A Marketing Lesson from Roy Halladay's Perfect Game

Today’s teachable moment in marketing comes from the Major League Baseball. Specifically, the lesson can be found in ticket sales. The Florida Marlins, whose average attendance ranks 28th out of 30 MLB teams this season, made news when it sold more than 3,000 tickets in a few hours earlier this week for a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Why is this accomplishment noteworthy? The game was played last week, the Saturday before the tickets were sold on Tuesday. The Phillies beat the Marlins 1-0 that day, and Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay became the 20th pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game. The Marlins offered unsold tickets at face value and will continue sales until the end of the season. Ticket prices range from $12-$300, with most tickets selling for less than $25, according to an Associated Press story.

Some people have questioned the ethics of profiting from an opposing team’s accomplishments and that this move does nothing to help the Marlins’ image in south Florida. I will leave that for others to decide. What I find interesting in this story is that it reminds us that consumers’ value judgments may not always seem rational. After all, would we pay for a haircut we never got or for legal consultation but never visited a lawyer? The difference in the case of the perfect game baseball tickets is that there is a great deal of emotion and passion connected with consuming sports. The tickets were bought not for any functional value- there is none because the game has been played already. It is the intangible value of holding a ticket for an event that has occurred only 20 times in more than 100 years of professional baseball. It is a piece of history that one can hold onto and say “I remember this happening” (they can’t honestly say “I was there,” now can they?).

The takeaway from the Florida Marlins post-game marketing of Roy Halladay’s perfect game is this: you must understand what customers value from their relationship with your brand. For them, what they receive from you is not a product or service- it is what your product or service does to make them feel better about themselves or improve their quality of life in some way. It is an often-stated slogan: People buy benefits, not products. True, but extend the means-end chain further to ask “what is the significance of the benefits to our customers’ lives?” Exploring that question can have an impact on what you sell, how you position it, and who you target.

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