New York Mets: Larry DeGaris

Mets marketing: Are freebies selling out?

April, 10, 2012
4/10/12
1:42
PM ET
Free ticket for the Easter Sunday game, no real strings attached.

A $2.50 ticket for Wednesday’s Johan Santana-Stephen Strasburg matinee.

And then, when that allotment sold out, a $2.50 ticket for Tuesday night’s Mets-Nats game became available, too.

So, an alert fan could have attended three of the Mets’ final four games of the opening homestand for a grand total of five bucks.


Rick Maiman/Bloomberg News/Getty Images
Mets executive VP Dave Howard


Smart marketing? A little dangerous in terms of upsetting fans who paid full price to get into the stadium, as well as season-ticket holders? A little desperate on the part of the Mets?

Maybe all three.

“The Mets threw the pricing strategies of most sport organizations out the window,” said Dr. Larry McCarthy of the Center for Sport Management at Seton Hall University. “Most sport organizations would be of the opinion that you should never give away free tickets. One thinks back to Bill Veeck, who always said that even his mother paid to get into the ballpark -- the rationale being that free tickets diminish the perception of the quality of the product, and people will be unwilling to pay in the future for something they get for free.

“However, the risk that the Mets took may pay off. People got to see three wins over the weekend, an excellent pitching performance, so they may be more inclined to purchase a ticket to go and see another game. One shudders, however, to think about the consequence if they had been hammered and the performances were awful.”

Dave Howard, Mets executive vice president for business operations, said about 1,600 people took advantage of the Sunday free offer and about 3,000 people took advantage of the $2.50 offer for Wednesday before those allotments sold out. The Mets announced midday Tuesday that tonight’s offer also had reached its limit.

“Sunday was a challenge because of the holiday, and we just wanted to make an offer available. It also was geared with experimenting in the social-media space,” Howard said. “It was a Twitter-based promotion. We called it a ‘Twicket.’ It was one of those things where we had the inventory because of the holiday. We gave it a shot, and it was very successful. We want to do more things in the social-media space to engage our fans, especially our younger fans. Obviously they are very active in that space. We’ll be doing more things like that. They won’t be necessarily free tickets, but other offers and promotional opportunities.

“Wednesday, it turned out to be less of a challenge because of the pitching matchup. But it is our birthday. It is the 50th anniversary of our first game, in the Polo Grounds. So we had been planning on doing a little promotion with WPIX. We announced it, and virtually within hours, we already had gone through the allocation. So we didn’t have to disappoint too many of our fans, we decided to open up a few of the similar sections where there are no season-ticket holders for the Tuesday game beyond the allocation that we already had set aside for the Wednesday game.”

Even if the sections offered are not season-ticket-holder sections, is there leeriness about undercutting loyal, paying customers by letting others enter Citi Field for free, or virtually free?

“It’s a balance,” Howard acknowledged. “We’re trying to strike an appropriate balance to have people come out and experience Mets baseball in 2012, to realize what a great facility we have, realize what a great experience it is, and the fact that the team is going to be a fun team to watch. We’re not going to overdo it. But, by the same token, especially early in April, we want to get people excited and have them come out and sample the product, because we think the product will be very compelling for them. We think it is a good marketing exercise to stimulate interest early on.”

Howard said creating the optic for TV audiences of a full Citi Field was not a compelling motivation for trying to pack the stadium early with freebies and severely discounted tickets.

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