For the first time in recent memory, the Edmonton Eskimos appear destined to not lead the league in attendance. With Mosaic Stadium in Regina on steroids in preparation for the Grey Cup, the Riders have enjoyed even larger crowds than usual. With the entire Eskimo organization giving off the fetid stench of decay, it’s hardly surprising that crowds have dropped off.
I suspect the Eskimo brass will be inclined to blame the team’s shameful record, but that’s far from the only reason for this year’s dismal crowd counts. I suspect that even if the Eskimos were 10-3 instead of 3-10, the crowds wouldn’t be a whole lot better. The bigger problem is that the Eskimos don’t have a clue in how to sell the product in a crowded marketplace.
It’s not enough to open the doors and expect people to line up to get in. Even the Oilers (who have thousands of lemmings ready to pay exorbitant amounts to watch a crappy team) know that they have to sell the game. The Eskimos? No clue.
The Edmonton Eskimos have thousand of seats to peddle each game, and nine chances to do it. Amazingly, they don’t seem to have any clue how to do it. Last year, someone in the team hierarchy decided that bringing in faded singers and cut-rate reality stars would bring in the fans (the low point was bringing in a former star of The Bachelor, a move which I’m sure resulted in exactly zero extra tickets sold). That didn’t work, clearly, so this year the Eskimos opted to do … nothing. No promotions. No gimmicks. Nothing. Just overpriced tickets (cheapest is $25 in the nosebleeds) and game presentation that is, at best, sub-par, at worst, enough to chase away formerly loyal fans, like me.
The Eskimos clearly have decided to put all their eggs in the season ticket basket. They appear to be making no effort to lure in the casual fan, the folks who might want to go to go to two or three games a year, middling fans who just want a fun, relatively inexpensive night out. If you can go to a movie for two for under $25, you’re going to have to do something special to get that same couple to part with $50 to go to a football game. To get those casual fans, you have to make an effort.
Here’s an idea: BOGO. Have a ‘buy one, get one free’ ticket night. Here’s another: have a $10 ticket night (cheapest tickets only so as not to piss off season ticket holders). Or how about a flash ticket sale via Twitter or Facebook with reduced ticket prices for a select time? I mean, c’mon, Eskimos, you’ve got to come up with nine ideas to sell tickets. I’ve just given you three. Hell, it would be better to give away those empty seats just to get some people in the building (who will no doubt buy food and drink) rather than a half-empty building devoid of atmosphere.
(Oh, and for the loyal fans that buy an entire season? How about a loyalty card that entitles them to a percentage off merchandize and food? Or contests with big prizes available ONLY to season seat holders? Or maybe add one season seat holder to the board of directors for a one-year term to get a feel for what the paying public thinks?)
Once you get them through the gates, you’ve got to stop treating the fans like they’ve never been to a football game before. We do NOT need generic, crappy music blasted at full decibels at every break. If you need noise, pump in some fake crowd noise, ANYTHING but your music choices. And get a new announcer who doesn’t treat every Eskimo first down like it’s the second coming of Jackie Parker. (Speaking of second comings, any chance of resurrecting the late, great Wes Montgomery? Or, failing that, find one, single Edmonton radio personality with a modicum of wit to handle the PA chores. Surely such a person exists, right? I say, and I right?)
See, Eskimos? It’s not that hard. Hire an outside marketing firm if you must. It will be money well spent if you add a few thousand more bums in seats. Unless something changes at the top, the head coach’s head won’t be the only one that should roll.