Yesterday the Orioles made an announcement introducing their Kids Cheer Free program, where fans will be able to get up to two free tickets for kids under age 10 with each purchase of an adult upper deck ticket. Combining that with the already popular Dugout Club, there are now multiple good options for a family to attend an Orioles game without breaking the bank.
Even though my only kid is eight months old and therefore I’m not especially affected by this deal, I am still excited about this announcement. What better way to get the next generation of Orioles fans into the building? Baseball as a sport needs some young blood, and this will help. And it’s nice to see the Orioles identifying a way to reach out to fans.
That got me thinking, what are some other ways that the Orioles could get fans to the park who might not otherwise attend? And yes, I can hear some of you already saying that the best way to get fans to the park is to field a competitive team on a yearly basis. I don’t disagree! But there are other ways to build up a relationship with the community so that even in those lean years, people still want to come out.
That’s not to mention the fact that there are many people out there who wouldn’t normally go to an Orioles game at all. A good team will help draw the casual ans in, but probably not those who think they don’t like baseball or who just have never even considered it a point of interest.
For those folks, there needs to be ways to get them to the park so that they can see what they are missing! And they need to be treated well while they are there, so they will want to return and be part of excitement in the future.
To that end, I have brainstormed (with a little help from my friends) to find ways to attract casual fans who can’t or won’t pay full price to attend the game as well as those who aren’t fans but who would attend if enticed with other things. And when I say “other things” I’m not talking about things that would take away from the real baseball being played on the field.
One way to get people to the ballpark is through their kids. The Orioles already have the well established Dugout Club and the just announced Kids Cheer Free plans. The former really appeals to established Orioles fans as its a multi-game commitment. The latter will hopefully do well to bring in a family who might have gone in the past if things were cheaper. But what about those parents who don’t even think about going to the game in the first place? You gotta give the kids the idea.
Make the honor roll, get free tickets. Remember when you were a kid and it was advertised that if you made the honor roll, you could get a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut? I loved that! It’s hard to turn down a kid who makes the honor roll, so my parents dutifully took me to Pizza Hut for my free pizza and then spent money on their own pizza and drinks.
The Orioles could do that! That would get the family in the park where they will not only end up spending more money on the games, either the parents or the kids (or hopefully both) will realize that it’s fun and maybe they should get one of those Dugout Club memberships.
Book It - Orioles edition. Okay, so basically all of my ideas come from Pizza Hut. Book It is a program run through schools where kids get free pizza by meeting reading goals. How about Orioles tickets for meeting reading goals or other milestones. And again, the Orioles could work directly with local schools so that the idea is given to the kids. Are you gonna turn down your kid’s request to go to a baseball game when he just read 15 books? You better not.
College Night. How about the older kids? We already have student night on Fridays, which can be a scene. But a number of other teams have specific college nights with special giveaways. There are a lot of colleges in and around Baltimore. Work with the colleges to bring them down, a different night for every school. Sure, all of the Loyola kids are Yankees fans, but there will be others ripe for the picking. The bonus for this is that the overlap of school being in session and baseball season (April, May, and September) are when the Orioles generally have a harder time drawing fans anyway.
Craft Beer Night. Lots of parks have events before the baseball game starts as a way to get people in the stadium in the first place. I noticed that multiple other teams do things like Yoga in the Outfield and Paint at the Park, both of which seem good to me. But what about beer? Beer and baseball are already natural companions, so how about a weekend beer event in the center field deck?
For a set price, you would get admission to the event that is hosted by a different Maryland brewery each time along with a seat to the game. You’d get early admission to the park where you could have your fill of beer from the brewery of the day, while meeting the folks from the brewery and getting to watch batting practice from the bar. Then you’d head down and enjoy the game afterwards. And that leads me to...
Happy Hour. Similar to the above idea, only with the regular offerings in the center field bar. For select games, allow early entry into the park for people with the happy hour ticket. Offer discounted prices on drinks for those who are part of the event. Then let those buzzed suckers loose to watch the game from their section and buy even more, full priced beer.
Concession Specials. This one is easy. Make every Tuesday dollar hot dog night. For weekday games against non-division teams, include a $10 concession credit if you purchase a ticket in advance. Offer family ticket packs that include four tickets, four sodas, and four hot dogs or pretzels for a discounted price.
Ticket Specials. Creating and advertising good ticket deals has got to be the easiest way to get folks in seats that would otherwise stay empty. I have a number of ideas for these, although you’ll see that most are just common sense.
- Ballpark Pass - This is already in place for many major league teams. For a flat rate, you have access to every single home game in a certain time period. Some teams charge $30-50 every month, some only offer it in April, May, and September. Some provide standing room tickets, others give you a seat that isn’t assigned to you until the day of the game. At least one team charges a flat monthly fee to have access to their center field bar during every home game. I don’t know which combination is right for the Orioles, but surely something would work.
- Throwback Nights - One of my favorite promos in the recent past was during the 2012 season when the Orioles had a week where they offered 1997 pricing. It was a great idea, yet I haven’t seen it again since. I would propose they go even further. Do a throwback to 1983 with ticket pricing, uniforms, and music. Do it again for 1992, the year Camden Yards opened. Have players from those eras throw out the first pitch. You could have a good time at the park and save some cash.
- Smaller Ticket Packages - This is another thing in use among other teams. The Orioles currently have three season ticket packages: 13, 29, and 81 games. But why not a ticket package that still saves you some money off of face value, but which is just one ticket per month? You could have a Fireworks Friday package, or a Dollar Dog Wednesday Package. How about a package where every game has a giveaway, or where very game is on the weekend? Not everyone can or wants to go to at least 13 games in a year. But I bet you could get people to commit to six.
I know these ideas aren’t breaking any new ground, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective. The Orioles are off to a great start with their Kids Cheer Free program. But I really hope they don’t stop there.
What are your ideas for how the Orioles can attract new and bigger audiences? Put it in the comments. Who knows, maybe someone from the Orioles will see and agree with you!