Attendance Update and the Angels’ Latest PR Mess

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.)

AVERAGE+MLB+ATTENDANCE+THROUGH+JUNE+4+2015 (1)

Looking at the change since last season, the Kansas City Royals still lead the way, but the Angels have taken quite a tumble.

CHANGE+IN+ATTENDANCE+FROM+2014+TO+2015

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.

CHANGE IN AVERAGE ATTENDANCE LAST MONTH

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.

Screenshot 2015-06-05 at 10.07.10 AM

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.





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Colonel Obvious
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Colonel Obvious

So what else do you suggest the Angels do besides offer $5 tickets to Saturday night games?

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

I would say they should tell team executives to shut their mouths.

Colonel Obvious
Guest
Colonel Obvious

So somebody tells the truth and it’s a PR nightmare. This is how we get interviews were people speak a bunch of words and say nothing, because they’re too afraid to offend anyone. Alvarado said they are making more money with fewer people there.

Of course they should try and sell out every night and grow the fan base, I’m sure everyone in the organization would love that. But it’s not like they pulled the plug on the cheap tickets. They’re still on sale! This is pure class envy claptrap.

AG3
Guest
AG3

Don’t forget to tie this into what Manfred is doing to bring baseball back to inner city youths, the same youths who would probably fall under the low-ROI portion of the fan base. MLB and, presumably, the other teams 29 teams continue to reach out to those youths, the Angels are basically doing the opposite. Hence the PR problem. The fact that they haven’t raised ticket prices doesn’t matter if they do nothing to market them to the people who are most likely to buy them.

kevinthecomic
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kevinthecomic

“Somebody tells the truth and its a PR nightmare.” — welcome to 21t century America.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I’m sure you would have the same reaction if the quotes were from Hal Steinbrenner…

Montgomery Burns
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Montgomery Burns

Excellent comments from the angles from Angeles Anaheimers

xxx
Guest
xxx

No, some dippy exec spouts classist bullshit as gospel truth and there the PR nightmare begins.

baubo
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baubo

When did “telling the truth” become a good thing? There’s a reason the human mind has a safety valve to prevent us from blurting everything that comes to our mind. It’s why I don’t tell a co-worker I dislike that I believe he’s an a-hole, or a good looking woman I want to squeeze her boobs.

By the same token, even if team executives don’t care regular customers and only care about short term luxury seat sales, most have the tact to not say it.

ReuschelCakes
Guest
ReuschelCakes

2 areas where critical thinking might help Colonel Oblivious:

1. It is certainly possible that the Angels are just saying this strategy results in “making more money” when they don’t have the tools to analyze it and therefore are just making this up….

2. It is also certainly possible that the Angels are making a short-term decision that meaningfully impairs the long-term value of the business and therefore “making more money” now likely leads to “losing more money” in the future

Lastly, I’d suggest that Colonel Oblivious look to other hospitality industries with fixed capacities (e.g., hotels, cruise lines, airlines, etc.) who have almost uniformly decided that utilization trumps pricing and that the equation of more price and less people rarely works in the short-term.

Oh…. and I don’t know under which privileged, ignorant Tea Party rock you call home, but most Americans view the increasing disparity in incomes and wealth in the US not as “class envy claptrap” but as a structural problem.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown

utilization trumps pricing

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. If you have a business with expensive fixed assets, you maximize your profit by utilizing the sh!t out of them – every unit of unused capacity is an opportunity cost.

Not that I particularly care whether billionaire sports owners maximize their profits. But I can’t stop myself from calling out stupid business logic when I see it.

Roger
Guest
Roger

This is really well put. It’s one thing to think the trend of owners trying to make the sport into/sell it as a premium product is a reprehensible thing because of its horrible class politics (and I agree with you totally about that) but even in strictly capitalist-business-planning and marketing terms it’s a horrible and self-destructive idea in the long term.

The problem is that baseball — as a sport and as an industry — needs broad mass appeal to prosper, but broad mass appeal doesn’t (necessarily) work in each individual owner’s short-term profit-maximizing interest. The sport needs kids, and kids tend to be significantly poorer than adults; the sport needs non-white fans, and ditto. Your utilization argument is a good one, but it’s still possible that you have to sell someone like Moreno on selling some non-optimally-expensive tickets in order not to cut off your long-term nose to spite your short-term face.

kevinthecomic
Guest
kevinthecomic

“most Americans” — I assume you live either on the left or right coast and only listen to the insulated libtard culture prevailing there. If you are in a lower income bracket, this is the greatest place on earth from which to work yourself out of it. stop whining about someone having more than you and get out there and do something about improving your own life.

Roger
Guest
Roger

I know it’s “kevinthecomic” and not “kevinthedemographer” (though he seems about as good at each), but since this is FanGraphs and data is supposed to matter more here than knee-jerk attachment to predecided talking points and emotional appeals, someone with a less comical worldview might be interested in seeing some data.

http://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/

In fact, income mobility is vastly inferior in the US to much of Western Europe, Canada, and Australia. The Scandinavian social democracies are in fact far better places to “work yourself out of” poverty than the U.S. is, precisely because they work so hard as societies to mitigate poverty’s effects on people.

kevinthecomic
Guest
kevinthecomic

C’mon Roger. Presenting something from epi.org as fact? Really? It’s a left-wing think tank with a clear liberal agenda. Give me a break.

Roger
Guest
Roger

Well, you definitely sound like a person worth taking seriously.

Joe D
Guest
Joe D

Okay, I’ll bite:

“A new study finds that contrary to widespread belief, it’s no harder to climb the economic ladder in the United States today than it was 20 years ago.

But the study did find that moving up that ladder is still a lot more difficult in the U.S. than in other developed countries.”
Taken from:
http://www.npr.org/2014/01/23/265356290/study-upward-mobility-no-tougher-in-u-s-than-two-decades-ago

Also:
http://www.businessinsider.com/inequality-and-mobility-in-the-united-states-2013-7

The US sucks balls when it comes to income mobility. Kevinthecomic’s claim is ridiculous.

elsicilian
Member
elsicilian

If he won’t acknowledge epi.org, then kevinthecomic is unlikely to accept npr.org and/or businessinsider.com as legitimate sources either.

Suffice to say that market segmentation is a fairly well established and relatively uncontroversial business strategy; and anyone who would reduce an honest discussion of a real-life instance of it to “class envy claptrap” is clearly promoting an unrelated ideological agenda.

Bill
Guest
Bill

Under my TeaParty Rock I correctly view decreased mobility into the middle class as a predictable outcome of mindless liberal social engineering, but that’s hardly relevant to the article.

Basically, it looks like the Angels are doing things to allow families on a budget to see games ($5 Saturdays!), but this executive seems to think they aren’t. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, but my guess is this executive is just mindlessly shooting off his mouth. I’m all for a business that wants to only target the wealthy if they think that will work for them, but then they should not expect to be given publicly financed facilities.