SBJ/Jan. 17-23, 2011/Opinion

Mets find ways to be different with a purpose through perks

One of the maxims that all sport marketers try to live by is differentiation. It is demonstrating to the market that you think, act and deliver differently than the competition. Sometimes it involves creating an entirely new concept, while in most cases it involves taking an idea and reconfiguring it and improving it to make it your own.

This is the case with the New York Mets’ take on a popular ticket renewal incentive program called Amazin’ Mets Perks — 30 Days of Daily Awards. This program is designed to do two things: secure a commitment to renew the ticket plan, and encourage the purchaser to pay in full to take advantage of the incentives being offered.

As many of us do, I monitor SportsBusiness Daily for new ideas and thoughts as well as to gain insight into what organizations are doing or planning to do. Recently, I saw that the Mets’ had announced a price reduction, so I went to the website for more information. While on the site, I saw a listing for Amazin’ Mets Perks and found a fresh take on the 30 prizes concept. I tell — make that, preach to — my students and clients that there is a sequence to the purchasing decision. I refer to this sequence as “mind-heart-wallet,” meaning feeling leads to thinking, which leads to acting. Therefore, how you feel about something marks the initiation of a purchase. The 30-prize concept as developed by the Mets clearly illustrates this premise.

Consider the following prizes and how you would feel about them:

VIP Press Level Visit with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson: View a 2011 Mets home game from a VIP catered box on the press level. Alderson will visit you and your group early in the game.

Junior Mets Reporter: As a junior Mets reporter, your child will interview a player before a 2011 Mets game. The interview will be shown on the Citi Vision board during the game, and a DVD copy will be produced for you as a keepsake.

Seaver Wine Tasting: Attend an exclusive wine-tasting event at Citi Field hosted by hall of famer and Napa Valley vineyard owner Tom Seaver.
A wine tasting with Mets legend and vineyard owner Tom Seaver is among the awards that renewing season-ticket holders can win.

Mr. Met Appearance: Team mascot Mr. Met will attend an event of your choice, like a child’s birthday party or a school visit. Mr. Met will bring along “goodie bags” for up to 20 people.

There are a number of other interesting options, including road and spring training trips and memorabilia, but these opportunities grabbed my attention, particularly the last one I listed. As I am always one to push the envelope, I was curious just how this appearance could be used. Could I bring Mr. Met to show-and-tell at a preschool? Could he be the mascot at a Little League game? Could he take my kids trick-or-treating? When I asked the Mets about each, they assured me that my ideas could happen and, in fact, Mr. Met had just been out “Tricking and Tweeting” this past Halloween.

Each of the opportunities I described would be a powerful emotional event that would then become a story complete with photos and other pieces of supporting evidence that could be told and retold. Consider it a viral campaign with its own social network employed, all telling a story that favorably positions the Mets as an organization that cares about its fans, is willing to do new things and might be a fun place to go to a ballgame.

So what do you need to differentiate?

1. An organizational commitment to be different. Creating unique opportunities often involves using organizational resources (mascots, playing surfaces and personnel) in ways other than their primary intended use. This may require groundskeepers to realize that the grass will grow no matter how many people are standing on it while playing catch.

2. A customer-centric approach. This means thinking about not only what is in the best interests of the customer, but also going beyond that by providing special touchpoints that are prized by their best customers, the season-ticket holders.

3. An awareness and understanding of the competition — not just understanding what the competition does, but more importantly, understanding what they are doing and embracing that as part of what they will do.

4. An appreciation for the need to tell your own story and provide others an opportunity to retell it in their own personal ways. Given the amount of noise and clutter, not to mention what the competition is doing, it is essential to have an effective media and promotional strategy designed to let everyone know what is happening, how it looked and how people felt about it.

5. Willingness to gather feedback and input to evaluate what was done and test concepts to see what could be done. In other words, not just doing research to evaluate, but to probe and assess new concepts and possibilities offered by either the organization or the target market.

Being different is important, but being different with a purpose is critical to business success. Creating meaningful dialogue with your customers through actions is a great way to establish long-term connections that run deep and become relationships. Understand your organizational assets and how they can be used to build your business. And, most importantly, determine how you can best stand out from the herd (and be heard).

Bill Sutton ( is a professor and associate director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_Impact.

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