The 2017 season has already been a relatively tough one in San Diego. The Padres currently sit at 16-31 after yet another loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday night. It’s clear the Padres aren’t fielding a very good team. We all knew that. But issues arise when it becomes hard to draw fans to the ballpark to watch a poor team get blown out, which is what happened on both Friday and Saturday night.
Currently, the San Diego Padres rank 20th in the league in average home attendance, as the team is averaging just under 25,000 fans per game. While this isn’t bad when you look at it individually, it becomes a bigger issue when you compare this year’s Petco Park attendance to last year’s attendance. Through the first two months of the season, the Padres’ average attendance has already fallen by over 3,000 fans. At this point, it’s pretty difficult to draw fans to the ballpark, especially when the team on the field isn’t particularly good, even at their best.
San Diego has always gotten a bad reputation as a city that just doesn’t care about baseball. However, the Padres have shown in recent years that they can draw fans to the ballpark when there is something to see. After A.J. Preller’s off-season flurry following the 2014 season, the Padres were having no trouble drawing fans to begin the 2015 season…that is until things started falling apart. Even so, this small time frame showed us all that the Padres are capable of bringing fans to the ballpark. Given how bad the team on the field is, and how bad they may be for the next few years, the Padres clearly need to do more to draw fans to the park on a regular basis.
With several teams around the league struggling to get people to come to the ballpark, a few savvy teams have designed new ticket packages in order to draw more frequent fans. Two of the most notable examples of this are the Oakland Athletics and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Athletics seemed to really kick off this trend with their announcement last week of a $20 pass that allows fans to get tickets for every single home game for an entire month. This puts the price of each individual ticket at a dollar or two depending on how many home games are played in Oakland each month. For a team struggling for attendance (29th in all of baseball with an average attendance of just 16,725), and still looking for funding for a new ballpark, this move made a bunch of sense for the Athletics.
The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, came at this from another angle. While the Athletics are somewhat struggling to maintain relevance in a talented American League West, the Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves right in the thick of things in a very competitive National League West. Even so, the Diamondbacks find themselves struggling for fans, with just a 22,988 average attendance for each home game, which is less than even the San Diego Padres. Starving for fans, the D’backs have one-upped the Athletics, offering a 25-game Summer Pass for just $50, putting the per-game ticket cost at just two dollars. It remains to be seen how this offer will impact attendance, but the D’backs are definitely trying.
So that brings us to the San Diego Padres, and their newly announced Five-Win Pass. As a sort of response to the moves made by the Athletics and D’backs, and more a response to their own attendance woes, the Padres have designed a new ticket package that will allow Padre fans to attend at least five games, and potentially 16 games, for a one time payment of just $99. However, where the A’s and D’backs packages are somewhat simplified, the Padres package comes with all sorts of caveats, confusion, and downright poor messaging.
Let’s break this down a bit. So if you purchase this pass, you are guaranteed at least five games. If the Padres win all five home games in a row, that is the end of the offer, and a fan has virtually paid for five home games at $20 a pop. However, if the Padres somehow go on a massive losing streak and only win four games, a fan could end up going to 16 home games over the course of the month, for a much better per game price of just over six dollars per game.
There are a few notable issues with this promotion. Not only is this promotion basically asking fans to root against the Padres in order to get the most out of the pass, but it’s still really not that great of a deal if the Padres do happen to win their first five home games of the month. Where other teams have taken a real risk in order to put more fans in the seats, the Padres have once again cheaped out, showing how poor their marketing and promotional teams are for probably the millionth time.
Just about every day since the Athletics announced their ticket package, Padre fans have been clamoring for something similar. This is not what anybody wanted. With such a poor product on the field, it’s absolutely appalling that the Padres would outright refuse to do what it takes to get more fans in the seats. Bettering, or even matching, the ticket packages offered by the Athletics and D’backs was clearly the better option here. The Padres could offer one dollar ticket nights, or 10 dollar ticket nights, or a package of tickets for the month at a reasonable price. Really, anything. But once again the Padres have shown why their organization is so poorly viewed from a marketing standpoint. The Five-Win Pass is a good idea in theory, but it’s just yet another marketing failure for an organization that has been drowning in this type of thing since as long as any of us can remember.