"In sports, it's [about] getting butts in seats."
For Milwaukee Brewers' Senior Director of Marketing Kathy Schwab, attendance is the Holy Grail; getting people through the turnstiles, getting them caught up in the excitement of the game--and the show surrounding the game--is Priority One.
"What we do is focus on what promotions, what types of incentives are going to drive people to come out to Miller Park," Schwab told an audience of aspiring marketers during a recent presentation at UW-Parkside's Student Center Cinema.
Returning to campus at the invitation of the Parkside American Marketing Association (PAMA), Schwab discussed how a team in Major League Baseball's smallest market uses mass media, social media, and other means to compete with--and outdraw--larger market teams in attendance. And the marketing effort worked as the Brewers entertained 2.8 million fans in 2012, finishing well ahead of teams like the New York Mets and Chicago White Sox.
But success in 2012 was hardly a foregone conclusion. Speaking on "Marketing an Unpredictable Season," Schwab said there was plenty of uncertainty going into 2012. The departure of free agent first baseman Prince Fielder; the possible 50 game suspension of 2011 Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun for use of PEDs ("I never for a minute thought Ryan was guilty," she said), key injuries at first base and shortstop, and a record below .500 only increased the marketing team's uncertainty...and anxiety.
"But in sports, aren't all seasons unpredictable?" Schwab asked. "If you're in marketing and you're in sports, you better be flexible."
Marketing a New Star: Aaron Rodgers
The push to sell 2012 tickets began at this time last year, fall of 2011. Schwab's seven person marketing crew pushed to retain season seat holders?fans who buy ticket plans of 20 games or more. Season seat holders account for 46 percent of the team's attendance. The plan also pushed the sale of 4-game and 10-game ticket packages.
The marketing plan got a major boost from the star of another Wisconsin team. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was brought in for a series of humorous TV commercials.
"He was fantastic!" Schwab stated. "At first I was thinking, we have such great players ourselves, why would we be focusing on the Packers? But when you think about it a little more, why wouldn't we? We have great teams in Wisconsin, so why wouldn't we bring them together."
The Rodgers' ads created a Brewer buzz leading up to opening day. A late season surge that saw the Brewers win 20 of 26 home games and stay in the playoff race until the last weekend of the season, helped the team average nearly 35,000 butts in seats per game.
The push to keep those fans, especially the season seat holder, coming back in 2013 is already underway.
"Retention is our number one goal," Schwab told her audience.
She also did a bit of marketing, casually letting students and faculty know about half-priced tickets available to college students for selected seats at Friday home games.Schwab was welcomed to campus by Marketing Professor Peter Knight and introduced by PAMA President Brian Hill. She later helped draw the names of students for Brewer prize packages that included a player bobblehead and a baseball signed by that player. The program was held Thursday, Oct. 25.