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_     Two weeks ago I asked a number of friends and total strangers what they would do if they had $200 to spend on tickets to one sporting event. The basic rule was that the tickets could only be used for one single game but there were no restrictions for the amount of tickets or exclusion of playoff tickets. So, Joe Smith (No, not the former MD basketball phenom) might choose tickets to the Master’s to see Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods. My initial guess was the Super Bowl or an NFL game would be the most common choice. Surprisingly, I was wrong. The top choices were: NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs and a PGA Major. Considering the massive amount of popularity the NFL has in this country I was shocked the NFL was not in the top three choices.

            What got me thinking about the results was how in the current state of our economy you get the casual sports fan to attend a sporting event over all the other choices people have for entertainment. Especially when considering that watching at home on your big screen high definition TV with a loaded fridge and not having to deal with traffic and parking is often the first choice to watch a game by a casual fan.

            The answer may be product sampling and ancillary items for someone to attend your team’s game. For example, the Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is renowned for being very open to fans and anything that would get them more engaged with their team. Recently the Wizards held a Fanfest to kick off the season with a free concert by hip hop artist Wale preceding an open practice by the team in the Verizon Center. This was a stroke of genius by the Wizards for a few reasons, it allowed fans to sample the product that is the team while also being able to see one the areas greatest entertainers in the music industry all for free. What a great way to build good will with fans after the lockout and to help promote ticket sales.

            So, for $200 what game would I attend? It would depend on a few things, such as what teams were playing and what were the stakes. Being able to hop in to McFly’s Delorean and travel back in time when I hit 85 to witness an Ali vs Frazier fight would be at the top of my list. But, to stay current it would probably be the NBA Finals. See even I wouldn’t have picked the NFL but that doesn’t mean my minimal sample size is a proper representation of the US sports fan. Research to understand your potential client is imperative for your team to better promote your product. Conducting research is just plain smart and can be better than just asking your friends what they want to see. Tickets can be expensive so knowing your hardcore fans and casual fans and having an understanding of what drives their purchasing decisions is really important.

*Appeared on GlovesOffSports.com*

 


 
 
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_     The year was 1979 and the Chicago White Sox were struggling to put more than a thousand people in their stands to see a professional baseball game in one of the most populated cities in the country. Disco was starting to wind down and the 80’s were right around the corner. On Thursday July 12, 1979 Mike Veeck would unleash a marketing promotion so dramatic that it would come to be known as “The Night Disco Died”. Mike Veeck had been with the team for a few years working in marketing as his father, Bill Veeck, owned the team. The father approached his son Mike early in the summer and informed him he would have to come up with something to sell tickets or he would be out of a job. Reflecting on the poor attendance of the time Mike Veeck said If you called in to ask for tickets to a game the team would have replied, “Well what time is good for you and where?” The Sox of Southside Chicago were so desperate for attendance they would have played in your back yard if you could guarantee a crowd from the neighborhood.

While he listened to the radio that summer Mike heard a young disc jockey by the name of Steve Dahl perform a radio promotion to blow up disco records. The next day Mike called up Dahl and asked him how many people showed up to the event to blow up disco records with the radio, to which Dahl replied five thousand. The thought of having anywhere near that amount of fans in old Comiskey Park was like a dream so Mike and Dahl paired up to promote what would become one of the most infamous promotions of all time, Disco Demolition.

Hours before the game started there was one of the biggest traffic jams in Chicago history as fans were trying to get a ticket to the event. The Sox played the Tigers in a doubleheader and if you brought an unwanted disco record you could get a ticket to the game that night for ninety-eight cents. An estimated ninety thousand fans packed a fifty-two thousand seat stadium. Fans were climbing up the walls outside the stadium just to get in. Concessions stands were selling food and beer like crazy. Looking over the spectacular crowd Mike was sure that he had finally hit the big time. After the first game Dahl rode out onto the field in a military jeep as a dumpster full of disco records was wheeled out into center field. Dahl led a countdown for the main event and then the records exploded into the summer night sky. Mike said at the top of that one hundred foot pillar of smoke was his career. Shards of records crashed all over the playing surface, fans hopped over the wall and rushed the field, a bonfire was started in center field, and someone stole second base. Before long the riot police had to come in on horseback to clear the field. The second game had to be forfeited because the field was deemed unplayable. Mike now had the distinction of being one of few people ever to run a promotion that caused a team to forfeit a game.

After the dust had settled and the next day came the White Sox were front page news across the whole country. Free media coverage to a team that had struggled to sell any seats prior to the event. Mike was called into his father’s office, which he knew was bad because he had never actually had an office. His father had to fire him.

Depending on who you ask Disco Demolition was either the greatest or worst promotion ever for sports. While the promotion more than sold out the stadium and provided tons of free press it cause a professional team to forfeit a game. Mike Veeck went beyond just filling a couple thousand seats he literally packed the place. If you ever have an inkling to see just how big this event was do a quick YouTube search.

            Today Mike Veeck is one of the most successful owners in Minor League baseball and one of the most revered sports marketers in the country.

 
*Appeared on GlovesOffSports.com*