I've spoken a lot about ABL attendances in previous blog posts here and here. One of the primary conclusions coming from these attendance analyses is that while the ABL has started solidly, there is plenty of room for growth. I'll return to attendances in future weeks (the Bandits are in the middle of three weekends without a home series), but for now I thought it would be interesting to look more into the strategies the Bandits (and the ABL) are using to build the fanbase. I'll also throw in some ideas of my own.
To start, let's look at something the Bandits do very well - creating an environment that is very kid friendly, and extending this beyond the ballpark. In a really good piece
on Shayne Watson, Alexis Brudnicki reveals some of the work that goes
on behind the scenes. Shayne, last year a Bandits player and this year
the third-base coach, actively engages kids in our local schools with
short baseball orientated clinics (Shayne is a development officer for
Baseball Queensland). If you need some convincing about the value of
these sorts of programs - take a look at the AFL program Auskick.
Through Auskick, the AFL is making huge inroads in Rugby League centric
areas - such as the Gold Coast and Western Sydney. Kids love sport and
are young enough that cultural biases don't yet run particularly deep -
encouraging their involvement at a grassroots level can be very
successful. he families that make it to the ballpark are provided with a
very kid friendly environment - between innings activities involve
races against the mascot, dizzy bat races for prizes, and dance-offs.
Buster (the Bandits mascot) gets a fair workout all night, and there's
always a fair share of kids on the hill throwing a baseball around and
swarming after flyballs. From my observations, I'd say a large
percentage of the crowd on any given night is families - and many of the
children play the sport. The Bandits actively target this market, and
the cowboy hat wearing guy running a lot of the show is a great asset
for them (unfortunately, I don't actually know his name - he does bare
an interesting resemblance to Buster, though).