Indians implementing analytics to study attendance issues

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Indians Opener Baseball

The Cleveland Indians were in the postseason a year ago and are seeing attendance numbers continue to fall on a year-over-year basis. Despite two bouts of October baseball in the last seven seasons, they’re certain to finish outside baseball’s top 20 in attendance for the 12th consecutive year. Alas, the team is taking their use of advanced analytics and implementing a formula-based look into what moves the needle in the way of bodies through the turnstiles and how to best serve those who make it down to Progressive Field.

The formula takes historical data into account and weaves in such critical factors as the weather forecast, opponent, team performance, night of the week and time of year.

It doesn’t get fans through the gates, but it does give the Indians a much better idea of how to best serve their audience. […] What the Indians are seeking are optimal methods of catering to their fans, whether it’s the 9,029 who showed up for an April 8 matchup against the San Diego Padres or the 40,712 in attendance when Omar Vizquel was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame on June 21.

As we have covered here many times at WFNY, dynamic pricing and the team’s urging to “Buy Early and Save” was born with similar goals in mind. Nevertheless, the majority of tickets continue to be purchased in the 48 hours leading up to games. Per Crain’s Cleveland, thanks to the formulas being utilized, the Indians now have a “much more concrete idea” of which games are most likely to produce last-minute buying sprees, and which ones will be a more intimate gathering in which the staff size should be reduced and less food needs to be ordered. Crain’s also reports that the team’s season-ticket base stands at roughly 8,000, well behind the average base in Major League Baseball. Since their playoff run in 2007 where they averaged over 28,000 fans per night, the team has trended downward to it’s current level of 18,402.

To little surprise, events like “Dollar Dog Night” and the firework displays drive demand—Friday and Saturdays continue to be the nights with the highest average attendance. Of course, plenty of factors impact the team’s ability to take advantage of such, including the schedule: the team will play nine Friday night games on the road this summer, and five of their eight Friday contests since June have been away from Progressive Field.

The team hopes that the use of analytics will better prepare them for 2015 where they continue to strive toward improving the fan experience.

[Related: Why we shouldn’t be surprised about the Indians attendance]

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • Steve

    the “you have to spend money to make money” line is a lot older than Mark Cuban and allegedly applies to all kinds of businesses.

  • scripty

    Without typing it up again, see my post below. Some of this is classic case of there being no urgency to make this entertainment purpose.
    There is a reason sales ads, presentations, and pitches contain the dynamic “WHY YOU NEED TO COMPLETE THE TRANSACTION NOW.” Create urgency for the purchaser. When you know there are 20,000k seats at your disposal of marginal difference, there will never be urgency for people to buy tickets for non-fireworks and holidays given current # of tickets per game.

  • scripty

    Take this for what it’s worth, when we’d host an event or promotion, or concert, we’d see ticket sales would be brisk from when the venue had roughly 65% pre-sale, you’d get near a sellout. Word of mouth, buzz, etc (and normally a good product) would help get you a high sales figure.
    People would buy b/c they’d also worry about missing an event due to it being sold out, etc. I know this might seem odd but I witnessed this so many times and saw all the figures, per-caps, etc, to know creating energy and a demand for tickets is necessary.

  • scripty

    You cannot say “this isn’t a baseball town” without many people getting all upset. But it’s the truth. For most adults in this area, the Tribe has one of the worst histories in pro sports outside a nice run in the 90’s. This is the truth. There is a substantial history of bad baseball and middling attendance. This isn’t to say this is a bad sports town, quite contrary. But for the bulk of lifetimes for people 70 and under, pro baseball has been a pedestrian product.

  • Steve

    I am kind of on board with that idea, but the problem is, it’s not like those people are showing up later to buy. You can create an incentive to buy earlier – which they’ve done fairly well – but all it does is help you control costs better and take advantage of the people to lazy to go look for any deals. Those are nice pluses for you, but when 10k people show up for a game, hosting it in a 40k or 20k seater makes no difference.

  • scripty

    In my mind, there’d be 30k seats or so. The point of this is to try more STH, mini plans and group purchases ahead of time and creating more demand. However, each seat has more value and you’d have more sell-outs which drives more purchases.
    Just asking – why do you think the hockey team has closed off the upper bowl? Trust me, there are definite reasons outside of the game atmosphere.

  • Steve

    I absolutely agree with all these ideas. But you also can’t sell Indians games like you sell a concert for a band that will be in town one night only.

    We’re having the same conversation in two different spots now, but even if they cut the available seats to 20k, how does that sell any more tickets in April or May, where they get around 10k and they have no choice but to offer seats for the next four months?

  • scripty

    My experience in entertainment, pro sports, and college sports, never did we not care about gross attendance b/c you want the per-cap revenue (all money spent by attendee), you want the actual attendee for your corporate marketing #’s, and you want your product consumed in person. Gross attendance is something they need to worry about for many reasons.

