Teams Pitch Mailing, Telemarketing Campaigns

Major League Baseball teams at new spring training sites and the league's two expansion teams are relying on direct mail and telemarketing to attract fans.

In Tucson, AZ, for their first spring training, the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks have partnered with the Chicago White Sox, who just moved to the desert from Sarasota, FL, and the resident Colorado Rockies to jointly market a 46-game spring training schedule.

Spring training games began Feb. 28 and continue through March 29. The regular season starts March 31.

Since October, the three-team marketing operation has mailed more than 50,000 pieces to potential ticket buyers in the Tucson area using lists provided by the University of Arizona baseball team, minor league teams and area softball associations. Nonrespondents receive a follow-up telephone call. Churches, schools and Tucson businesses with more than five employees received three-team season-ticket and group-sales offers.

In a previous mailing, the Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau sent 85,000 ticket and information brochures to lists of season-ticket holders in Phoenix, Chicago and Denver provided by each team.

“Direct mail has been extremely productive,'' said Mark Fernandez, director of Tucson operations for the Diamondbacks and coordinator of the three-team effort. “We have added 100 Rockies spring training season-ticket holders [to an existing 600] and 1,000 each for the White Sox and Diamondbacks.''

A database of prospects also is being compiled for the Diamondbacks by Shell Vacations, Scottsdale, AZ, a real estate company with a fan-development and audience-research division. Shell distributes fan surveys at America West Arena, home of the NBA Phoenix Suns and NHL Phoenix Coyotes; the Phoenix Open golf tournament; malls; trade shows; and other community events around Phoenix and Tucson.

Promotions such as free tickets or autographed items are offered to encourage survey participation. The survey, designed by the Diamondbacks, asks questions such as: “Have you ever attended a Cactus League game [the equivalent of Florida's Grapefruit League]?” and “Would you be interested in finding out more about the Diamondbacks?”

“We can tell the Diamondbacks everything,” says Howard Ginsberg, Shell vice president and director of marketing. “Where [the fans] are from, how they found out about it, e-mail addresses, the quality of experience at the ballpark.''

Shell generates real-estate time-share leads from about 5 percent of survey respondents. Twenty percent of Shell's 400,000-name database comes from sports teams' ticket sales, according to Ginsberg. Shell maintains survey booths at spring training games for the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, AZ, and the Milwaukee Brewers, who moved this year from Chandler, AZ, to a new park in Phoenix.

Spring training allows the Diamondbacks to bridge the gap between rival cities Tucson and Phoenix, where the team will play its regular-season games. Marketing efforts in both cities already have generated 34,000 season-ticket sales, giving the Diamondbacks the second-largest fan base in the major league before playing a single game.

“They've really become a state team,” Fernandez said. “It's great for the Diamondbacks and baseball, which needs to rebuild fans.''

Jupiter, FL, has welcomed the Montreal Expos from the nearby West Palm Beach and the St. Louis Cardinals from St. Petersburg, FL, to its new, 7,000-seat Roger Dean Stadium.

Stadium marketing director Kelly Burke and her staff developed a database of more than 12,000 names of ticket buyers from Municipal Stadium in West Palm Beach, former home of the Expos and the Atlanta Braves. Added to that were lists of local businesses and the Cardinals' spring training season-ticket holders, leading to a stadium mailing of 18,000 pieces since last summer.

“Awareness is pretty high,'' Burke said. “In the past, we conducted telemarketing, but we didn't need to do that this year.''

Telemarketing has been a big boost to the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Working off lists rented from Dun & Bradstreet and supplied by coupon mailer Knudsen, a staff of nine that grew to 12 has been prospecting for spring training and season-ticket buyers since January 1997.

“We've seen very positive results,'' said Dick Barry, director of ticket sales for the Devil Rays, who are based in St. Petersburg for spring training. “Our goal is 27,000 season tickets, and we're still pushing toward that.''

The Devil Rays also have seen a good response from ticket inserts placed in Knudsen and Val-Pak coupon mailings. They plan additional inserts in a team newsletter that is sent to season-ticket buyers and distributed at major team publicity events.

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