April 15, 2008

Attendance woes? No. Marketing Woes.

Yet again, attendance is the top of the discussion again.

WaPost has a blog article and full up article about the topic.

Here we go again.

I see a whole lot of bullshit in this spin. Lots of posters in the blog article too about all the various reasons why. I'm not going to bemoan the cheap owners, the weather, or the team itself for attendance.

You know what I'm going to point to as the number one, more important thing than everything else?


This team has the worst marketing I have seen in a while. I spend a good portion of my days thinking about marketing, and do you how crappy this marketing is?

First, let's break down the message. "Welcome Home" is the theme. Right from the beginning, I'll point out the massive flaw. This message speaks to existing fans, not to new fans. You've already got those of us who are fans hooked. We don't need to be welcomed home -- we were going to be there already, with big goofy grins on our faces.

Instead, this message needs to go out to NEW fans, and it needs to be something much more appealing than this. The team needs to speak to the experience, the enjoyment of the game you can have. Some of the (few) radio ads I have heard do go into this, but focus too much on the ballpark and not the game experience.

Now, let's talk coverage. There should be a billboard on every bus. This team should plaster the logo everywhere it can. There should be promotions in the city, ticket offers, and events with every sports bar and restaurant from here to Leesburg. The team needs to be screaming from the top of their lungs that they have a great product, they've gone all out on making it easy to get to, and that they want you there. And I'll give them that -- it's a great ball park, they have gone out of their way to make it easy to get to, and they have quality entertainment going on there.

And let me say, running ads on MASN DOES NOT COUNT. You're already interested if you're watching the game -- you're certainly not watching for the stellar coverage.

I'm not particularly pleased about the ticket prices either, but they're comparable to every other city, and those cities don't have issues. Washington does face unique problems with drawing a fan base, and I'll grant those.

Time to get inventive here, team. You don't have to spend tons of money, but you do have to hussle.

- Promos. Give us our two for one tickets, give us "be a presidential seat for a night". Put butts in seats.

- Encourage your fan base. Appeal directly to the existing fans. Have a "We won't show Clint if you break 32,000 attendance" night. Have a bring a buddy and get a hot dog night.

- Do something interesting. In this "Web 2.0" world, why is everything about marketing this team so damn dull? Why is the marketing department running boring TV ads on the channel that already shows the game and doing slogans that don't appeal to anyone, when it would be so much more interesting -- and buzz worthy -- to have one of the team members Twitter? Hell, do it for them! You want buzz? Send us comments from the clubhouse for them -- put a marketing person on it to do it for the players!

- Stop being so damn scripted. Stan, Mark... I do like you guys. I do believe in you. But you know what's a hell of a lot more interesting? When Jim Bowden was wearing leather pants. Or even better? When Mark Cuban gets vocal. Here's a guy that gets the value of marketing. If you don't think his connection to fans is valuable, you're clearly missing something. The fact that we have a "StanSpeak" translator should tell you something. And you want to know what? If you played with this... if you ran with it.. you'd generate buzz.

- Interesting, revisited. Remember that night when you had Curly W's projected on buildings? Why aren't you doing that all the time? Why don't they move around the city? Put them up in Adam's Morgan the weekend before a home stretch and promote going to the game instead of going out. Put them in Tyson's Corner (remember, Lerner Family, you own that!) and light up the mall on a Friday night and remind people to go into the city. Partner with restaurants in the suburbs and do a dinner and bus promotion, or a dinner and drinks one.

Why is it that in a 45 minute blog post, I've come up with better stuff than what you've come up with in the whole time you've been doing this?

You know what's probably the worst thing? I bet the team spent a sizable amount of money with an ad agency to do this shitty job of marketing the team. That's the worst part. I'm SURE they spent money here, and didn't get very much for it.

Stan, if you're reading this... these ideas are all yours for free. There's more where this came from. Now, imagine if you paid someone to do a really unique job for you. Now that would really be something to talk about... and go to the ballpark to see.


Brian said...

Dave - Amen. A thousand times amen. T

he marketing that this team has done is abyssmal. At every step they have done the opposite of what good marketing should be. It may be time that they go "George Costanza" and do the exact opposite of what these marketing geniuses in thier employ propose.

WFY said...

Well said.

Dave at Bottomfeeder Baseball said...

how about giving a different elementary or middle school 100 free tickets to every game? that's where the new generation of fans are going to come from.

Hoagie said...

The Caps do a great job of advertising online. The Nats should follow their lead, just as they're doing with the rebuild.

Dave said...

Post your ideas here. Clearly our ideas are better than what they're paying for right now.

This should be easy to market. Fun at a baseball game should not be difficult to sell.

Stan...? Are you listening?

Nate said...

Dave, we're never going to make any money on teh interweb if you keep giving away the good stuff for free.

Sec 314 said...

How about some posters or signs downtown? Other teams do this in their cities? You'd never know we had a baseball team walking around most of the city

Anonymous said...

Easy promo - Government nights - Take some of those pre-June Tuesday and Wednesday nights and do a "Have a government ID, get $10 off any seat from the box office - heck, take one of those OF sections that aren't selling over the bullpen and call it "Department of Defense" - with $15 tickets in that section for anybody from DoD.

The Nationals Enquirer said...

Nice work. But forget sticking curly W's all over the place -- how about sticking a player's mug on a billboard or bus or two (not Ray King, please)? It's all been about selling the stadium experience, minus what you'll actually see on the field when you get there (and maybe there's a reason for that, given the overall product they're putting out on the field). My point is that they should be trying to sell people on the youth movement, and should be pimping Zimmerman and Milledge, exhibits A and B of legit, young, exciting, marketable ballplayers.

Dave said...

I'm in agreement, player pictures should be done too. But with the faces changing being the line, you can go with the generic team identity.

But more importantly, do SOMETHING. If you don't do something you'll never get any attention.

Don't whine about attendance if you're not marketing.

Let Teddy win the presidents race. said...


Well stated. I don't know who does media planning for the Nationals, but they are not earning their keep.

I will stick to my contention that the marketing mistake that overshadows all others is the fear campaign about transportation. The Metro and the Nats Express have been great, but all the marketing around them has been negative.

Love your blog!

Let Teddy win the presidents race. said...

Here's an idea:

Offer empty presidential seats to current season ticket holders, if not for free then for a very slight upcharge. The people currently in the dugout box or club seats are the most likely customers to buy (or influence their companies to buy) these packages.

Offer empty suites to school groups as part of a contest -- write about who's your favorite player or an art contest (draw the new park).

Great goodwill, free publicity, and because you're giving the tickets to people who already bought a ticket, it won't cannibalize your attendance figures.