Cardinals increasing ticket promotions acknowledge the economy

Some think Major League Baseball clubs will be impacted by the Nation’s economic problems while others wonder if families cutting back on expensive travel might decide to rediscover their local team during the summer of 2009.

Major League Baseball is clearly concerned. About six weeks ago, Commissioner Bud Selig sounded a stern warning to club general managers. Later, he spoke to the Associated Press.

“We’re living in a tumultuous economic period. Many economists believe that we’re going to have significant problems. Maybe this could turn out to be the most difficult period since the Great Depression. I view these coming months with trepidation,” Selig mused.

It is not clear how the above statement was directed, since “Bud Light’s” focus has always seemed to be more on the relationships between ownership and players than any legitimate concern over the game’s fans.

Some professional teams are getting more creative than just turning up the volume on the annoying rock music blared out during every break in the action, and sometimes during the game, too.

BusinessWeek recently picked up on a unique promotion the Blues first staged on November 29th. The NHL club kicked off the first of 11 “Fannie and Freddie Mortgage Saturdays.” A winning fan from a drawing held at each game gets his or her rent or mortgage payment paid by the team. The value is up to $1,000 per month for four months. Blues officials estimated the promotion sold about 500 extra tickets for the first installment.

The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t sitting still, either. And it is good they aren’t.

Since opening the smaller Busch Stadium (III) in 2006, the Cardinals have drawn over ten million fans. Regular season home attendance has been relatively flat though, ranging from 3.41 million in the inaugural season (in 80 games instead of 81), to 3.55 million in 2007, likely fueled by the 2006 World Championship, back down to 3.43 million last season.

In the recent 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index, which includes all major professional sports, football, baseball, hockey and basketball, the Cardinals ranked a very respectable tenth. Across MLB, they followed only the Boston Red Sox (2nd overall). The Green Bay Packers of the NFL are number one.

The Index maps a team’s brand in its home city in the areas of Team Popularity, Fan Loyalty and Grade of Ownership. At least in off-the-field areas, the Cards don’t seem to be making any assumptions about those high levels of popularity and loyalty.

Since the start of November alone, the Cardinals have sent out over a dozen email offers specifically focused on ticket sales. I do not ever recall such a concentrated blitz of sales promotions so early. At this point, the selling point is more price than promotion, though.

They have marked the opening of season ticket sales, which offer a 50% discount over face value with a post-season purchase option, to packages that feature 12 games for the price of ten and up to ten for the price of five. They start at $109 and go up to $1,389.

Extras galore are offered, from Holiday deals that include a free stocking (whoopee!) to others that provide free access to the All-Star Fan Fest, to be held during the July All-Star Game break.

Next, single game tickets went on sale, but only for the ever-popular “pig out plans”. Or in more politically-correct speak, the “all-inclusive areas” that offer “a delicious buffet and complimentary beer and soda”.

The next set of email blitzes were around party rooms, ideal for businesses to entertain clients, at least those without deep enough pockets to acquire luxury suites, that is. You can also get tickets via packages offered by “preferred hotel” partners.

Then there are the 27 game plans (which not surprisingly are no longer branded “Rolen Plans”) as well as Share-a-Seat Plans.

Last Thursday, the team offered a one-day only pre-Holiday sale in which either $30 or $60 would be taken off the prices of the two flavors of package deals from 12 games down.

The most recent one-day-only offer came in just this morning, blaring this message, “$25 Discount on Cardinals All-Inclusive Tickets for April-May games”.

In their packages, the Cardinals already either include certain “premium games”, such as with the Cubs or weekend games, or offer more tickets for the money for games deemed less desirable. Take Pittsburgh on a Thursday afternoon, for example.

Going one step farther, now the team is trying to fill seats for “most” pre-summer games while filling up fans (with the all-you-can-eat chow and unlimited Anheuser-Busch products).

I am not pushing any of these packages or deals, but instead, just noticing a blitz that doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Yet, if you are price-sensitive (and who isn’t?), I suggest you subscribe to the team’s email notifications – if you can stand the volume of mail, that is!

It’s only December 16 and plain old-fashioned single-game tickets haven’t even gone on sale yet!