Opening Day is March 30
Dave Schwab | Downtown News
The San Diego Padres marketing team is promising fans an exciting new season packed with lots of promotions and giveaways to lure them into Downtown’s Petco Park.
This year’s team can use some promotional “chatter.”
In 2013, the 45-year-old major league club finished 20th (out of 30 teams) in attendance, with 2,166,691 fans passing through its turnstiles, an average of 26,749 per game.
By comparison, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the best major league attendance with 3,743,527 averaging 46,216 per game. Lowest attendance was the Tampa Bay Rays, with 1,510,300 fans coming through their gates, an 18,645 per-game average.
The Padres are also a smaller-market professional baseball team with considerably less funding to work with than some. They were near the bottom in 2013 — 25th out of the league’s 30 teams — in payroll, with an estimated $71,689,900. By contrast, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers had the two highest payrolls at $228,995,945 and $216,302,909, respectively. The stingiest team was the Houston Astros with $24,328,538.
So how does a low-payroll, big-league team like the Padres — with no marquee names — promote itself in major league baseball’s highly competitive market?
By aggressive promotion, offering attractive home-game giveaways, and through team-fan interaction and community outreach, answered Padres SVP/Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Partello.
“Every Saturday night, every fan in attendance at the game gets a high-quality giveaway — that’s a lot of giveaways,” noted Partello, who oversees all aspects of Padres’ marketing and content, including its creative services, communications, entertainment and production, and the broadcasting and integrated digital and social media departments.
Everything imaginable from regular, mesh and floppy hats to long-sleeve T-shirts, beach blankets, sports bags and bobble heads — even pet bandanas — will be passed out to fans on Saturday nights this coming season.
“Our most popular giveaway is a fedora [stylized hat] that we’re bringing back this year with a new look,” Partello said, adding that apparel and other gift items selected as giveaways are determined by fan popularity.
Also new this year is Petco Park’s sound system, which Partello said has been “much improved for music and public address announcements.”
Special nights during the Padres’ home schedule this year will also salute Jackie Robinson, and every branch of the military — even their spouses — as well as honoring police and fire personnel, who will be saluted as “first responders.” In addition, there will be a Beerfest, a WineFest, a KidsFest and a College Night.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Padres at Petco Park. That milestone will be observed the second weekend in May, with a special post-game fireworks show May 9 and a commemorative canvas art collectible May 10.
The club will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of its 1984 National League Championship with a Padres “Brownout.” For the first three games of the four-game series against the Chicago Cubs in May, the Padres will wear throwback brown and orange jerseys from 1984. On May 23 fans are encouraged to break out their old “Cubs Busters” T-shirts and fill Petco Park with Padres brown. On May 24, all fans will receive a retro Padres replica jersey, and on May 25, all fans will receive a pair of sunglasses.
Though the Padres may not have many “big name” players to promote this year, Partello pointed out that the club has lots of rising talent to talk about, and that conversation will be done differently in 2014.
“We’re launching a new TV-radio show that will take place live before the games airing on Fox Sports San Diego as well as a radio affiliate,” Partello said. “We need to do a better job of letting our fans get to know these guys.”
Partello said players will be profiled on the pre-game TV-radio broadcast at Petco Park “81 times this season and hopefully more,” meaning the playoffs, should the Padres go that far.
“The more people get to know these guys who are taking the field every night, the more they’re going to want to be there to cheer them on,” he said.
Community outreach and connecting with the fan base, wherever it is, is a cornerstone of the ball club’s marketing strategy.
“We want to be part of their community and we want them to be part of ours,” Partello said, pointing to two key communities — Hispanics and the military — that the team plans to target in its marketing.
Above all else, Partello said it’s important to remember that baseball is not only a sport but prime entertainment.
“We want to bring the fun back to baseball in San Diego,” he said, adding high-tech is allowing the fan’s game experience to be more interactive than ever.
“We’re going to be doing a lot more during the games on our video board with prerecorded stuff from our players,” Partello said. “We think that will be entertaining for our fans.”
Partello said the objective is to offer fans a sensory experience that will “get people out of their seats” and enjoy themselves while there.
“It’s baseball, it’s fun, it’s entertainment all in one,” he concluded.
Padres’ baseball remains one of the most afforable spectator sports anywhere.
“The Park in the Park is a low-price ticket starting at $10 and we have a much larger video screen out there now,” Partello said, adding the team also does lots of charitable promotions.
“We donated 15,000 Little League jerseys through San Diego County,” he said.
It’s a new season for a new San Diego Padres team.
“The team’s ready,” Partello said.
Opening Day is Sunday, March 30 when the San Diego Padres take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park at 5:05 p.m. For more information or tickets, visit padres.com.
—Dave Schwab came to San Diego 30 years ago with a journalism degree from Michigan State University and has worked and freelanced for numerous dailies, weeklies and other regional publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org