Red Sox to Woo Skeptical Fans with Cheap(er) Beer
The Red Sox are temporarily lowering the prices of several concessions at Fenway Park in April in order to encourage better ticket sales, which … well, if we’d known that beer prices were pegged to team performance, we probably wouldn’t have whined quite so hard last season. (Just kidding, we would have. We’d just be a bit more buzzed while we did so.) The Globe’s Amalie Benjamin reports that kids under 14 will get a kid’s meal for free before the third inning, the rest of us will get two-for-one hot dogs, half-price hot chocolate, and, blissfully, a 12-ounce cup of beer for $5, down from $7.50 to $8.50. Five dollar beer! What is this, a frat house?
Kidding aside, this is interesting not just because it’s a rare instance in which Boston’s prices are lower than the rest of the country’s (the average cost of beer in America’s ballparks last season was $6.10) but because the Red Sox are far from the first team to see a relationship between concession prices and attendance. The Cleveland Indians lowered their beer price by a dollar this season, too, something people have speculated might have to do with that team’s Moneyball-esque attitude toward statistics in their marketing department. Baseball Prospectus editor Ben Lindbergh wrote an article recently describing how the Indians are “applying some of the same principles to marketing as the game’s new breed of progressive GMs has to Baseball Ops.” He writes:
The Indians gave the company five years of historical data (2007–11) on attendance, ticket sales, and promotions, and ThinkVine used it to generate an agent-based model (as opposed to a more traditional econometric, or regression-based approach) that would help the team develop a “base probability” that an Indians fan would attend any given game
“Dollar Dog” days, for instance, were the biggest draw, better than bobbleheads or Kids Fun Days. But they weren’t necessarily the most dependable; Dollar Dog days did better when the Indians were winning, whereas fireworks nights were highly resistant to team performance.
The Red Sox might not be diving as deeply into the “sabremetrics of marketing” as the Indians. You don’t need advanced statistics to know that in a general sense, if you build it (“it” being cheap beer and two-for-one hot dogs) they will come. But hey, if this works and the Sox don’t get good enough at actual baseball to encourage attendance out of genuine fan enthusiasm, you could foresee Fenway lowering concession prices beyond April. Of course, most of us might be willing to pay $6.50 for a beer and a win, but after last season, we might just have to take what we can get.