your stands were always filled?

*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*

This is a subject that has always felt like low hanging fruit to me, yet so often I find myself watching games on TV with empty stadiums and arenas. I don’t get it. Stadiums (or ballparks, or arenas, etc.) are a lot like restaurants in that perception is reality. Empty restaurants are often perceived to have bad food, poor service, or something that is generally keeping people away. Given the choice of an empty restaurant or a restaurant with a line out the door, most people are going to hold out for the more popular option, assuming the food must be great given the apparent popularity.

Stadiums can be viewed the same way. Empty stadiums are assumed to house a bad team and a lame experience; why would anyone want to go? It surprises me how many universities allow their teams to play on regional or (gasp!) national television with less than full stadiums or arenas. Fill your stands! If you can’t sell your tickets, give them away. You’re not going to sell those tickets anyway, so rather than turning fans or recruits off by your sparsely attended event, create the perception that you have the hottest ticket in town. Do that and slowly but surely, your seats should start to fill themselves with warm, paying bodies.

Speaking of giving tickets away, who better to give away tickets to than potential fans? Even better, how about potential fans who might one day become potential recruits? If you can’t fill your stadium with paying fans, find a local high school and give the tickets to that school. Invite them as your guests and make sure every attendee from that school gets a free shirt. That shirt and your brand will suddenly start showing up all over the halls of your most fertile recruiting ground: high schools.

Whether you are able to sell out your stadium regularly or not, I’d suggest developing on an ongoing ticket giveaway program that works on a rotational basis with local schools in your community and state. It’s a long-term strategy to sustain and grow your fan base. Work now to win the hearts and minds of the next generation of local fans and athletes.