09 April 2008

Interactivity

I am pleased to announce that The Freezer will be returning to The DCenters for a second season. We'll try and make it a recurring feature each Thursday, and this year, to allow for greater participation, we'll call for submissions on the Freezer each Wednesday. While I certainly have ideas on where to rank things, I'd like to take into account your thoughts on the matter. Right now, Mo Johnston, Alexi Lalas, the New England Revolution, Frankie Yallop, Carlos Ruiz, DC Stadium Plans, and others are all candidates to make appearances in the debut of the Freezer this year, but feel free to include your suggestions in the comments for a Freezer entry.

Now, two days ago commenter Nick asked the following provocative question, and I will reprint his comment in full:

D,

I would like for you to weigh in on this topic if you get a chance:

DCU is a four-time MLS champ, playing in a decent sports town with a large population. DCU has been successful on and off the feel, and has a huge presence, including media, within the community. DCU puts out a great product every year. DCU's front office, considered the best year-in and year-out works its ass off and achieves season ticket sales in the 9.000 range.

Seattle FC has no team, no players, no wins, no SSS, and a front office that just began working. Seattle FC will not even play a game until a year from now. Seattle has sold more than 13,000 season tickets.

Philly has no team, etc, two years out, etc. Philly has done no advertising. Philly has sold more than 5,000 season tickets.

Could you weigh in on this and try to offer some explanation as to why we struggle to get 10K season tix and Philly gets half of that 2 years out without spending a dollar on advertising?

That's a decent question Nick. Commenter Skippy in the same thread noted that there is some excitement about a new team, but also concurred to a larger point: "I remember looking at RFK attendance halfway through last year and I think DC's attendance was always 2nd or third, which isn't lousy, but considering DCU's success, I know what you mean."

Now, full disclosure. For the first time in a few years, I did not renew a season ticket package. This is primarily because my paying occupation is sending me around the country more, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to use all my tickets. But there's another reason why I didn't renew my season tickets: I felt that it wasn't something I had to do in order to attend games and support the team. See, there's a difference between season tickets and regular attendance. Right now, the only way expansion team supporters can do anything real to support their team is to buy season tickets. Quite simply, there are no games for them to attend and sing and chant and cheer. So with only one option to take, they're taking it. But I don't need season tickets to support the team, I can just walk up to the box office, usually day of game, and grab a decent ticket. RFK is cavernous, even with only the lower bowl available, and I'm not worried about getting a place in the stadium. And once I'm there, how does it matter how I got there? The supply of tickets is huge, and while our demand is strong, it doesn't really create a huge incentive for me to cough up the cash for a package. This might change in the utopian future of the Soccer Specific Stadium, but who knows? And given that United draws decent attendance even without the season ticket base of an expansion franchise, I think others may feel the same way. We know the tickets are going to be there whenever we want them.

Now, I do recognize that this approach may indirectly harm the team in terms of estimating cash flows. They can bank season ticket sales in advance in a way you can't with walk-up sales. And I do feel slightly guilty about this, but at the same time it's so much of a theoretical problem (I mean, they're still going to get my money, it's just going to affect their models) that it does not really change my position on the matter.

So that's why I think United's season ticket sales may seem to lag, and once the SSS is up, perhaps they will see an increase (in fact, almost certainly). Then demand suddenly is constrained by supply, providing a greater incentive to part with the cash in advance. And for expansion teams, their fans don't know how to judge demand with seating capacity, and are naturally excited about being able to support their team right now. Good for them.

Now, if United's attendance starts suffering, we may have to reconsider.

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11 Comments:

At 09 April, 2008 10:02, Blogger Bibliotheker said...

Good points:
1. The only way a supporter of an expansion team can show support is season tickets.
2. Too large of a stadium.
Not mentioned points:
1. Might DCU be taken a bit for granted by local supporters? "We always do well and I can catch a game later on when it matters." That sort of attitude.
2. Alot of fans have a lot of loyalties to spend the money on. Lots of sports in the DC Metro Area to budget for as an individual/family consumer. Or DCU may not be the primary sports loyalty for consumers who might by season tickets if they were rarer.

 
At 09 April, 2008 10:38, OpenID fightingtalker said...

I do precisely the same thing when I go to games with friends and don't use my credential. I just order individual tix from the SE's or just the usual box office if really am last minute. I am positive there are many more just like me.

 
At 09 April, 2008 10:49, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

On the Freezer: It might be good to note those that were permanant members last year that seem to be out. Clavijo for one. As well as those that dropped off the face of MLS (Kyle Martina, from the National team pool to out of the league)

I'd put Sigi in, and Maybe Kreis.

 
At 09 April, 2008 11:28, Blogger I-66 said...

Taylor Twellman belongs in the freezer.

As someone who has never had season tickets, I agree with your rationale. Especially now, as a member of the Barra, I don't need them.

 
At 09 April, 2008 12:22, Blogger The Bird said...

I bought season tix for the first time this year, mostly for the discount. I knew I was going to a bunch of games anyway, so why pay more?

What I've come to like, even though we are only a few games in, is having the same seats each time (awesome seats, no less). It's pretty cool to feel like I've got my own little piece of RFK. I'd imaging that feeling would be amplified at United's own stadium (whenever that happens).

 
At 09 April, 2008 12:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may not impact season ticket sales (at least not directly this year) but I for one would like to see another iteration of the free beer movement. Is the soccer blogosphere now so diverse that this can no longer be pulled off?
-K

 
At 09 April, 2008 13:08, Blogger EdTheRed said...

DCU's season ticket sales are fine - 3rd in the league behind the LA Beck-Hams and Toronto. This year's base will likely be around 10,000 when all is said and done...for a team playing in a 46,000-seat stadium, that's not bad.

This is a better question to ask of Kansas City, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, etc.

 
At 09 April, 2008 14:57, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As K's victim in the Free Beer movement, I have to agree with him. No need to rely on DCU's marketing team to fill seats!

As for the Freezer, I'd keep an eye on Niell. He may not be in there yet, but he's holding the door open...

Is there room for an anti-freezer out there? A similar watch-list for people who rise above expectations?

- rke

 
At 09 April, 2008 16:13, Blogger JCM said...

1. Frank O'Neil needs to be in the freezer, maybe at 30 degrees, but definitely below freezing.
2. I may be wrong, but aren't the season ticket totals from Seattle and Philadelphia deposits only? It's a lot easier to plunk down $50to hold your place in line. How many will be there when the invoice comes in the mail?

 
At 09 April, 2008 16:45, Anonymous MEL said...

I've had season tickets for 11 years now. I suspect the other 9,999 folks don't it for the same reason I do. My wife is 5'2", and having season tickets guarantees a front row seat where she can actually see the game. I've actually thought about dropping them for a couple years, but like a sucker I've held on to maintain a priority place in line for seat choice in a SSS.

 
At 09 April, 2008 23:37, Anonymous Nick said...

Great post D. I think you nailed it.

 

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