on the subject of my last blog post which was all about how humans make decisions, not in an absolute way but instead they apply heuristics (or short-cuts) based upon relativity.

The London Games provide a great example of this. Take a sport like volleyball – a pretty exciting sport. A team game that is great to watch. Why did it fare so badly in the popularity stakes ? One answer is relativity. There is another sister sport:  beach volleyball which is basically very similar and where the sessions are priced very similarly.  For both category E tickets are priced at about £20 to £65 and category A tickets span the £100 mark.

The differences are that for virtually no cost, you can get a “super-improved option” in which volleyball gets “souped up”.  Add a bit of glamour, add an iconic venue in Horseguards parade, add a bit of sex-appeal .. and the beach volleyball tickets go like hot cakes. What is weird though is the volleyball tickets actually fare much worse, just because they got “bench-marked” against their sexier cousin. If they’d been compared to other similar sports like basketball or handball, then perhaps the tickets would have sold more quickly; however the comparison is harder to make so the simple human brain sticks with the easy comparison. What could be easier to compare than the addition of “beach” on the front of the name of the sport ? Luckily, for athletics, there weren’t options for  “beach decathlons”, “beach marathons” or “beach discus”.

There is, of course, an element of “herd mentality” in here too.  Beach volleyball tickets were selling like hot-cakes; therefore they sell even faster. Perhaps there is something to do with a (logical) view that their re-sale value will be higher; but mostly likely it is human instinct for humans to join to herd and go for the tickets that their peers are buying to.

There we go … …. Behavioural science, even in the selection of Olympic tickets.


Another excellent video from Rory Sutherland

This video is a cracking watch … Rory, described as a thinking man’s Boris Johnson, discusses “interventions for the good” and transport decision-making gets a special mention.

Rory describes that the problem is that most train journeys start with a car journey.  Hence,  he describes modal shift as an “asymmetric decision” because the vast majority of time, you take the decision on whether to get the train when you’re already in a car. There is all sorts of extra anxiety such as “When is my train ?”, “Is it running on time ?”,  “Will I get a parking space ?”, “Will the car be safe ?”, “Have I got change to buy a parking ticket ?”.  Hence, it is much easier to stick with the status quo and stay in that warm comfy car.

Hence, the technological solution – the journey planner – can help lift the decision-making into a fair playing field. Journey planners, such as Transport Direct, allow the would-be traveller to make the decision on how to travel before they set out.  The best course of action might still be the car, but at least the options are more likely to be considered fairly.

Quick link (whilst I sort out the embed feature).