On Tuesday night, 40,043 fans went through the turnstiles at Nationals Park expecting to see Stephen Strasburg pitch.
But minutes before the game, Strasburg just couldn’t get loose. As soon as word got back that Strasburg’s shoulder was stiff, it was clear that he wasn’t pitching.
The Nationals don’t have a legal responsibility to its fans to pay them back. As always, team officials cautioned that Strasburg was only scheduled to start. So the team didn’t do anything to appease the fans, perhaps not wanting to set a precedent for these types of events.
But if they actually had someone in the marketing department thinking on their toes, they might have turned this marketing disaster into a financial gain potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for the team.
Here’s the reason why.
There are Nationals fans and there are Strasburg fans. We know this because, on average, about 17,000 more people show up for Strasburg starts. It’s the job of the Nationals marketing department to at least attempt to convert the people who just want to show up for the Strasburg games to people who wouldn’t mind sitting at the ballpark on an average night. You can’t do that if you don’t engage the Strasburg audience directly. You can’t do that if you say, sorry fans, you know it’s not our fault that Stephen couldn’t pitch.
You can do that by immediately starting to talk to the Strasburg crowd from the minute it becomes apparent he’s not pitching. The great thing about this is you can both make fans happy and make more money. I called two of the smartest minds in this field that I know to offer some suggestions for the Nationals, Bill Sutton and Tony Funderberg. What would they have done?
“I would have immediately given all fans two dollar food vouchers,” said Sutton, principal of Bill Sutton & Associates, a marketing and revenue enhancement consultancy firm. “As all teams know, nothing actually costs two dollars. I guarantee you their per cap concession spending would have gone through the roof.”
Let’s take those 40,000 fans and assume that half of them decide to buy food that they wouldn’t normally be eating. That’s a really conservative estimate considering the fact that more people would be willing to get up since they no longer would fear missing a Strasburg strikeout. I’ll say they’ll spend $5 more than they would have with the team giving back $2. That’s $60,000 in additional revenue made.