Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brewers brew up a necessary promotion.........

Maybe the pro sports franchises will get the message from the fans instead of boasting about the marketing promotion part of it. The Milwaukee Brewers intended to bring attention to their star player, Prince Fielder, and his participation in the All-Star Game, specifically the Home Run Derby contest. The team had announced that for each homerun Fielder hits in the contest, they would take $1 off the price of their Loge Outfield tickets, even if only for a 3 game series against the lowly (this season) San Diego Padres next month.

What happened was that Fielder won the Home Run Derby, but hit 23 home runs in the process. The Brewers are sticking to their promise. Yet, what I did not realize at the time is that even though these are outfield seats, they are regularly priced at, get this, $28 per game. Thus, Fielder’s feat made these tickets for the 3 games available for $5 each.

Sure, that is a bargain, relatively speaking. To me, that is a problem. I think the marketing focus should turn to how baseball (and all sports) tickets have become so outrageously priced. It is not like the Brewers are the only team charging more than $20 to sit all the way out in the outfield. The Brewers are also far from the only team concerned about ticket sales in today’s economy either.

There is already more to this story. The Home Run Derby resulted in $5 tickets for 3 games which otherwise would not be a huge draw, barring a serious winning streak by the Padres, and that isn’t likely this season. By the middle of the day, the Milwaukee Journal reported that fans began lining up hours before the 9 AM on sale time to go for these $5 tickets. The team also set up to sell these $5 tickets online to meet the “demand”.

Let me run this by you again. These same $28 outfield tickets have been on sale since late February at all of the regular ticket outlets. But within hours of them being reduced to $5, now there is a demand and people lined up for hours.

To me, outfield seats for a big league baseball game should all be $5 or less, with a top price around $20 for the best box seats. This would let “fans” compare with the price of admission to a movie, a museum, or another live event on a given night or weekend day. My contention is that teams should reduce the prices significantly and fill the stadium every game. The people that could then AFFORD to come will then buy their fair share of souvenirs, food, and extras. In addition, they will go to eat and shop nearby and generate more revenue into the local economies.

Under the current price structure, the Brewers (like most teams) expect a group of 4 to pay $112 before they even set foot at the stadium. That doesn’t even count how the fans are gouged for parking and overprice ballpark food which brings the “group of 4” total closer to $200 – for one regular season baseball game.

With the $5 per ticket formula, that group or family of 4 stands a chance to have a night out for under $50. They could go 4 times per year for what it normally costs to go to 1 game – and we’re talking outfield seats and not the good ones closer to home plate!

The media would see some impact from this as well. Fans going to multiple games are more likely to follow the team when on the road via the TV and radio broadcasts, thus positively impacting the ratings and advertiser responses. Also, you can't tell me that those watching and listening wouldn't get more charged up hearing the roar of a big crowd all the time and maybe want to start going. Hardcore baseball fans know how certain broadcasters have directly helped to increase attendance, going back to when Harry Caray had an attendance clause in his Chicago White Sox radio contract in the early 70's, and received a bonus each year he had it.

Personally, I grew up being able to get into big league games for less than the nation’s minimum hourly wage. And I went every chance I could (and even a few that I couldn’t). Now, fans are expected to pony up at least 3 times the minimum wage and that is for the less appealing seats.

I pray that the Brewers take note, and that other teams follow suit. Not about having a home run promotion – but by making at least the lesser seats truly affordable. $5 or less. The fans they have priced out today are having the kids who will grow up not having the chances I did to get used to going to ballgames in person, and there won’t be anybody left willing to pay these prices in 20 years.

After all, Fielder’s regular season homeruns going forward shouldn’t land in empty outfield seats………..

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