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Why the Padres “5-Win Pass” is a Fail.

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The Padres are trying to get fans into Petco Park. They’re not quite doing it right. The new 5-Win Pass doesn’t hit the mark.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres
The Padres are trying to get fans into Petco Park. They’re not quite doing it right.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Today the Padres announced a new ticket promotion: the “5-Win Pass.” If this sounds familiar, it’s nearly identical to a promotion they ran last year. Fans who buy the $99 pass get to attend as many Padres home games as they wish through the month of August... until the team wins 5 home games. This promotion was a flop last year (as Darklighter pointed out), yet they’re running it again, and I’m here to tell you why it’s not a great idea.

First let’s talk about overall value. Other teams, many with better win-loss records, many in even larger markets than San Diego, are offering bulk pricing deals in attempts to boost attendance. All of them are cheaper and simpler than what the Padres are offering. I haven’t been able to tabulate this year’s promotions, so I’ll just be lazy and point to HJ Preller’s Gwynntelligence article from last year for comparison. The Padres are trying to give fans some incentive to come to the ballpark, but they clearly value the “ballpark experience” of Petco Park at a premium over everyone else.

Last year this promotion went about as poorly as the team could have hoped. Presumably the “5 Win” idea was proposed because the team wasn’t considered all that likely to win that many home games quickly. To the dismay of those who bought the pass, the team won 5 of the first 9 home games, leaving the pass holders on the outside looking in for the final seven home games of the month. At the time it felt strange to root for a team to lose just so fans might get to come to a couple more games. The team is actively marketing the “ballpark experience” over the product on the field already, but this strategy gives fans the message that “The team sucks, so come for the expensive beer and food instead.” We’re supposed to root for the team to win, aren’t we?

So that’s the obvious glaring flaw from last year’s failed promotion which has been carried over to this year’s. Even though the promotion was panned across multiple media outlets and not well received by fans, they’re rolling with it for a second year anyway. Perhaps to try to save the concept, they added some sweeteners to this year’s deal, which I still feel are dumb. Here’s a quote from the offer’s page:

Fans receive a ticket for the first game of their pass, beginning on July 27, and every subsequent Padres home game until they have claimed tickets for five home victories or until September 30, whichever happens first. Passes purchased on or after July 27 will be delivered tickets for the next home game occurring at least 24 hours after the purchase.

Your tickets will be delivered digitally and can be managed in the MLB Ballpark app. Exact seat locations will vary by game and delivered four hours prior to first pitch. The Padres Five-Win Pass is on sale until September 2 and a limited number are available, so get yours today!

Padres Five-Win Pass seats are located in Left Field Upper Reserved with overflow seating in Upper Infield except for September 1 due to seat inventory constraints. Overflow seating for Saturday, September 1 will be in Right Field Lower Reserved. Seating location will depend on how fast you claim your tickets for a designated game and seat inventory availability.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres
Maybe Ron Fowler should ask Andy Green for marketing advice.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!! If you were reading carefully, you might have seen this little nugget: “Exact seat locations will vary by game and delivered four hours prior to first pitch.” Okay, so you want me to buy a seat upgrade, but you won’t tell me where my seat is until it’s nearly time to head to the park? The team could easily sell these packages for certain upper-deck sections or Park at the Park tickets, where your starting location is a known thing, but instead it’s a nebulous point somewhere in the vicinity of 100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101.

Petco Park is one of the Crown Jewels of baseball. The ballpark experience goes beyond the product on the field. Ownership has invested in the stadium, they’ve worked to make the experience enjoyable for all fans, and should be proud of it. But when the team isn’t winning and seats are going empty, added incentive is in order to compel fans to lay out their hard-earned cash and come out to the ballpark. Other teams seem to understand this and are proactively offering interesting value packages, but the Padres can’t just put a simple offer on the table. Fans aren’t ballplayers who want options and incentive bonuses wrapped into a deal, they want something concrete and easy to understand. Maybe one of these days the marketing folks at Petco will realize that their strategies intended to squeeze every dollar out of the customer are counter-intuitive. Instead of drawing fans in, these complicated marketing angles come across as confusing and borderline greedy when compared to what other teams are offering. It’s nice to see the team try to join the “Park Pass” party, but this shot doesn’t quite hit the mark.