Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a ‘business of sports’ talk with the EVP of Marketing at the Pittsburgh Pirates, Drew Cloud, and take a private tour of PNC Park. It took me back quite a bit to my days at the San Francisco 49ers, and the level at which professional sports organizations like them operate.
I had a ton of takeaways that I feel can be applied to the racing industry. My favorite, by the way, is the philosophy that this blog is based around: look outside of your own industry for best practices and great ideas. Read: if you’re only paying attention to what the track down the road is doing, you’re missing the boat.
One thing that really stuck out to me was how they treat their season ticket holders, or, I should say, their ‘members’. Season tickets are the Pirates biggest revenue driver, and they offer season ticket packages for as few as six games and as many as the full 81-home-game season.
And they view their ticket holders as ‘members’ of an exclusive club instead of money-saving fans.
In my experience, season tickets are one of the most underutilized and/or confusing promotions that tracks generally butcher. Very few have enough information available to potential customers for them to make a purchasing decision. Tracks struggle to structure the price and flexibility (some even sell them at face value, with no rain date provisions), have difficulty getting the word out about the cost savings, or are in a market that generally doesn’t want to commit to a block of time.
The Pirates have to deal with some of the same challenges that we have – maybe even more, since their tickets cost quite a bit more than ours and you can, er, watch their games on television for free.
So how do they sell so many season tickets? By creating value in the ‘membership’. (With the number of promoters that argue against internet broadcasts, the fact that they sell tickets at all is probably worthy of a separate post. It’s about the experience. I digress.)
Depending on the number of games you choose for your package – one of 11 different schedule structures, by the way – you’ll get a number of other benefits, from discounts on merchandise and early access to the park to payment plans and eligibility for post-season tickets.
But my favorite membership benefits? The exclusive Experiences and Rewards for each level of ticket holder, from Hall of Fame to MVP to All Star.
Sound really complicated? Look at the below list of examples that members can choose from, and see how a race track could replicate it:
- Pre-Game Walk on Warning Track (remove the word ‘warning’)
- Pre-Game Tailgate on Federal Street (change to ‘reserved parking area’)
- Meet & Greet with Pirates Alumni (cross out ‘Pirates’)
- Watch Fireworks from the Field (add In- to the word ‘Field’)
- All-Star Game Watch Party (replace with major racing event)
- Concert Field Passes (VIP seating for a non-racing event)
- Members-Only PhotoFest (this is a simple autograph and photo session)
- Members-Only Run the Bases (replace ‘bases’ with track)
- Movie Night at PNC Park (tracks with new scoreboards – this is for you!)
- Seven Springs Activity Pack (great opportunity to incorporate a partner experience)
Overwhelmed? Imagine if you picked one or two of these promotions to create during the season and offered them to ‘members only’. Think that would create some of that extremely valuable fear of missing out we’ve talked about? I do.
Season tickets are such a huge revenue generator in every other professional sport, and most tracks have as many races as an NFL season has games. If they can do it, why can’t we?
It’s not just about saving money – it’s about getting value for your commitment to an organization. Can you work this into your 2016 marketing plan?
P.S. Racers – think this post isn’t for you? How can you make your fans or marketing partners feel like members of an exclusive club? Can you create membership for your marketing partners that allows, say, their employees a behind-the-scenes tour of your hauler or race shop, a pre-event party, or access to exclusive content or merchandise? Do you think there’s value that you can create at little-to-no-cost? I certainly do.