The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a problem. It’s a problem that many teams are experiencing, however one that has hit the Tampa market pretty badly.
It’s been well documented on this site all of the troubles the Buccaneers have gone through really since around 2008 or so when it comes to attendance. Almost each and every home game the Buccaneers have played over the last 3 years has been blacked out for all of Tampa and Orlando. The Bucs have lowered ticket prices, they’ve taken advantage of a new rule this year that states they only have to sell 85% of non-premium seats to declare a sellout, and they even came up with half season ticket packages.
Despite all this, I will once again have to log onto a streaming site tomorrow to watch my beloved Bucs take on the Washington Redskins. As I write this on a Saturday I’m also gearing up for college football. Being a huge Florida State fan I’m excited they’re coming to Tampa to take on USF today. That game which will be played in Raymond James Stadium is sold out.
The same market where our Buccaneers play is coming out to see the Seminoles play the Bulls in a game that will likely be a blowout, however we can’t even get 85% of the stadium filled on Sundays. Why? Really we can only speculate about why however I believe I have a pretty good theory.
The best answer I can come up with is that people care more about college sports than professional sports. The thing is though, that it actually has very little to do with the sports themselves. When it comes to college sports you’ve got people who went to that college or university. They paid their hard earned dollars to go there, and earn a degree there. When they look up at the wall it will forever say their degree came from FSU, UF, or USF. Where you go to college becomes a part of you. You’re alumni forever. It’s almost second nature that you would support the sports teams of an institution that means so much to you.
Of course you have to care something about sports to some extent however many more casual sports fans will turn out to support their college team than fans will to support a pro team. At the end of the day what connection to us fans have to a particular pro sports team?
Geography is usually the biggest. The team in your market is advertised and part of the daily culture if you’re in a market with a football team. It’s almost by default that you root for the team that plays in the city you live in. However geography is easily changed and often not enough to get the casual observer to spend money to go to a game when they can just watch from home.
Family is often another big reason we cheer for pro teams. I grew up in Chicago, and to this day although almost none of us still live there, my entire family are all still huge Bears fans. I was never as big a fan as the rest of my family however to this day I still harbor some residual affection for the Bears.
Outside of family and geography there are only 2 other things that I can think of that would draw us to professional sports teams. One is aesthetics. If we like the way a team’s uniforms look or the arena they play in or even the style in which they play the game we will support that team. (The University of Oregon is a perfect example of this. Although they’re not a professional sports team you get the point.) The second is the players. A lot of people follow players through college then still support them in the NFL because of where they went to school.
All this is conjecture of course. I could be completely wrong about all this, however I truly believe that if we want to excite a fanbase and really move people to care more about a professional sports team to the point that they will forgo their couches, and big screen TV’s and air conditioning to come to a game, then we have to create more of a connection to the team.
The question then is how can we connect the team with the fans more? We already have a night practice that’s free to watch. Fans have open training camp sessions they can go to. As several of our Bucs Nation members have shown us, season ticket holders have gotten several perks such as tours of One Buc Place, and meeting players and coaches.
All of that is very nice however in this humble writer’s opinion there’s more that can be done here.
How about creating a section in the endzone seats where fans with the best Bucs gear on can be offered to sit instead of their seats? This would get everyone into dressing crazy in hopes of getting into that exclusive section.
How about creating Buc Vision TV channel position for the Buccaneers? During the offseason have fans apply to be a part of Buc Vision and their whole job would be to be filmed doing Buccaneer related activities. Draft parties, free agency signings, night practice, games, etc. This would build connections to the team and also bring more people in as they watch other normal Bucs fans and their enthusiasm for the team. Enthusiasm is infectious and the more people see the Bucs fans getting excited for the team, the more excited they, themselves will be.
The last idea I had was for the Buccaneers to create a Fanatic promotion. It’s kind of like the fans that go to Radio City Music Hall for the draft. There are a certain group of fans that get special passes because they go every year to the draft. Maybe the Bucs could create something where if you go to say, 10 games over the course of 2 years, you’re not a season pass holder per say however you’re at a lot of Buccaneer games. Perhaps you could get some type of pseudo season pass holder type benefits. Season ticket holders would of course have their own special perks that would remain untouched.
This could be another way to get people into the seats. Offer something other than just the game experience which is greatly diminished by the advent of fantasy football and HDTV.
What do you think Bucs Nation? Outside of cost is there anything holding you back from going to Bucs games? Do you have any outside the box ideas that the Bucs could use? If so please share!