Originally posted on The Predatorial  |  Last updated 12/26/12
Earlier today, both Pierre LeBrun from ESPN and Greg Wyshynski from Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy wrote interesting opinion columns about how the NHL could lure apathetic fans back to their loving graces if and when the lockout ends this season and the NHL produces a 40-48 game schedule that stretches into June/July. Their topics covered the league as a whole, both DEFINITELY worth the read, but you know each individual team is going to have to work hard to bring the fans back to the game, especially smaller-market teams. Nashville, albeit enjoying recent success and gate revenue with the personal attendance records they’ve set over the past two seasons, is definitely included in the small-market team discussion. While the Predators have been doing a great job DURING the lockout in terms of fan retention, they’re have already been many who have “hung up their skates” in terms of being season ticket holders and no doubt the casual fan may already be lost. So how do the Predators re-capture that magic in a short amount of time if the lockout ends this year in preparation for the 2013-2014 season? I’ve come up with 5 ways the Nashville Predators can reward season ticket holders after the lockout ends, both current and any new ones that sign on during the season. I’ve also come up with 5 ways the Nashville Predators can draw back in the casual fan and lure people down to 501 Broadway in hopes of bringing them into the arena for some hockey. Season Ticket Holder Reward #1 Free membership for all children of season ticket holders to the Nashville Predators Kids Club (All-Star level). There are currently two levels of the Kids Club: Rookie and All-Star. The Rookie level includes a welcome letter, a monthly e-newsletter, and ticket offers. The All-Star level, for $39, includes the same benefits, monthly chances to win something, invitations to Kids Club events, discounts at the Pro Shop, discounts on GNASH birthday parties/appearances, and a souvenir Preds lunchbox filled with: Kids Club t-shirt, an exclusive Kids Club poster, a foam puck, a sticker, a school supplies kit, and a Preds ticket voucher, for two free regular season tickets. Offer the All-Star Kids Club package for free to all season ticket holders and for any that sign up through the rest of the season, put commercials on TV advertising it. The way to a child’s heart is by giving them cheap gifts for free. I’m a father of three: TRUST ME on that one. Lure the child in, lure the parent in. Season Ticket Holder Reward #2 Re-usable drink mug and popcorn bucket for each Season Ticket account (one per seat). While Carmike Cinema’s doesn’t have a re-usable drink mug, they do have a re-usable popcorn bucket that you buy once and you can re-fill for the entire calendar year for only $3.50. While the bucket is an $18 one-time purchase, it pays for itself after 6 re-fills (for movie buffs like myself, it’s a hell of a deal). The Nashville Predators recently started offering all-you-can-drink cups in certain concession stands scattered through the arena along with bottomless buckets of popcorn for a set fee. So, do this instead: Offer each ticket holder a re-usable drink cup/mug and a re-usable popcorn bucket that they can get re-filled for either free or for much less than the regular price whenever they come to games. Maybe $1 to re-fill, maybe $2, it’s up for discussion, but give a person the chance at severely discounted concessions for a sporting event (especially with the basics of soda and popcorn). Food is another way into the hearts of men, women, and children alike. Season Ticket Holder Reward #3 Have one of the Annual Off-Ice Events include free admission for all Season Ticket Holders. The Nashville Predators and the Nashville Predators Foundation hold annual off-ice events every year to raise money for charity. Most, if not all, of the people that attend the events are Predators fans, season ticket holders, and/or sponsors of the team itself. With massive silent auctions, open bars, and the chance to mingle with the players/coaching staff/and personalities, it’s a pretty big deal. However, it comes at a usual cost of between $75-$200 for an individual ticket depending on which event it is. Well, pick one and offer free admission to all Season Ticket Holders (or create a BRAND new one). For ticket holders that have been before, it’s a pretty big deal and it’s usually a return trip every year for the ones that have experienced it in the past. So, open one of them up for free to current/new season ticket holders and give them an experience they can treasure and remember for years to come. Want to make an impression and have them wanting to come back next year, dropping cash on silent auction gifts or just admission itself all in the name of charity? There’s a good way to do it. Season Ticket Holder Reward #4 Free round-trip shuttle service pass from LP Field for all current/new Season Ticket Holders (one per seat). All events at Bridgestone Arena currently have parking available at LP Field for free with a $3 charge for round-trip shuttle service over to 4th avenue, only one block from Bridgestone Arena. Offer any current/new ticket holder a shuttle service pass (one per seat on the account) for a free round-trip lift on any Nashville Predators game night. Directly from the Nashville Predators website: “There are 1,075 parking spaces available at this location, which is easily accessible from I-65/I-24 via Exit 84 (Shelby Avenue). On Bridgestone Arena event dates, Lot R will be available from two hours before the event until 2 am. Shuttles will operate on 10-minute loops from two hours before an event until midnight. Those choosing to park at Lot R and walk across