Since I started this website, I’ve have emphasized that the Rays overall attendance is weak mostly because of their weekday attendance. Weekend attendance, while not as good as other teams, hasn’t been quite as bad. The following graph depicts the Rays weekend and weekday average attendance since 2007.
In what could be the first attempt to improve weekday attendance, the Rays have announced daily ticket deals catered to certain demographics of their fanbase. According to the Tampa Bay Times,
The Rays are pushing aggressive promotions and discounts this year, offering those in the military and veterans free admission on Mondays, while cutting kids’ ticket prices to $2 on Tuesdays and charging just $2 for hot dogs every Wednesday. Seniors can get $15 tickets for games on Thursday. Students get the same deal on Fridays.
While there is no mention as to whether these deals apply to “premium” games or whether walk-up tickets will still have an additional penalty, this list does include a cheap hot dog day, just as I had hoped.
It is very interesting to see the Rays mimic what local Minor League teams have done for years. In 2015, for example, the Tampa Yankees also had Military Monday, where those with a Military ID received free admission to Steinbrenner Field.
Meanwhile, the Bradenton Marauders had three Mondays where they gave away free tickets. Those Bradenton games averaged 4,643 fans per game.
While the Rays saw 12,110 fans per Tuesday, the Threshers $1 Tuesday promotion averaged 3,313 fans per game. Both the Marauders and the Tampa Yankees both had 2-for-1 ticket Tuesday promotions in 2015.
On Wednesday in 2015, the Tampa Yankees had Kids Eat Free Wednesdays, while the Threshers hosted their Silver Sharks Club for fans over the age of 55.
We see two big differences between the Rays current promotions and the Minor League clubs’ 2015 offerings. On Thursday, both the Threshers and the Marauders held Thirsty Thursday, with discounted alcohol on Thursday. The Rays did not announce any alcohol discounts. The Rays did however create a ticket special for students, which is something none of the Minor League teams had.
Will the Minor League teams continue with their same promotions? Or will they increase the discounts for local baseball fans? Contrary to what many people want to believe, the Rays and the Minor League teams are in a battle for expendable income. As are every movie theater, performing arts center, or sporting event in Tampa Bay. They all act in their own self-interest. In 2014, for example, the Threshers added post-game concerts to their promotion schedule and saw the second highest attendance in Florida State League history.
Of course, the Rays still can’t do fireworks, something each of the Minor League teams do on or near July 4th. For every MiLB team in the area, their Independence Day gala is usually their highest attended game.
Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times cited an interesting quote from new Rays front office member Jeff Cogen. According to Trigaux, Cogen stated “the franchise has had lots of good marketing ideas, but needed to sharpen them so that it was clear what their value was to Rays fans”. This points to a lack of big picture strategy. Having ideas but not implementing them correctly is a leadership issue. Good leaders are able to slot good ideas into a strategy for success. The Rays might have had a vision to be the region’s team, but their marketing strategy was lacking on many fronts. Maybe it was getting stale and just needed a fresh set of eyes.
I’ve said plenty of times that the Rays need to provide incentive for people in the area to be Rays fans. That incentive hasn’t been there. They also need to provide incentive for the fans they do have to come to Tropicana Field. That incentive also hasn’t been there.
Tampa Bay is difficult baseball market. But there are just as many baseball fans in Tampa Bay as anywhere else. Baseball is successful here, as evident by the total number of attendees to Spring Training, Minor League games, and the Rays. Because of the competition, the Rays need to work harder than most teams to win the market.
Cogen is absolutely right when he states that Rays attendance isn’t a problem, but an “opportunity”. Tampa Bay is a challenge. Leaders rise to challenges.