It should come as no surprise that the ABL battles to meet numbers. Baseball is traditionally, after all, an American sport. By establishing a league in Australia, there should have been enough interest to produce a successful season (or at least a season with earnings, not losses). It’s not looking that way.
First, I have going to commend them on their membership pricing and options. There are so many and I can see why each one would be purchased. It’s genius… and probably why they have a solid number of members. The memberships are also affordable, which is more than can be said for some clubs/venues (*cough*SCG*cough*). They have perfectly planned the membership… but members aren’t actually coming to games. And that’s the real problem. I want to tell the Blue Sox to count their blessings – they got the money from memberships and people are turning up to games! Who cares if the members don’t show up? But that’s not what they want…
Apparently, they’ve had to turn fans away because the stadium is technically “sold out.” A reason this is a problem, although no one has said this, is because members get discounted tickets. When a team has to turn away someone who was willing to pay more, that’s market inefficiency (I’ll write more on this some other time). And can you imagine if you finally made it out to Blacktown for your first game with the kids, and you were told the stadium had sold out? Ugh. There goes that fan, FOREVER. The solution is simple: lower the number of memberships sold, increase the cost (those who want the membership will still purchase it) and make more tickets available to new fans. Although… that might not be as easy as it sounds because:
1. The stadium is out of the way. Seriously, Blue Sox? What were you thinking when you decided your games should be played in Blacktown? It is completely out of the way – it takes ages to get to via public transport and driving out there would be… unpleasant. I’m going to a friend’s AFL finals this weekend (Go Dom and Sydney Uni AFL!) and I am dreading it. Not because I don’t want to see him play, but because I don’t want to have to trek to Blacktown. I am not the only one that feels this way. If the Blue Sox want to appeal to young people (and really, doesn’t everyone?), a Blacktown venue is not ideal.
The perfect solution? Party bus! Or at least offer transportation… Most clubs (Sydney Swans, GWS etc) have special transportation on game days. I feel like this would be especially helpful for the Blue Sox since the stadium is out of the way. And as far as the party bus goes… I can’t think of college student who wouldn’t go to a sporting event if there was a party bus involved. Seriously, here’s how you do it: grab a marketing student (or poor college student), call them a “promoter,” give them a cool shirt and get them to round up their friends on Saturday morning (and giving them a good buzz) before piling them onto a bus and sending them to the ball park. Everyone wins. (Blue Sox, if you want to do this, start at Sydney Uni Village – American AND Aussie students. It’s what I’d like to call a “gold mine.”)
I understand the ABL isn’t exactly rolling in the dough (yet) but they’ll ever be if they don’t put a little investment into it. Aussies aren’t going to just start liking baseball more than rugby.
2. Most of their players run away in the off-season. Players want to play in the MLB – I get it. I wrote a post about it. But by allowing the key/most popular players spend their winters in America (and getting back-to-back-to-back summers, those lucky, LUCKY men) you’re missing out on some fabulous promotion opportunities. If people are going to care about the Blue Sox, part of that mean caring about the players. I have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who started going to the games of a certain rugby team because she had a crush on one of the players. She had the crush because they had spent an evening together at a bar and had a great time. Ah, true love (actually, they never spoke again, but that’s a separate issue).
I’m not saying you need to turn your players into alcoholics and win over the hearts of every girl at the bar (although it couldn’t hurt, right?) but players need to be present. Send them all to a festival and tweet about it, post to the website about it and put up some photos/videos of them with fans. Make them humans first, then turn them into gods. Spending time with the public (in a real way, not just letting them sign autographs at some event) is a quick way to grow a fan base… and in the off-season, what else do the players have to do (except train constantly, of course)?
3. There is no advertising. Have you ever seen a Blue Sox commercial? No? I’m not surprised. I haven’t either. BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE. Other than the website (which is very well kept, I must say) I have seen no advertising for the Blue Sox at all. And I’ve been in Sydney for over a year. Nothing in a year?! That’s absurd. Again, if it’s a money problem, that’s understandable. But something needs to be done.
Personally, I get half my knowledge from those big posters. You know the ones they use for concerts and they put 10 of them in a row up on random walls around the city? I think that’d be perfect for the Blue Sox! Maybe go guerilla-street and plaster schools with fliers. Maybe a small (not too small) ad in the sports section of SMH? Get your interns/volunteers/whoever is in charge of marketing to submit articles to SBI or The Roar (or, if you’re interested, my blog!) just to get the team out there.
Or they could even… and stay with me now… do a commercial. But not just any commercial. A commercial during the AFL grand final. If the Blue Sox, or even just the ABL, were to make a good commercial (something as good as this, perhaps?) so many people would see it and, as a quality commercial, it would stand out (seriously, have you seen the stinkers they air? It’s almost embarrassing).
As an outsider, those are the three major issues I see that are preventing the Blue Sox from reaching their attendance goals. The solutions seem pretty easy, right? Any other ideas or glaring problems I haven’t come up with?