The Tuesday, Jan. 19th, 2010 issue of The Daily Record featured a front page story, “O’s Returning FanFest to January…Team also raising some ticket prices”…which is sort of like a good-natured-slap-on-the-back-hurray! immediately followed by a smack across the face.
Personally, I liked having FanFest at Oriole Park. As we in PR know, site selection is key whenever you hold a press conference or any kind of major event. Having the event at Camden Yards gets people thinking about baseball again, not that they don’t think about it at the Convention Center, but you have to admit, having it at the Yard is more inducive to bringing back those summer night memories…well, at least the good ones when the Orioles won…occasionally. Hmm, maybe having it at the Convention Center isn’t such a bad idea afterall.
But that’s no biggee; we understand about scheduling, how the Orioles are kicking off the season in Florida so it wouldn’t be practical to hold the event in Baltimore in the spring. But why not hold the event now, in January, but at Camden Yards?
The real issue here is the rise in ticket prices. The O’s are hiking the price for advance sales tickets for premium games, i.e. opening day and any game against the Yankees or Red Sox (oh, for the day when games against those two teams AREN’T premium games!) “an extra $10 to $30 this year.”
But wait, there’s more. Literally. Fans who decide to wait til game day to buy a ticket wil now have to pay up to $5 more for a ticket. “The pricing changes mean that $48 seat owned by a season ticket holder would sell for $93 at the box office on the day or a Yankees or Red Sox game.”
For $93, the Yankees and Red Sox should come to my house and play the Orioles in my backyard.
Of course, if I were the PR person for the Orioles, I’d now trot out the stat that shows that the Birds haven’t raised their single game ticket prices in six years and that the average cost for seeing a game at the Yard is still $3 less than the major league average (so sayeth the Team Marketing Report)…but as any fan of the Orioles can tell you, the Orioles haven’t had a decent season in TWELVE years and now you’re making it harder to want to come out on game day?
Part of the fun of going to a game used to be the knowledge that you could just come down to the park and buy a ticket and see a game. Now if you have the urge to do that, you might decide you’re better off watching it at home because you’re going to have to pay more for the privilege than if you bought your tickets in advance.
Buying tickets in advance encourages season ticket purchasing and rewards those who show fan loyalty. Yeah, maybe. But I would think you would want to do everything in your power to encourage ALL fans to see the games at the Yard. So why not give season ticket holders a break on costs or on O’s swag or on O’s special events instead of making other fans pay more to see the same game the season ticket holder is seeing? REWARD the season ticket holder, DON’T PUNISH the casual fan…because when you do that, you help guarantee that casual fan will NOT want to become a season ticket holder.
It all comes down to STAR TREK.
Remember the classic Trek episode, “The Galileo Seven”? Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and bunch of assorted “red shirts” (i.e. dead meat) land on this rock that’s populated by these 9 foot tall ticked-off Sasquatch types who like nothing more than to pit human beings with spears the size of redwood trees or to smash them on paper mache boulders (hey, budgets were tight). Spock uses phaser fire as I recall to scare off the marauding creatures…who end up coming back enmasse to kick the crap out of their shuttlecraft to get at the nice juicy humans (and one Vulcan) inside.
McCoy, God luv’em, calls Spock on accounts. The conversation went something like this…
McCoy: So you thought the aliens would see the superiority of our weapons and retreat?
Spock: Of course, it’s logical.
McCoy: Did it ever occur to you that they might react emotionally? With ANGER?
Spock: (says something logical)
McCoy: You best face it, Mr. Spock. Your precious logic has brought our furry friends down upon us!
The Orioles are taking a page from the Mr. Spock manual, assuming that fans will react LOGICALLY to the increase in day-of-game ticket prices and, to avoid same, decide to buy tickets in advance, perhaps as a season ticket subscriber. However, as anyone who has read Baltimore Sun sportswriter Peter Schmuck’s baseball blog, The Schmuck Stops Here (I’m a faithful reader and poster) knows, Orioles fans are pretty darn EMOTIONAL about the team, the fiasco we’ve had to endure for the past 12 years, etc.
It stands to reason. Sports FANS are FANATICS. They aren’t logical, tweed-wearing professor-types puffing pipes and contemplating the latest history of the Punic Wars. They’re in sports bars, slamming beers, yelling, rooting, and wishing we had another crack at the Colts cuz that game this past Saturday just TANKED.
So, Orioles management, here’s my PR advice. Don’t punish. Try a carrot instead of a stick. And let’s enter the 21st century. Why not create a domain on the O’s official website where fans can give opinions and vote for things like where O’s FanFest should be held. In this new communications age, people don’t cotton to being TALKED AT. They want to be part of the conversation, they want a SAY as to what’s going on. If fans feel they are truly being listened to, that they have at least the opportunity to have a voice in what’s going on, THAT will build fan loyalty. That, and, of course, a winning record…or say at least .500 this season??? This fan can only hope…