Any of you with a professional football team in your hometown likely noticed that the NFL recently made a change to its broadcast rules. For the past 39 years, the NFL had required local broadcast affiliates to black out home games when they were not 100% sold out 72 hours before kickoff. The league used this policy to “encourage” fans to see game in person rather than resorting to watching in the comfort of their own living rooms.
Whether the NFL finally found a heart or it realized that it risked losing fans (i.e. revenue) in these uncertain economic times, the league relaxed the 100% requirement to 85%. A smart move, in my opinion, for a variety of reasons that you can feel free to discuss with me offline if you’re so inclined.
Unfortunately, even as local fans started jumping for joy, several teams announced that they would stick to the old rule–100% sell-out, or no TV broadcast. Fans of the San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, and my beloved Indianapolis Colts immediately transformed their joy jumping into hopping mad. Even though I plan to watch every home game from my season ticket seat, I’m mad, too.
Besides getting my dander up at this strongarm tactic to sell season tickets (the Colts are about 2000 season tickets short of sold out, and owner Jim Irsay notes this in his letter to fans explaining why he’s sticking to the 100% rule), this policy is just bad business practice. Teams [you can substitute businesses here–it applies equally] should be making people fall in love with them. To do that, they have to be accessible to their fan [customer] base. The more chances those fans have to see and interact with the players and teams, the harder it is to ignore them. If people never have a chance to see a game, whether in person or on TV, how can anyone expect them to become fans?
Give fans a chance to get to know the players. Show them personalities, playing style, rockin’ touchdown dances. Give them opportunities to rally behind the team. Build a community that brings people in, not one that keeps people out.
I have a million other arguments on this subject, but none is as vehement as this one. It’s the people who love you who buy jerseys, posters, stickers, license plates, and yes, tickets. You can’t fall in love with someone you’ve never met.
P.S. You can read Irsay’s letter by clicking the image above.