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How Creative Can Orioles Be To Attract More Fans In 2020?

October 2, 2019
Give the Baltimore Orioles credit. 

Yes, it was a difficult season on the field. We all knew it would be. It's all part of a process. We can't know with certainty that the plan will come to fruition ... well ... ever. There's a process. There's a plan. We understand that. 

Away from the field, the same organization that presented a revolutionary "Kids Cheer Free" program to offer totally free tickets to kids tried something else that was utterly logical and received a tremendous response. For September, the Orioles offered an "O's Unlimited" ticket, allowing you to attend as many September games as you'd like for just $30. It was a popular seller, forcing the team to release more passes to match demand. 

The announcement was popular with Orioles fans, leading to reactions like "this is a great idea" and "I love this" and "but seriously, cut Chris Davis already." But then there was the other (predictable) set of responses. Those were along the lines of "why did you wait until September?" and "shouldn't it be for three dollars?" and "but seriously, cut Chris Davis already."

Such responses were understandable. The Orioles just weren't good this season. There were a handful of moments during which something even remotely interesting or memorable occurred. Tickets were readily available for most games (and were available for next to nothing on the secondary market). So why wouldn't the team try some sort of even more extended experiment like this? 

It's the same reason why teams don't just give away tickets for free to try to fill up stadiums when a small number of tickets were actually sold. The tickets themselves must have an actual value. 

"We really want to make sure that there is a significant value associated with making a commitment both early and often in terms of people willing to say, ‘Yes, in January I'm going to put down my dollars for four tickets for 29 games,'" Orioles vice president of communications Greg Bader told Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 4. "That needs to mean something. They're making a commitment to us, we want to make a commitment to them." 

It's a simple concept. If someone knows they can get tickets to, say, 40 games in the second half of the season for only $30, why would they ever purchase season tickets (or a "membership plan") before the season began? The tickets have to have tangible value, even if we know the team isn't very good. The ballpark experience has to have an actual value. That can't just be consistently given away. Well, I guess they COULD be, but it would be particularly difficult to run a business when you're just giving away your product. 

So that's the short answer. No, the Orioles couldn't possibly offer a $30 unlimited pass for 2020 to allow you to come to as many games as you want throughout the season. But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't continue to try to be creative in their thinking. 

Bader says the team is using this offering as a bit of an experiment. They'll collect data about how the passes are used. How many fans come to a few games just to recoup the value of the pass? How many come to every game? Could there be a price point in 2020 at which they could sell an unlimited pass for, say, Wednesday games only? That might be the type of offer that could somehow both protect the value of the traditional ticket and yet also entice fans to get out to the ballpark. 

Or perhaps they could experiment with a "guaranteed win" type of promotion that allows all ticket purchasers a guarantee that they can come back to as many games as necessary until they see the team win. It's likely that 2020 will be another difficult season for the Birds, and that type of offer could protect value yet be a necessary incentive to get more fans into the stadium. 

Maybe there could be an extension of the "Kids Cheer Free" program that allows fans to invite friends (or significant others/loved ones) to games for free if they buy a certain number of tickets for themselves? These are all worthy ideas that don't sacrifice the value of the ticket in the pursuit of driving greater interest. 

And of course, winning would be best. But we're either a few years or a "you guys aren't going to believe this, but it turns out Adley Rutschman can actually pitch too!" revelation away from that. In the meantime, maybe Chris Davis could just purchase all of the tickets and donate them?

Follow Glenn on Twitter @GlennClarkRadio

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 257: September 2019 

Originally published Sept. 16, 2019