Marketing to the Opposition

I received an email today from one of the teams that I follow with a special ticket offer. I always open these emails to see what types of discounts and packages teams create for their fans, but this one was a bit different than normal.  Instead of promoting a home game, which helps sell your own ticket inventory, this was a discount offer for tickets to a road game. And it’s not like the opponent is playing right around the corner – the other team plays about 2,000 miles away.

The content of the email went something like this (team names removed for anonymity):

Special Offer for LOCAL-TEAM Fans

Stay warm this winter by heading south for LOCAL-TEAM action!

OPPOSING-TEAM is offering YOU the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to cheer on your team in OPPOSING-TEAM-STATE.


Don’t miss this HOT deal! Click here to purchase.

So why run a special offer like this? Let’s look at it from the both team’s perspectives:


  • In a way, the team is passing on a potentially valuable opportunity to any of their fans that reside in the OPPOSING-TEAM’s state or who might be traveling that way in the future. I think the first situation is the best audience for this offer, so this type email should probably be geo-targeted to just those fans in that state. For local fans that do not travel to road games, this email offers little value and could generate opt-outs.
  • Also, we don’t know how many tickets the LOCAL-TEAM still has to sell to their own home games. If they are regularly sending their own sales emails, this road game offer can add to “email noise,” making it less likely that a customer will notice a future email offer that does interest them.
  • Finally, sending this email can be a nice act of goodwill towards the OPPOSING-TEAM, if that team is having trouble selling tickets. You would assume that they would be willing to return the favor if the LOCAL-TEAM needs assistance as well.


  • Generally, a team wants to market to their own fans as much as possible and continue to build their own customer base. Maybe additional resources need to be dedicated to local fan development or local media.
  • The decision to openly market to the opposing team’s fan base represents a significant trade-off. Do you potentially sacrifice the game environment for your current fans and customers in order to sell a few more tickets? For teams in certain smaller markets, you can definitely make the argument that marketing to this audience is essential to reaching sales targets.
  • If your fans realize that the team is marketing to the opposition, could there be backlash? This happened to the Washington Nationals when they sold large quantities of tickets to this year’s home opener to groups of Phillies fans.

I believe there can be value to this particular approach, but both teams need to weigh the relative value and decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.

3 thoughts on “Marketing to the Opposition

  • November 17, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Over here in Europe (soccer) we have this quite often as it is normal that fans follow their teams. It’s common that clubs organize travel to away games. Just as an example, in England Arsenal London has a strategic partnership with travel agency Thomson, which includes team travel but also transport of fans to home and away games. A couple of other clubs have similar arrangements.
    I remember that in Germany, Borussia Dortmund even owned their own travel agency which they sold off later when the club got into financial woes.
    Just one quick additional remark on your analysis: I would doubt the assumption that bringing in more away fans automatically sacrifices environment or atmosphere. If 10% of the audience are away fans, the atmosphere is usually a lot more fired up than without away fans. By organizing the streams of away fans you would also better be able to seat them together in particular blocks in the stadium which will a) improve the atmosphere and b) make it easier to control from a security standpoint.

  • November 19, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I received the same email and was surprised when it came to me, living no where near the other two teams it originally mentioned. I don’t disagree with the thought behind it, as we do a similar thing, but I think the key is to make sure you’ve identified your target segment and not just batch and blast.

  • November 19, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Thank you both for your feedback – you both make excellent points!

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