Devaluing or Revealing?

by Jason Epstein

Earlier this week, CNBC’s Darren Rovell recommended that most of the nine Major League teams with poor attendance numbers get their heads out of the sand.

Instead, they’re clinging to the age-old marketing tenet — don’t ever devalue your product. Problem is, your product isn’t being devalued. It’s being revealed. The secondary market is showing that the team’s price on tickets is off. If teams don’t accept that on a given night against a bad opponent, their ticket is worth $1, then they are just denying the reality.

Tonight, the Cleveland Indians play the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The cheapest seat is $5. Yet on StubHub, there are more than a hundred seats for less than $5. What’s the difference? Well, the team is likely to sell more tickets if it specifically markets a lower price.

It’s a fine line, but in the end, I think it’s the right move. You see, the truth is that there’s no such thing as devaluing your product. When your product is good again, people will show up. So how about the Royals, who are 20-19, and the Indians, who are 24-13, and are at the bottom in league attendance? It’s obviously not on-field performance that is keeping people from the ballpark.

These teams have to work harder to make going to the game a more attractive option. Until then, they have to make like the Nationals and advertise bargain basement prices to get butts in the seats. Or at least take a page out of the Nationals marketing book — tonight is also $1 hot dogs, $1 peanuts, $1 popcorn and $1 parking.

It is worth noting that Rovell did not include beverages in the dollar menu. After all, how many of us at a ballpark gobble down a couple of half-smokes without washing them down with a Miller Lite, Heineken, or Dasani? I don’t think I am going out on a limb suggesting that the additional sales of $9 beers and $4 bottles of water more than offset the discounted food items.

Right Field

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