Attendance Update and the Angels’ Latest PR Mess by Craig Edwards June 5, 2015 Major League Baseball might be incredibly healthy in terms of attendance, television ratings, and finances, but the league has a perception problem that will not go away anytime soon. Baseball’s biggest challenge is, and always likely will be, creating new fans. This is not a challenge unique to baseball or sports in general. All sports continue efforts to draw in new fans just like Coke and Pepsi use marketing campaigns to lure in a new generation of soda drinkers. Rob Manfred has made one of his goals to increase childhood participation in baseball as he believes that children who play baseball turn into baseball fans as adults, continuing the generational chain that has allowed baseball to thrive for more than a century. While getting more youths to participate in baseball is hardly the only initiative MLB will undertake to grow the sport, getting new fans to attend games is very important for baseball’s future. The Angels’ most recent public-relations mistake, discouraging fans from lower socioeconomic levels from attending because they do not spend as much as other fans once they get to games, is a shortsighted strategy that could hurt baseball in the long run. In his story for the OC Register, Pedro Moura discussed the Angels’ declining attendance with Robert Alvarado, a Vice President with the team. Alvarado dismissed targeting fans looking to pay for lower-priced seats because they do not make as many purchases once they are inside the stadium. This somewhat callous disregard for “discount buyers,” as Alvarado calls them, might work for short-term revenue, but the team has seen one of the bigger drops in attendance in MLB and the plan is a questionable one long-term. Since we looked at attendance last month, there have not been too many big changes at the top or bottom of attendance rankings. The Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and New York Yankees are still the highest-drawing teams, and the Cleveland Indians, rebounding on the field and in attendance, passed the Tampa Bay Rays in seasonal attendance over the past month. The Angels do boast decent numbers compared to all teams. (All attendance numbers below from Baseball Reference.) Looking at the change since last season, the Kansas City Royals still lead the way, but the Angels have taken quite a tumble. Overall, attendance is still up around 100,000 fans compared to last season at this point. The Braves were the biggest decliner after April, but the Rangers and their disappointing season have overtaken them. Also near the bottom are the Angels, despite coming off a good season in 2014 and boasting the best player in baseball. The numbers actually look worse for the Angels when comparing April attendance to the season-to-date numbers. Pittsburgh’s attendance has increased as they look to compete for another playoff berth, and the Chicago Cubs will benefit from an increase in capacity as the bleachers slowly re-open. Colorado has seen a precipitous fall, but right there with the Tampa Bay Rays are the Los Angeles Angels. After averaging more than 39,000 fans in 2014, the Angels were bringing in average of close to 36,000 one month ago. Another month has passed, and the Angels’ attendance has fallen again, down to below 34,000, a drop of nearly 5,000 fans compared to where they were at this point last season. The Angels, per Moura’s piece, do not appear overly concerned with the drop in fans given the quotes from team executive Alvarado, as revenue has remained high by focusing on those patrons who spend more at the ballpark. “We’re not panicked,” he said. “We’re taking a different strategy this year. We’re getting a higher yield per ticket, selling less tickets, making a little bit more money than we did last year. … “We may not be reaching as many of the people on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, but those people, they may enjoy the game, but they pay less, and we’re not seeing the conversion on the per-caps,” Alvarado said. “In doing so, the ticket price that we’re offering those people, it’s not like I can segregate them, because I’m offering it up to the public, and I’m basically downselling everybody else in order to accommodate them.” As Moura notes in his piece, there are still plenty of cheap seats available to Angels games. A quick search on the team’s website shows part of their strategy as the site immediately attempts to segregate ticket buyers by separating general tickets from “Diamond Club” tickets as seen in the screenshot below. That same search also revealed many cheap tickets, some as low as five dollars, for an upcoming Saturday night game. The Angels have not priced out fans from lower socioeconomic classes from entering the game, but they apparently do want their well-off fans to know that the club is marketing to the rich and trying to prevent their less well-off fans from intermingling. The public-relations issue appears to be that the Angels are preventing fans who can only afford tickets under $20 from attending games, but this is not supported by the club’s ticket pricing. The issue is that the Angels are only targeting fans who spend a lot of money at the ballpark and discourage those who might be able to afford more in the future. Baseball fandom is most likely to be born from ages 8-12, and one of the greatest ways to get someone to become a fan is to get them to the ballpark. Unless childhood has undergone radical changes in the last few decades, children generally do not get to decide when they go to baseball games. Discouraging those parents from taking children to the game hurts potential future fans and prevents them from gaining a foothold in the game. Many successful businesses cater to their most wealthy customers, but a sport like baseball, which needs widespread support and needs to get fans while they are young, should be doing all it can to help create fans, regardless of personal wealth. Embracing those fans who might not be able to spend in great numbers at the ballpark could pay off. Colleges and Universities attempt to get recent graduates to give $50-$100 in the hopes that establishing a trend and a relationship might pay off down the line with bigger donations. Most sports franchises have mini-season ticket packages, some from five games to half a season with hopes that those packages grow into full-season tickets. Encouraging potential future fans should be paramount in any team’s effort to grow future revenues. The Angels did not make themselves look like a sensitive or caring organization with the way they handled Josh Hamilton’s addiction, and their current marketing strategy further supports the notion that the Angels are insensitive and out of touch. Given that ticket prices to Angels games are very cheap, this blunder is a public-relations problem that shows a poor attitude to all Angels fans. Major League Baseball is thriving, but like any business, it needs to generate new customers to succeed, and the Angels trouble selling tickets is problematic even if their revenues stay the same.