What Major Leagues Can Learn from Minor League Marketing

The average ticket price for a single NFL game is at least $100. If you multiply that for a family of four, the price extends to $400 and that’s without parking or any food or drink items. While some professional sports teams do a great job offering lower ticket price options, the teams ultimately rely on the glamour of the players, the excitement of current events and the team’s winning record to drive sales and ticket prices.

What happens though when the team starts to lose, the players get in trouble or become irrelevant or no one within the social media realm is talking about the game from last weekend? With many entertainment options, how can you get a family to spend money to attend a professional sporting event versus watching at home or attending another activity? In 2017, MLB reported a ratings increase of 10% for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. That same year also included the third straight season for total attendance decline.

There are often two basic options to drive ticket sales. One option is to lower the ticket price, but this also decreases margins and total revenue. The other option is to add value to the experience.

This is where major league teams can learn from the minors.

Minor league teams cannot rely on star players, flashy lights or media. Instead, teams identify their audience, determine what their audience values and implement a business plan and strategy to meet those needs. The outcome of this is more focus on the overall experience including customer service, personal fan appreciation and promotions and deals that allow fans to enjoy their time outside of the players and score.

For customer service, this is as simple as it sounds. It’s partly why 85% of Prime shoppers visit Amazon at least once a week. The consumer’s expectation these days for almost all products, services and experience is centered around convenience and friendliness. This includes easily accessible parking, mobile ticket or easy box office access and convenient and affordable food options.

Personal fan appreciation ties into customer service. This is when your season ticket representative remembers your birthday, when an usher notices your kids and asks the mascot to come over for a meet and greet or when you get upgraded to better seats or a suite just because you attended.

Promotions and deals are what can draw a mass audience. Examples include family fun packs with tickets, dinner and drinks, Thirsty Thursdays or other promotions that include low cost beverages or theme nights centered around popular movies and characters.

One of the best examples of promotions and deals to drive attendance is with the Charlotte Knights, a minor league baseball team in Charlotte, NC affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. Promotions from 2018 included Friday Night Fireworks, LEGO Weekend, White Sox Wednesdays, All-American Mondays which sold hot dogs for $1 and Bark in the Ballpark where fans could bring their four-legged friends. It’s not hard to determine why attendance numbers are the highest in the league, averaging over 8,500 per game.

Compare these numbers to teams such as the Miami Marlins, drawing just over 10,000 fans on average per game in 2018, and you could argue it might be wise for the majors to take a few cues from minors.