Friday, June 19, 2015

Scylla and Charybdis

I threw this one up because I've been thinking about a recent article from the Orange Country Register:

The TL;DR version:  the Los Angeles Angels (baseball) have seen a decline in their ticket sales.  But their marketing guy isn't worried, because even though they # of fans through the gate has dropped greatly, the "per-cap" expense per fan is greater - the remaining fans are spending more money.

The man got into some trouble by explaining that even though the Angels had high attendance in the past, the higher attendance was made up by fans who might have gotten in with bargain tickets, the kind of fans that don't spend lots of money on souvenirs or concessions.  (It is implied that those fans really aren't missed.)  The remaining, financially better off fans are more freely spending money, so the Angels are still happy.

This makes me think about the WNBA.  In New York theatre, there's an expression called "papering the house".  It means that one gives out discounted tickets, even free tickets, if sales aren't what one wants.  The reason someone would sell tickets at a loss is to increase positive word of mouth among the attendees.

So what should be the goal of WNBA owners? 

To fill up the joint, even if it means marking down tickets and possibly angering season-ticket holders, or even driving existing sales *down*, since there would be a greater incentive for the casual fan to wait for a bargain-price ticket? 

Or should it be to increase the amount of money spent by fans - the "per cap" - and to make the season ticket holder/full price purchaser's experience exemplary, even it if means playing to even smaller crowds?

Right now, I'm in the first camp.  The reason the Angels can afford this strategy in the first place was because they had huge attendance, huge enough to attract these well-heeled fans looking for a big experience.  It doesn't do the sport good to play in front of lightly-attended crowds. Fill the place, first, then upsell.

By the way, the marketing manager in the quoted article got fired for his honesty.   At first I would have wholeheartedly agreed with his firing, now, I'm not so sure.

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