SBJ/May 4 - 10, 1998/No Topic Name

Switch to NL gives Brewers life

They began distributing the T-shirts the day they put tickets to single games on sale, and the momentum has been building ever since.

"We’re Taking This Thing National," the slogan on the Milwaukee Brewers’ promotional merchandise read.

The result: more interest than the Brewers have generated since they were contending for championships, with average attendance for April up 50 percent over the same period last season.

The Brewers drew 209,015 to 11 dates this April, an average of 19,001 per game. They attracted only 12,624 per game during April last season.

"Moving to the NL has carried us to levels we haven’t seen before," said Laurel Prieb, the Brewers vice president for corporate affairs. "Things are definitely looking up."

When the Brewers agreed to shift leagues last year as part of a realignment that accommodated two expansion teams, they didn’t merely accept the shift. They embraced it.

The result was a marketing campaign that, when piggybacked to the excitement that comes with the promise of a new stadium, has revitalized interest in baseball in a city that appeared to be losing touch with its storied history in the game.

Days before the season opened, the Brewers already were more than two-thirds of the way toward eclipsing their ticket sales of a year ago, when they drew 1,411,064 fans to 78 home dates, the fourth lowest total in all of Major league Baseball.

This season, the Brewers sold a million tickets before Opening Day, putting them about 25 percent ahead of last year’s pace. Group tickets were selling at a record pace, with groups booking earlier than usual. The Brewers also sold more season tickets than ever before.

"Throughout the entire state of Wisconsin, there’s more interest in the Brewers organization than I’ve ever seen – and I grew up 10 minutes form this ballpark," said Bob Voight, the team’s vice president for ticket sales. "All the research that’s been conducted scientifically, plus the barstool research that you hear, indicates that the move to the NL is a big part of that."

The Bewers’ marketing approach this season taps into both their history and the promise of Miller Park, a showplace ballpark scheduled to be ready in 2000.

Hank Aaron, who played nearly a decade in the majors with the NL’s Milwaukee Braves before they moved to Atlanta, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Brewers’ home opener this year.

The Brewers also are using this season to remind fans that Milwaukee’s County Stadium was host to the great NL players of the ‘50s and ‘60s (Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial), the great AL players of the ‘70s and ‘80s (Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson, et al.) and now players from both leagues in the ‘90s (Cal Ripken and Barry Bonds.)

"We’re building excitement around both County Stadium and Miller Park," Voight said. "We’re constantly talking about the players who are going to be visiting County Stadium this year. …It’s something we did last year with inter-league play that generated interest. Now, we can take it all the way."

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