Observations on Rays Fan Fest 2017

On Saturday, February 4th, the Rays held their annual Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the event drew over 15,000 fans.

Fan Fest 2017 was earlier in the year, with a slightly different format. The biggest change in the format was the removal of long autograph lines. At first I thought this might be a bad idea, but being that only a small percentage of fans stood in line and the lines took up a significant part of the fan fest area, this was a good decision. Fan fest seemed much more open without the lines of people standing around.

The Tampa Bay Times detailed why the Rays moved the date of Fan Fest from later in February to the first weekend in the month.

Typically the Rays hold Fan Fest on a Saturday early in spring training, but they made the change this year due to several conflicts, primarily an earlier start to camp because of the World Baseball Classic, which has them beginning games Feb. 24. Another factor is not wanting to lose most or all of a workout day in Port Charlotte, as camp report day is Feb. 12.

The Trop was unavailable Jan. 21 (college football), this week (home show) and Feb. 11 (gymnastics), leaving a choice between Feb. 4 and Feb. 18.

Unfortunately for the Rays, there was a huge competing event in downtown St. Pete on the same day they chose for Fan Fest. Localtopia 2017 was “St. Pete’s largest “Community Celebration of All Things Local” showcasing over 200 of your favorite independent businesses and community organizations” and occurred throughout St Pete’s Williams Park. Previous Localtopia events drew over 20,000. With the weather in the mid-70s on a clear Saturday afternoon, I wonder how many fans opted to go outside to Localtopia instead of inside Tropicana Field for Fan Fest.

I did both.

While at Localtopia after attending Fan Fest, I noticed the Rays may have missed an opportunity. The Rowdies had a booth at Localtopia advocating their latest initiatives. The Rays did not have a presence at Localtopia. They didn’t even have a person handing out schedules or telling people Fan Fest was a few blocks away. One of their many customer relations staff could have been at Localtopia.

It is possible I missed the Rays representative. Maybe they were there. But they definitely did not have a booth or kiosk at Localtopia. That’s an opportunity lost. Sometimes, even though you’ve reached expectations at one location, going to where more people are could plant the seeds for increased brand awareness.

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