Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Minor League Team Offers Win Insurance

Tough times have forced even the most creative to be even more creative. For the River City Rascals, an independent Frontier League team based in O’Fallon, Mo., that means selling win insurance for the upcoming season.

River City Rascals

When sponsorship talks heated up with the Midwest Agency, a locally based insurance company, the talk focused on bringing more customers into the agency. So the team came up with the idea of selling win insurance.

The team will sell “Midwest Agency Winning Insurance” for $2 if purchased before the start of the eighth inning. The team will sell $5 win insurance in the middle of the eighth, even if the team is losing 10-0.

Ticket prices start at $6, but fans who buy the insurance will collect on the $11 box seats if the team loses. General manager Chris Franklin told CNBC said he can’t imagine the team losing much money, especially considering the fact that it brings repeat customers back to the 2,406-seat ballpark. More than 50 percent of fans last year only attended one of the team’s games and more bottoms in the seats also means being able to make more money at its concession stands.

And it’s the perfect sponsorship in that the Midwest Agency will get its name attached to the promotion as well as get people through its doors, as fans who bought insurance have to redeem their free tickets at the agency.

Franklin acknowledged it might be a bit weird when the home fans cheers a close loss by its team, but he says he got approval from the manager before going through with the promotion.

Franklin said the Midwest Agency will pay the team an up-front sponsorship fee for the deal. The team filled its stadium to 81 percent capacity last year. The season kicks off on May 20.

No team has offered by the game insurance like this, but a few teams have made win guarantees to their season ticket holders. The most risky was the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers, who said for the 2007-08 season they’d refund the entire season to season ticket holders if they didn’t make the playoffs. The Rattlers barely made the playoffs, saving roughly $2.2 million.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were likely the first team to offer a guarantee of sorts in 1987. They didn’t make the playoffs that year, resulting in a reported $500,000 in rebates to fans.

Guarantees have become less common after 2003, when all three teams that offered playoff guarantees –- the Atlanta Hawks, the Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators -– all failed to make the playoffs. The Hawks paid $125 to each season ticket holder, while the Panthers and the Predators refunded the equivalent of the price increases they charged fans that year.

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