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Nationals owners create a false sense of urgency to sell playoff tickets

Sep 6, 2012, 11:33 AM EDT

Nationals cap logo

This seems kinda sketchy.  The Nationals, who have seen ticket sales rise as their fortunes on the field have done the same, sent out an email last night saying that (a) they were capping season ticket sales at 20,000 for 2013; and (b) if you want ticketing priority for playoff games in 2012, you have to get season tickets.

Question: are they anywhere near 20,000 in season ticket sales for next year? Likely not. They’ve sold around 12-14,000 this year and sales for next year won’t get going in earnest until the offseason. They’ll go up, sure, but it’s gonna be a while before anyone is locked out of the season tickets game for 2013.

Question: once the playoffs are over, if there is big demand for season tickets does anyone think the Nats won’t release way more seats for season tickets sales? Of course not. They will. Because businesses tend not to be in the turning away customers business.

This release seems timed to create a false sense of urgency to spur season ticket sales as the Nats approach the playoffs and excitement for the team grows.

  1. natslady - Sep 6, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    We had a long discussion about this on Zuckerman’s blog (Nationals Insider). It’s entirely possible this is the right business move, as non-season-ticket sales are more profitable (per ticket) than season ticket sales. Also, scalpers buy a fair percent of season tickets and resell them–and that profit is not going to the owners, and certainly not back into payroll. In a city where you are trying to build up the fan base, I don’t think you want to sell 30,000 or 35,000 season tickets (seating capacity @40,000 + standing room). I would be curious to know if other teams have such limitations?

    The Nationals have already announced that the “perks” associated with season tickets (Red Carpet Rewards–in effect, free tickets and seat upgrades) will be substantially reduced next year. IOW, they are reducing the incentives to buy season tickets. So I don’t see the “false urgency” here.

    • jrbdmb - Sep 6, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      “Non-season-ticket sales are more profitable (per ticket) than season ticket sales.”

      But season ticket sales are far more profitable than empty seats. I’m not aware of any sports team (MLB or other) that would not sell 90% or more of available seats as season tickets if they could.

  2. pinkfloydprism - Sep 6, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Most teams do stuff like this when high profile teams from the other league come to town. The D’Backs make you buy partial season tickets or ticket packs to get lower level seats… it is a scam, but hey, anyway you can sell tickets, right?

    • natstowngreg - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      Also. the Nats put variable pricing on some tickets, based on opponent or date. Ex., our $55 seats retailed from about $50 for bad opponents and least desirable games, to $62 for the Phillies and $65 for the Yankees. I’m sure other teams do this.

      • Old Gator - Sep 6, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        So Gnats people, let me understand – is it that the urgency is real, but the sense of it is false? Maybe all they needs is to take the sense in for some fine tuning.

  3. unlost1 - Sep 6, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    are they going to hold out Strasburg in 2013 so he don’t get a boo-boo?

    • Old Gator - Sep 6, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      No, they’re going to hold him out so that, once he becomes eligible for arbitration, he will be in sufficiently good shape and have amassed a sufficiently awesome record that he can hold their asses to the fire and extract the kind of money out of them that the Air Force routinely pays for its hammers and toilet seats.

      Washington, and all….

  4. natstowngreg - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    (a) 20K season tickets seems unlikely. I doubt that there are enough front-runners buying season tickets to get to 20K. Maybe in 2014.

    (b) We were notified several weeks ago about buying 2012 playoff tickets. If we placed a deposit on our 2013 (half) season tickets, we would get the chance to buy additional 2012 playoff tickets (which we did). Seems like extortion, but it does make sense from a business perspective. And we had decided to renew anyway.

    As to cuts in Red Carpet Rewards, absolutely no surprise. As demand for tickets grows, the team’s incentive to provide free tickets lessens. Wouldn’t surprise me if, in the next couple of years, Red Carpet Rewards disappear entirely.

    • madhatternalice - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      We did the same thing (the deposit for 2013). I’ll be sad to see RCR disappear, but I think you’re right.

    • kkolchak - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:57 PM

      We must remember that they only started the RCR after season ticket holder numbers crashed after that first season along with the level of play on the field. They had to do something to hold on the fans they had left. Gutting the team so they could have the worst record and get the top draft pick worked beautifully for winning the Strasburg and Harper lotteries, but it was a dismal failure for a relocated franchise that needed to build up fan loyalty. Even now, the passion for this team is not what it should be given what they have accomplished on the field this year.

      We’ll see how much that changes next season.

  5. frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Who cares if it seems sketchy? Maybe the Braves should try stuff like this to push a few more tickets.

    I saw some comments yesterday about people going back and forth about caring weather or not their home team has a packed, boisterous crowd.

    I am on the fence about this because, on one hand I am going to root for my team – sellouts or not. And if I lived in the area I would be going to at least 1 game a week. I also root for the Packers and when people talk about how great the fans are at Lambeau, I could care less. I am from Wisconsin and I have absolutely zero cares in the world on how the fans cheer – only how the team does.

    On the other hand, I REALLY didn’t care much for having a pro-Cubs crowd at the Ted in 2003 during the NLDS. That was truly embarrassing and if the Braves need to push some ‘sketchy’ sales tactics to keep something like that from happening again, I am all for it.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      Same thing for the Phillies in Washington. Pre-season, the Nats tried to prevent sales to Phillies fans. As I, Craig, and a number of others here predicted, it didn’t work. What worked was the Nats winning and the Phillies losing.

      • heyblueyoustink - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:15 PM

        The best part of that whole thing was that a few years ago, the Nats owner came onto a Philadelphia Sports radio station pleading for Philadelphians to make the trip down to Washington to help fill the seats.

        It sounds to me like they’re doing business type things, trying to maximize profit wherever they can. I mean, when’s the last time this organization *made* any kind of substantial profit, other than league wide profit sharing.

  6. 12strikes - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    At 20,000 season tickets Mike Rizzo is shutting down the ticket agents.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 6, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      Cheap shot, but well played. :)

      • 12strikes - Sep 6, 2012 at 1:31 PM

        Thanks

  7. dchail - Sep 6, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    Cool story Graig your Braves homerism is showing. Best team in baseball and only getting better.

    • dchail - Sep 6, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      Craig stupid IPad

      • pellypell - Sep 6, 2012 at 4:29 PM

        I read this reply in Tarzan’s voice.

  8. willclarkgameface - Sep 6, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    Once Mike Rizzo fucks this up real good for Washington by making Strasburg sit out their now projected 4 game playoff run, the universe will return to its normal state of watching the Nationals sit on the sidelines, dormant as a the nail in their coffin.

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