  • scripty

    My #’s say you could get rid of all the 500 level seats and have just over 35,100 seats. So I’d get rid fo the 400-level seats for MON-THUR and offer the 400 level FRI-SUN after Memorial Day. Again, that’d be a start. This would necessitate them re-calibrating price points for all seats

  • nj0

    I concur. People don’t like hearing it, but I think it’s fair. And like you say, there’s nothing really wrong with it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    108 comments on this, really? Then again look at the names of the people posting. Keep beating that drum people, keep beating that drum!!!

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/09/09/sports/09drummer.1.600.jpg

  • Steve

    It’s a shame you had to read through them and comment considering you don’t like the topic.

  • nj0

    Yes, I’m sure it’s a consideration, but it has to be related to overall revenue and profits. If every ticket was $1, they’d probably sell out a lot more games. But they’re not going to do that. I have to imagine it’s a trade-off, a way to get as many butts in seats as possible while still having a solid bottom line.

  • nj0

    Hey, we don’t deny you your BoSox chatter. Don’t deny us our conversation.

  • mgbode

    because the hockey team is not NHL and does not ever think they are going to sell out an arena

    and I do see what you are getting at and there are benefits, but, it is also depressing to go to those levels (in NFL, JAX and Oakland have tarped areas of the upper bowl at times).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Free country Steve, oh I mean nj0!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Free country Steve!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This town would support the team there are just plenty of reasons why not to and when football and basketball start there will be even more.

  • scripty

    If you had a small business of sorts and you had $10k for client entertainment, would you spend $10k on the Cavs, Indians, or half of each? (I’m excluding the Browns b/c their STH sales are less variable). At this point, I’d guess most people are moving 90% of that budget to Cavs.

  • scripty

    so they’re not trying to maximize ticket sales? if they can’t sell out, they don’t work most efficiently? LOLZ

  • scripty

    Definitely some myopia and Stockholm Syndrome in here. Was surprised.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I was surprised the last four years that the Cavaliers drew as many people as they did I figured it would drop off. The fact that it didn’t says something. What I don’t know. But yes absolutely I would pay to see the Cavaliers over the Indians.

  • mgbode

    no, they are working on a different model. the Indians do sell out specific games throughout the year. and, they basically are tarping off areas (online) by not releasing sections for sale until they reach certain thresholds.

    but, if they actually just state that they have 20K seats for sale and that is it. oh, except if we hit 20K, then we’ll sell more (and there’s no reason they don’t want 100K weekends like Detroit). then, it completely undermines the idea.

  • scripty

    Also, they’ve avg’d under 25k per game, so with 35k per game available, you could adjust prices and drive more demand. You’re missing the point that these tickets are going unsold.

  • scripty

    Trust me, working in pro baseball is TERRIBLE. Unless you enjoy never having a domestic life in the spring and summertime. That’s a lot of summer nights you do not get back.

  • scripty

    These are important points. I am sure we all agree the Indians are aware that a 95+ win team will sell itself. But they are looking at market dynamics in 20114-15 with a vastly different local economy. The local corporate partners that used to own STH was extremely high, now it’s abysmally low.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Mmmmmhmmm whole lotta somethin’ that’s for sure! Careful tho, not to loud.

    http://cdn.screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/i-am-legend-sequel-will-smith.jpg

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I often think this is how Steve sounds:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecPeSmF_ikc

  • steve-o

    Analytics aren’t needed to see what is happening.

    1) Over time baseball has moved from the #1 sport in America to #3. A poll would likely show that our favorite sports are football, basketball, then baseball. Sports fans spend their discretionary money accordingly.

    2) In the mid 90’s, we lost our football team and our basketball team was not very good. Also, a new baseball stadium was built and our team became a WS contender. Naturally, our interest in baseball peaked.

    3) Since then, we regained our football team, our basketball team became more interesting, and our baseball team regressed as the stadium aged. Now our interest in baseball has gone back to pre 90’s level, and then some.

    4) Baseball has become a lopsided league, where large market teams gobble up the best players from the small market teams. This has created a great deal of frustration for all of us small market baseball fans.

    5) Wide screen TV’s and HD format have made watching baseball at home a better experience. Going to the game is and always will be much better for most of us, but the gap has narrowed. Also, the cost of watching baseball on TV has increased with the new cable deals. This has sapped some of the money that might have been used to attend games while also motivating fans to stay at home in order to watch something they paid good money for.

    6) Many of the changes affecting baseball in a small market have taken hold during the Dolan ownership, who have become scapegoats for factors largely out of their control. At the same time the ownership/FO has been less than great at public relations and conveying a positive message. As a result, many former fans have become embittered and disinterested.

