After a franchise-low average attendance in 2018, York Revolution president Eric Menzer knew it was time to change the way the team reaches potential customers.
The Revs’ approach to increasing attendance was twofold: put a good product on the field for baseball fans and create a family-fun atmosphere for people interested in more of an entertainment experience than a baseball game.
The result was positive for the team. Attendance increased 5% in 2019, to an average of 2,971 fans per game, up from 2,825 in 2018. Total attendance also rose 10 percent to 199,045 this season, up from 180,807 a year ago.
York finished sixth among the eight Atlantic League teams in attendance, the same position the team finished in 2018. The 2019 attendance figure, however, was still the second lowest in franchise history and is 32% lower than the team's all-time average high of 4,351 in 2008, which was the second year of the franchise's existence.
Still, Menzer is encouraged about the upward trend in 2019, which stopped four years of declining attendance dating back to 2014.
Marketing to the 25% of Americans that Menzer said he found through research identified as interested in baseball, was successful. York brought back first baseman Telvin Nash, who set multiple franchise and Atlantic League records at the plate, while the team went 75-65 and reached the playoffs.
Finding new fans: Reaching the other 75 percent of people who aren’t really interested in the final score of the game was more of a challenge for the Revs. To do that, Menzer and his staff adjusted their marketing strategy from what had been a 50-50 split between traditional advertising options such as billboards and TV commercials and digital advertising to a 75-25 split in favor of a social media and digital marketing model because of how cost effective it is.
“We’re not in a position to run big, expensive TV campaigns,” Menzer said. “We have to be really smart and tactical about what we do, so that our budget goes a long way.”
A large part of that strategy was the Revs creating their own content, primarily in video form, to increase engagement on social media. Menzer’s favorite example of the creative content the team produced this season was a video where Cannonball Charlie and DownTown, the Revs’ mascot, prank called some Atlantic League teams that didn’t make the playoffs and asked if they had playoff tickets for sale, as a way to market the Revs’ playoff tickets.
Menzer said the video gained a lot of traction online and showcased the power of turning an idea into content that creates engagement online with fans.
Family-friendly fun: Another key for the Revs this season was creating an experience at the ballpark that enticed families that aren’t necessarily baseball fans to come to the park. Menzer said they had magicians, singers and other performers at games that attracted new customers looking for a fun experience for their family.
“For 75 percent of the people in our market, we’re not a sports company. We’re a hospitality and entertainment company that plays baseball,” Menzer said.
To find those people, the Revs added another element to their marketing initiative this season. The team hired a street team that consisted of two interns and a few hourly employees that made more than 100 appearances at school carnivals, local concerts and other local events.
Menzer added that although social media was a key part of the team's increase in attendance this season, the franchise sees a real value in going out into the community and engaging with fans face-to-face, and not just online.
“It’s very easy to get enamored too much with social media,” Menzer said. “It’s easy to get the illusion that because people are seeing something in their Facebook feed that they’re taking action on it. There’s a lot to be said for being out at an elementary school carnival on a Saturday afternoon with a prize wheel and a pop-up tent and Cannonball Charlie and DownTown engaging with families and kids, talking about that there’s fireworks on Saturday night. That’s 10 times more effective than showing them a picture of a fireworks display on Instagram. In an era where everything is feeling less personalized or more removed, we need to be totally committed to this in-person, feet-on-the-street strategy.”
A positive outlook: While he knows that bad weather or an injury to a key player are always possibilities that are out of the team's control, Menzer believes the increase in attendance this season was because of new strategies could create a positive trend in attendance for years to come.
“It certainly makes me cautiously optimistic that we can continue to execute that season after season,” Menzer said.
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.
REVS' ATTENDANCE THROUGH THE YEARS