the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge will have an easy ten to twelve-minute walk to Bridgestone Arena. Or, the shuttle drop off at 4th and Demonbreun will be about a four-minute walk from the Arena. (see map above for shuttle route/pick up points — designated by yellow stars)” Small price to pay for a huge gift like free parking WITH free shuttle service. Season Ticket Holder Reward #5 Allow current/new Season Ticket Holders to PURCHASE a per-game wristband for the All-You-Can-Eat Zone for a minimal fee. The sections between 313 and 322 in Bridgestone Arena are dubbed the “All You Can Eat Seats” for exactly that reason, you can eat your weight in nachos/popcorn/hot dogs/specialty food of the night (hamburgers/chicken sandwiches/etc)/peanuts/and soda. Anyone who is a season ticket holder or has been to a Nashville Predators game in the upper level has walked past this section at one point or another. Anyone who has walked past that section has, at one point or another, said to themselves, “Man…tonight would be a good night for all-you-can-eat food and drink.” Well, offer ticket holders the chance to PURCHASE a per-game wristband. Why not? For a minimal fee (In my opinion $10 or less, because you can pretty much buy a hot dog and a drink for nearly $10 anyways), the purchaser gets a fancy wristband like the season ticket holders who sit in those sections do to eat from that area for the duration that the food/drink is available. Think about it: There are only 4 levels of season ticket prices that are cheaper than the All-You-Can-Eat seats. 4 out of 14. Most people aren’t going to eat but a hot dog, some popcorn, maybe some nachos, and refill the drink a couple times. Any way the Predators look at it, every time they would sell one of those wristbands they would make money on it. The Predators could even cut down what they offer at the All-You-Can-Eat area (maybe only offer hot dogs/popcorn/etc one night and change it the next) or have a completely different area designated for wristband purchasers. —— So, while the above are 5 ways to reward current and lure in new season ticket holders, what about the fans that are on-the-fringe or fans that haven’t been to a hockey game yet? Well, we have you covered there as well: 1) Meet the Team party for ALL Nashville Predators Season Ticket Holders are rewarded with a Meet the Team party before the season starts where they can get autographs from EVERY player on the team, plus the coaching staff/personalities. This year, split it up. Offer the same for season ticket holders, but have another night for ALL fans to get a chance to meet the players and the coaches of their hometown hockey team.. 2) More Promotional Giveaway nights The Predators had giveaway nights very sparingly throughout their games over the past few years, increase the number of giveaway nights and start offering some cool gifts. Bobbleheads, hats, t-shirts, posters, kids jerseys, autographed pictures, etc. Team up with McDonalds and offer a free Shea Weber poster to the first 2000 fans who enter the gates. Get together with Southern Ice and offer a free ice skating pass for the first 5000 fans who come in the arena. Team up with your sponsors and start doing some first-class promotions and giveaways to lure people into the arena and to buy tickets at the gate. 3) Free Admission to one regular season game Currently, Nashville has offered fans the ability to get a voucher for two free tickets to a pre-season game for the past couple of years. Since there is most definitely not going to be a pre-season this year, why not do it with one of the first games if and when the lockout ends? Want to definitively pack the arena? Let people in for free. It works during the pre-season, why not have a packed house early, especially after the angst of the lockout, and start the season off on a good note. Maybe some season ticket holders won’t like that idea? Offer them a voucher for two extra tickets to that game. They can give the tickets to a friend or use them for extra family members. 4) Open Skate with the Team Have a night where people can come out and skate with the players. Offer it free to the public on Bridgestone’s ice. Players come out and skate among the fans, the Predators offer tours of the locker rooms, and try to sell tickets to future games. Giving fans the ability to interact even further with the team is a no-brainer when it comes to trying to get butts in the seats. Show how personable the team is, albeit they already do a magnificent job with it. 5) Free big time Pre-Game Concert The Predators often have pre-game concerts and plaza parties outside the front entrance of the Bridgestone Arena on many Saturday gamedays. However, this time offer the same plaza parties, but offer a pre-game concert with some big named acts. Previously, the Predators have been known to have guests such as Carrie Underwood, Alice Cooper, Vince Gill, John Elefante from Kansas, Charlie Daniels, and others grace their presence in one way or another. Why not call in some favors and have a big time party out front before a game, maybe even the season opener (could be too late for that). There are a lot of artists in the music industry that call Nashville home. Pull some strings, call in some favors, and get some of them to come over and sing 2 or 3 songs each for a huge party before a Predators game. It’s like a night at the Grand Ole Opry, only Nashville Predators-style. —— So that’s it folks. Read it, comment on it, question it, etc. If things are impractical, that’s fine, these are just my ideas as to what the Predators could do individually as a team to try to get fans back into the arena. Something I didn’t think of or something that could make these better? Let me know your take.
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