  • scripty

    Not sure why you use 20k; I’ve given you the #’s. And 3 x 35k = 105K.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Amen. Now ask yourself how much this in-depth study costs and who exactly is doing it. If the Dolans wanna save some money I’ll use my employees discount at Kinkos!

  • nj0

    The Cavs. I don’t even like basketball. I think even in the Lebronless days I would have said the Cavs. More of an event feel. The top tier athletes seem bigger than the sport too. Think I’d go with NBA > MLB in most markets though.

  • nj0

    Didn’t realize we were hostages

  • scripty

    Well first I’d say these practices have proven useful in venues around the country in sports, but the sales trends are comparable to conerts (i.e. a concert can be like a fireworks night). But what you’re doing is adjusting to new local market dynamics and working to eventually drive your STH up by creating a reason for people to get more STH. Over time – like 2-5 years; not overnight.
    The reality is we do not need a 45k stadium for baseball in this city. A properly managed ticket pricing plan would augment for the decrease in present supply, much of what remains unsold. Not to insult you, and not directed at you – but the change in dynamics is necessary. People are oddly attached to keeping the current # of seats. Oddly, I am not sure why? Bottom line, is if you knew you kept not getting tickets to games you’d wanted, you’d buy the tickets ahead of time and most likely for more games than you would now. I know this b/c I’ve seen ticket sales #’s and trends in my previous career.

  • scripty

    The Cavs game presentaton is excellent. The Indians is okay, but the Cavs deliver an excellent product (off-court) and is great for corporate entertaining.

  • mgbode

    you mentioned 30K before.

    honestly, I don’t think 35K would do ANYTHING for demand. If you have 42K seats and you sell 18K, then I don’t really see that as much different than having 35K seats with 18K sold. People are not going to think they HAVE to go out and buy to get a seat.

  • mgbode

    I agree with the general principle, but I am not sure why 35K moves the needle. the Indians have sold more than 30K tickets less than 10x per season the past 5 years.

    http://waitingfornextyear.com/2014/06/high-pressure-home-cooking/

  • scripty

    my point was have that for weekends and reduced for day games. This would be simialr to when the Tribe played day weekdays at League Park and weekends at Muni. But only 25k would be available for purchase initially. Then adjust. Again, the key is to shift the purchasing trends and then fiddle.

  • Lunch
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Perhaps hostage to a certain way of thinking! Anyways I ain’t paying the ransom either way.

  • Lunch
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Never fear $hamrok is here…I have found the solution for the attendance issues for the Cleveland Indians. Now if Steve and his brother nj0 would please forward this to their dad and grandpa I’d appreciate.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/korean-baseball-team-shows-off-robot-fans/story?id=24739820

    Have a nice day!

  • kevin l

    Sorry can’t spend money on lightning in a bottle. Kasmir would have looked good this year. Instead we get to watch Swisher flirt with the Mendoza line. They have not spent there money wisely but I sure will.

  • http://dawgpounddaily.com/author/markjosephpi/ Mark J

    IMO, the Indians’ current problems with the fans really started when so many FAs signed elsewhere. Then ownership doubled down on all of that by trading away back to back Cy Young winners. All of this made a really sh*tty environment for being a Tribe fan.

    Now, I completely get that there are greater powers at work than just THE DOLANZ ARE CHEAP, but that doesn’t make it any easier to be a fan – especially one that is going to attend games and spend time/money at the Prog.

    The current team lacks star power and lacks any players that bring emotional investment. Swisher was a miss on this front. Additionally, asking for more than year to year support requires continuity, not turning over 40% of the rotation.

    Again, I understand shopping from the trash heap in FA, but again that won’t drive fan excitement.

    Tl;dr – baseball economics have drained the “care” out of me.

  • Craig Miller

    There are many better things to blow a couple hundred bucks in Cleveland than sitting and watching a team that hasn’t won a championship since my 78 year old Dad was 12 years old. That being said, I still make it down there for a half dozen games a year. BTW how is it going with Shapiro “burning up the phone lines”?

  • Steve

    I don’t know why you think I’m not on board with a few of your changes. I’m for limiting the seats even further than they’ve already done, and for incentivizing people to buy season tickets/very early instead of walking up to games, something they’ve already done as well. I am, and I well understood the point the first five or six times you made it. You know, not to insult you or anything.

    But the problem is not that people can get tickets to any game they want, so they hold off. It’s that they only want to come for a fireworks/dollar dog night on a summer weekend. Limiting those tickets won’t make people come in April and May or on weekdays or with no firework/dollar dogs.

  • scripty

    I think we’re largely on the same page, I had a few posts going at once LOL. Personally, I think there’s a culture of poor attendance in CLE in APR-MAY. School night baseball has historically been poor here.