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Down years opportunity

Author Austin Peletta, University of San Francisco

Posted: April 4, 2016

Tagged: marketing / teams

The Boston Red Sox decided that down years after periods of success are not a problem, but rather an opportunity for “getting more people to sample the game experience here” (Fisher, 2014). On the surface that seems counter-intuitive given the importance of ticket revenue to sport organizations.

They wanted to make a concerted effort to maximize opportunities for young people by offering $9 student tickets, purchased on a specific online platform and requiring student ID be presented upon entry to Fenway Park (Fisher, 2014, para. 8). This would allow them to engage the youth demographic with an affinity program that could make up for those who were not indoctrinated with nostalgia of family fan tradition (Pons, Giroux, Mourali, 2014). Further they could tap into sacralization, or ritual development, later in life by aligning memories of games at Fenway with friends or colleagues to simpler “carefree” times like high school or college (Pons et al., 2014).

In previous years of success, consistent sellouts and high demand for tickets made it so that even if they had considered it, the cost of engaging this demographic would have been too high (Fisher, 2015). While success on the field cannot be guaranteed, that’s not make-or-break for sporting organizations dependent on selling tickets for revenue. As Mark Pritchard points out “cessation may more often rest on factors other than performance” (Pritchard, 2014, loc. 3877). Creating fond memories of the stadium experience with targeted convenience incentives invites more fans to the product and therefore on the path to potential attachment to the brand.

The Red Sox are a prominent example of a team that has cultivated a culture of fans “strongly committed to [their] brand” despite famously suffering through 86 years between championships from 1918-2004 (Pritchard, 2014, loc.3699). As Pons et al. (2015) wrote “the Boston Red Sox are popular all over North America, not just in the Boston region” (loc 1101). Fenway Park is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, so history is a huge part of the stadium’s draw as well as wide reaching fan identity. While a rich history and ensuing nation wide affinity may sell merchandise, it is impossible to sell the stadium experience across North America.

For this reason it is interesting that despite being “faced with widespread ticket availability for the first time” since the new ownership group took over the Red Sox in 2001 (three years from delivering a championship), marketers were optimistic rather than disappointed (Fisher, 2015, para. 1). You’d think that delivering a championship after 86 years would bring continued loyalty in a down turn, especially given the fan base’s history.

Still, instead of being discouraged, they are hedging their bets by using times of “soft demand” to test programs for “how to engage and develop younger fans, and the issue has become a mandate for Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred (Fisher, 2014, para.5). Young fans have more potential customer lifetime value, and positive memories can lead to motivations to make larger spending commitments like becoming a season ticket holder later in life, following the escalator model (Pritchard, 2014). This addresses general business realities as well as the self-professed priorities of Major League Baseball’s league office to ensure future prosperity.

It is important for sport organizations to innovate when faced with challenges, to get creative if they want to excel in times when the on the field product is lacking. Also, it is important to focus on groups with the highest potential lifetime value, so that efforts and dollars are spent turning latent loyalty into true loyalty, rather than on customers with spurious loyalty (Pritchard, 2014).

 

References

Fisher, E. (2014, November 24). Red sox aiming young with marketing plans. SportsBusiness Journal, 17(32). Retrieved from: http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/

Pons, F., Giroux, M., and Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Behavior and Motivation: Why Are Sport Event Consumers So Special? In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business. (loc. 694-1072). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pritchard, M. P. (2014). Building Loyal Customers in Sport Business. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business. (loc. 3685-4081). New York, NY: Routledge.

About Austin Peletta, University of San Francisco

Austin Peletta is currently a Sport Management Graduate Student at the University of San Francisco and a Youth Athletic Development Professional. He works with Super Soccer Stars, The Golden State Warriors Basketball Camps, CAPED Specialists, and Royal Basketball School as a coach and Online/Social Media Marketing Manager. He is a San Fransisco Bay Area native and graduate of the University Of California Santa Barbara. This article is an edited version of a paper Austin prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Sport Marketing class at the University of San Francisco.

IImage by H. Michael Karshis, "Let's Go Red Sox!", www.flickr.com/photos/hmk/. Accessed via Creative Commons license.