Baseball has long been dubbed ‘America’s favorite pastime‘ – but baseball owners sure do wish some of that time is spent watching the game from stadiums as opposed to in-front of television and smartphones. Of course some of the storied franchises such as the Red Sox and Yankees have less to worry, and even the long suffering Chicago Cubs bring in 30,000+ faithfuls on average to their games. However for many others, half-full stadiums are the reality of game days.

Baseball owners have studied the problem deeply and undertaken various measures to promote in-stadium attendance, including extensive use of data science and analytic techniques to promote attendance – and their experience offers much insight for digital marketers.

1) Understand attendance (traffic) patterns – The start and end of baseball’s regular season (April/September) sees a peak in attention, and a mid-season peak occurs when summer is in full swing (typically July).  These are times to make a great impression on your audience, and a good effort will help you retain more of the audience during the leaner months.

2) Focus on what you can control: Baseball suffers from a basic issue of a high-supply of games (160+ games per team every season). But owners cannot really control that year-in/year-out. It is far more useful to focus on how to retain fan attention and on creating promotions/events to get them into the games.

3) Know your (real) competition: In baseball, it is natural to think of other baseball teams as your competition – but that is true only on the field and during the game. The real competition is for the entertainment dollar share of the average fan. Movies, video-games, television shows, concerts are the real competition and emphasizing everything that a 1/2 day at the game can offer becomes a real differentiator. Top-teams playing in town are part of that appeal.

4) Understand your market position – and be honest about it: Several baseball franchises offer promotions such as bobble heads, shirts, head gears, fireworks to attract audience to stadium. These work really well for mid-major market teams, but are a wash for the highly successful teams. In other words, special promotions do not add much value to teams whose brands sell themselves. An honest assessment of your market position goes a long way towards picking the right promotions/activities.

5) Defray cost of promotions/events whenever possible – Baseball is already putting on a show – and is guaranteed a certain viewership. There is no reason to also bear the expense of promotions and special events on top-of-that. There are many who would love that same exposure – baseball consistently uses sponsorship (with complementary firms to be sure) to defray the cost associated.

6) Use analytics to fully understand the lift of various promotional activities – Most baseball teams have a resident data science team that is focused on attendance and other revenue opportunities and the cost/benefit analysis of each action. Focus on the best opportunities available.

And baseball owners are not content with what they have – they are constantly pushing the envelope on what they can learn about their market and audience and how can they use the information they gather to keep the sport relevant, entertaining and win a greater share of your wallet!

I will be presenting a session at the upcoming Predictive Analytics World 2014 on impact of promotions on baseball stadium attendance – look-up the session (and me!) if you plan to be at the conference!


Sri Srikanth

Advanced Data Analytics & Strategy, Senior Data Scientist, Cisco Digial