So the Chargers left town. It confirmed what we all knew: that Dean Spanos and his wiener kids are tremendous dickheads. But this isn’t a story about the dickhead team that left town. This story is about a chance for our beloved Padres to rise from the Chargers ashes stronger than before. San Diego is officially a one-team town, and that one team is being handed a once in a lifetime opportunity to seize the city. After all, listen to sports talk or read the paper around here. The Chargers have owned this market. The Chargers offseason garners 5 times more coverage than the Padres actual season. But no more. And don’t fool yourself; the Padres didn’t want the Chargers as downtown neighbors. They literally chose not to vote in support of it with the Chamber of Commerce. They realized that it would eat into their ancillary revenues, competitiveness in the event market, and quite possibly, that being the only show in town had its own financial benefits. While the Chargers heading to Costa Mesa opens a door for the Padres, nothing will be handed to them. The Padres are heading into a long term rebuild that will feature multiple terrible seasons. The current marketing regime has had a string of uninspired, boring, vanilla promotional schedules. Mike Dee and Ryan Gustafson did all they could do to keep prices of tickets to as close to excessive as they could, locking in their inflated 2016 prices jacked up to try and extort more money for a chance at access to the hosted All Star Game for the likely terrible 2017 season, god forbid they lower prices to match the product on the field. And the team under Dee became better known for embarrassing gaffes than a quality product on the field. The Chargers fanbase will not simply walk up to Petco with open arms. To co-opt the Chargers stupid new slogan, the Padres need to Fight For SD.
As the dust settles on the Chargers move, I believe there is a brief window to bring a lot of the spurned Chargers fans into the Padres fold. Sure, if the 2020 rebuild plan works, people will come out to see a winner. But the team should be focused on sustaining off the field success in the interim and locking in these free agent fans. They are looking for something to root for, and having an overpriced happy hour at the Park at the Park every Friday isn’t going to cut it to convert them. Signing Wil Myers long term is a good first step. The Padres now have a marketing piece to focus their sales pitch around. But there are other steps that need to be taken.
Lower Ticket Prices
The Padres have long offered their season ticketholders a promise that they were getting the lowest price. This prevented them from offering mid-season big discounts on seats during bad seasons. Of course, they could have done it anyways, they just chose not to. Which is fine, why piss off your most loyal customers (ignoring that Dee/Gustafson repeatedly took actions to piss of and alienate their most loyal customers). So for the sake of argument, let’s scratch off the possibility of a whole sale cut to ticket prices. But the Reds (another team who totally sucked in the year after hosting an ASG) and Braves (another going through a full rebuild) offered innovative packages to fans to bring them in. The Reds offered 15 tickets for $59 which were basically the flex tickets that the Padres are currently drastically overpricing. These tickets are a net plus for the team as they are just flexibly filling unsold inventory. The Braves offered 25 games for $125 mid season. These special packages may offer a way for the Padres to drastically cut pricing for a dismal season while technically honoring their season ticketholder pricing promises on single game ticket prices. The secondary effect is obviously introducing the Petco Park experience in quantity to new fans, while reaping the benefits of associated concession sales. Consider it a loss leader to get fans into the door, sell them on the product, and hope to hook them for future seasons.
While we’re on the subject, let’s note that you cannot buy season tickets of Park at the Park passes, seemingly making those tickets outside the promises made to season ticketholders. Cut these prices. Asking a family of four to pay more ~$120 just for tickets to sit on a blanket and watch the game on a big TV is ridiculous when this is supposed to be the product that introduces kids and casual fans to the product. These are supposed to be the true loss leader tickets, and pricing them at $30 on Saturdays reeks of Gustafsonian wringing customers dry.
The Padres, under the current regime, have had some of the least inventive, least creative, most boring promotions in baseball. They also wait until the last possible moment to announce their schedules, which shortens the window to promote and sell tickets based on those promotions. New head honcho Erik Greupner decided to keep Wayne Partello on as Chief Marketing Officer, and it’s time for Wayne to show what he can do without Dee mucking everything up. Another year of bitmoji t-shirts, Dodger Blue beat LA t-shirts, and garbage USB batteries isn’t going to cut it. Not when seemingly every other team takes chances with creative giveaways.
The Garfinkel led Padres had a pretty robust Sunday Kids Day that included a special kids giveaway; stuff like lunchboxes. Bring this back. The goal should be bringing in and locking in young fans and their parents as long term fans. Luis Sardinas and Paul Clemens will not do this.
All Out Marketing Blitz
The current Padres marketing department has mailed it in the past few years by doing a token Padres Caravan focused largely on the core of the city and Tijuana, paired with a half-assed fanfest. For some reason, the team has decided to stage their Fanfest in April, right before Opening Day; you know, right when there is peak coverage and interest in the team anyways. Meanwhile every other team does their Fanfest before Spring Training or during the Winter to spur interest going into the season. Maybe follow along with this best practice? But for some reason, the Padres are late on everything and I have no idea if it’s planned, or just incompetence (we’ve asked for an interview with Padres leaders, and of course were told we’d be bad for the brand).
Well this needs to change. The team needs to blanket the county in marketing. There should be fifty caravan stops at every two-bit strip mall around the county. Resources need to be invested to win over the spurned Chargers fans. The same old strategy will lead to the same old results: a large drop in attendance and interest. Acknowledge past failures and learn from it. Dee is gone. Time to retool.
Marver came up with this, and it makes sense. It will cost some dough. Same Old Padres would cheap out on it. Let’s hope this isn’t the same old Padres. Offer a jersey exchange of Chargers jerseys for a brand new Padres jersey. It doesn’t have to be authentic. It doesn’t have to be Coolbase. Maybe make it a step above the terrible quality giveaway jerseys. This gets the Padres jerseys out into the wild so people can see it and hope for some kind of viral response. It also shows the Padres are trying to win them over. Like I said, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Padres. Now is the time to take chances and make substantial investments.
Bring Him Home
This has no value as a baseball move. He can’t break 90 with a fastball, and really, it has the potential to just turn out really, really sad. But Jake Peavy is on the free agent market, and the Padres are making a point of signing scrubs that can eat innings. Why not sign someone that will bring back positive memories, and give new fans a reason to come out to the ballpark? Casual fans love names they can recognize, and Trevor Cahill isn’t going to pass muster in that category. This one is a slam dunk.
It’s sad that the Chargers left. It is the time to embrace the team that actually wants to be here. I’m not naive enough to think Joe Chargersfan is a direct conversion over to a diehard Padres fan. It will take effort, it will take investment, and it will take risk-taking. It would be entirely consistent with their recent performance history to squander this opportunity, but in an environment where every marginal dollar has a direct effect on the product on the field, we should all be rooting that Wayne and Company learns from past failures and goes all out to put the Padres on more successful ground going forward.