Just get them in the door

May 28, 2008

I’m frequently amazed at the number and variety of promotions thrown at fans who attend Minor League Baseball games.

From the stuffed baseballs fired into the stands to free posters, bats, hats, mugs and shirts handed out at the door, it’s getting a little ridiculous.

And as I’ve noticed this season, on the nights that don’t have a freebie associated with them the stands are echo chambers of empty seats and die-hard fans. I mean, is it that important to get a plastic keepsake as part of your payment for attending an entertainment event?

Does Wham give away trinkets at their concerts to get people in the door?

As a season-ticket holder I’m granted some perks too. But I’m not attending the games because I got in free with a can of soup or a kidney. And in most cases I’m too far past 14-years-old to get the free toy anyhow.

I am in the stands to see the game.

Sure, the occasional foul ball or raffle prize is nice, but I wonder if the team couldn’t fill the stadium seats some other way. Maybe with more marketing to businesses?

It’s funny to me that I can almost depend on the seats next to me being empty at every game during the week. The only time I’ve seen bodies in those seats is when there’s a freebie at the gate.

These seats are already paid for, so that might be a bad example. But they belong to a local business that gives the seats away to employees and customers. If FREE isn’t an incentive to get someone to a ballgame, what is?

And as much of a marketing genius as I purport to be, I can’t really figure out how. As Yogi Berra is said to have said, “If the fans don’t come out to the ball park, you can’t stop them.”

The tickets are already cheap. The seats are already close to the field. The players are occasionally even the names you see in the big leagues. Maybe it’s a perceived value issue.

You probably wouldn’t pay to see a high school baseball game (although I’m pretty sure we used to pay to see basketball in the gym when I was in school). And the precedent has been set by Cape Cod League and other semi-pro teams that allow fans to watch for free. Maybe there’s no going back.

Ultimately, I’m beating around the point that teams change locations every year and if the local team doesn’t find a way to fill the seats without giving stuff away all the time, they might not be here forever.

There’s got to be a way to make the local fans play ball and appreciate what they have before it’s gone.

More to come…