Putting Fans in the Seats

I think we all realize that this season is going to be a tough one for the team, as we have not added any significant free agents, and unless we have 4 or 5 John Lannans come out of nowhere during spring training, it’s going to be a long year. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not excited for the season to start in about 2 months, as are most true baseball fans.

Since we don’t have a group of exciting new players to attract crowds to the ballpark, the team needs to think outside the box a little in terms of its marketing and promotions. They need to come up with creative ways to draw people there. They could bring in an occasional national musical act for a pre-game and post-game concert. They could also bring in regional acts to do the same thing, ones that won’t draw 10,000 additional fans but might draw several hundred. Acts like this can draw 500 people, which would more than pay for the $2-3,000 price tags they would carry. Calculate at least $5,000 in ticket sales, and add in sales from concessions and this is a no-brainer for the team.

There are plenty of national brands who would be willing to give free product to the team to hand out at their games and offer fans an enticement to come. Anything from burritos to new CD releases to free samples of an endless list of products, the team could send out an RFP and they would be inundated with consumer product companies looking to jump on the chance to have a ready-made audience of 15-25 thousand people to whom they could instantly give away samples of their product. News flash to the team: people like free stuff. And while team hat and t-shirt day are nice, there are other items that the public would respond to as well. This is especially true if the team is trying to expand their fan base. An established baseball fan would respond to a free hat giveaway, but someone who hasn’t been to a game in years would be more likely to come see a game if a pop star’s new CD was being given away at the door. The team could sift through the proposals and select some items that would be truly valuable and exciting to fans, and with very limited expenditure by the team, have a couple of huge attendance nights.

Here’s another one. Have some game-day contests where a lucky fan or fans get to take some batting practice swings with the team, or shag fly balls on the field during warmups. Do it a couple times per season. You’ll have an extra 1,000 to 3,000 families bringing their kids to the ballpark on those nights, each kid dreaming of getting on the field. And they will be there long before game time for the contest, leaving plenty of time to buys souvenirs while they are waiting for the game to begin.

Many of these promotions would require very little expenditure by the team, with potentially large returns. You would have hundreds and sometimes thousands of fans buying food, drink and souvenirs, and more importantly you will be cultivating a fan base for the future. Even with a sub .500 team, a full stadium is a lot more fun and has a lot more energy than a 1/3 full stadium. And in this economy, averaging over 20,000 fans per game is probably a pipe dream without throwing a change-up into the marketing mix.

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