PDT Sports Editor
Have you heard? If you are a season ticket holder with the Cincinnati Bengals, you are invited to a team pep rally to celebrate the opening of training camp at Paul Brown Stadium.
The catch? You, as the most loyal of the Bengals’ customers, must pay $5 for parking and an additional $10 for entry to this exclusive event that features a Cincinnati-based band and Bengals players.
Always searching for new ways to be labeled “Cheap,” the Bengals have found yet another way to squeeze a penny out of a painfully loyal segment of their fanbase.
The Bengals know they need to improve fan relations. They have been on the bottom half of league attendance for a while. After climbing to No. 22 in attendance rankings in 2008, the team dropped to dead last in 2011.
Meanwhile, their primary competitor for spectator dollars, the Cincinnati Reds, were ranked 16th in fan attendence in 2011 and are currently at 17th out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams in 2012.
A report released by Profootballtalk.com said that NFL game attendance reached an all-time high in 2007. Since then it has consistently dropped. In 2007 the number was 17,345,205. In 2011 the number was 16,562,706. The Bengals front office is probably more acutely aware of those numbers than most NFL franchises.
Having multiple blackouts the last three seasons and steadily declining attendance numbers has conjured an effort of fan outreach from the Bengals brass. But, as per the usual, the Brown family just can’t pull off an authentic, fan-interest move.
Of course, they didn’t have the fan/tax payer interests in mind when they received what has been widely accepted as the most one-sided stadium deal in sports history. And now, 12 years later, they can’t even adequately fake interest in their fans.
While the Bengals have their own public relations issues to overcome, the overall drop in NFL attendance could be attributed to the rise of 50-inch plasma televisions and mobile devices that give you highlights on the go. But big televisions and smart phones aren’t exclusive to NFL fans.
According to a USA Today article that published June 25, MLB attendance is up 8.1 percent over that same point last season. Additionally, MLB attendance numbers are the best they have been since 2008.
The growing sentiment is that football is better on television, suggesting the fan experience at NFL stadiums is lacking compared to the other professional sports. Could it just be that baseball franchises do a better job cultivating an entertaining and engaging atmosphere at their venues?
In a move likely keyed at restoring the fan experience, Mike Brown and company moved training camp to Cincinnati after a 15-season run at Georgetown College in Kentucky. To kickoff the return of the preseason camp to the Queen City, the Bengals throw a party exclusive to season ticket holders and ask them for even more money.
A quarter of a mile down the Ohio River, the Reds do similar preseason event called Redsfest. On top of being open to the general public, season ticket holders have free entry to Redsfest.
Professional sports is a business. Fan outreach and loyalty in professional sports is a veiled attempt to make more money. The aspect that’s unique to the Bengals is their repeated failure — assuming they are even trying — to convince fans that loyalty means more than a red pen or a black pen being used on the balance sheet.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.