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Fans vs. Customers

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Written by: John Gilfeather

There is a lot of talk these days about how to measure engagement on social media.

Is liking or following a sign of engagement?

If so, what are the benefits liking or following provide to the marketer?

As the baseball season ended (sadly for my NY Mets), I recalled a meeting I attended at Shea Stadium in the mid-1980s.  I was with a group of business people and we met before the game with Frank Cashen, the Mets’ General Manager.

Mr. Cashen described the economics of baseball in that era.

TV and radio revenues did not cover the team’s costs.  Attendance was the key to profitability.  Attendance meant revenues from tickets, parking and concessions.  As I recall, attendance of 2.2 million was the breakeven point.  That means an average about 27,000 people per home game.

The key point he made was the difference between a fan and a customer. 

Fans root for the team, watch or listen to the games, follow their favorite players and argue passionately about the team’s performance.  Customers come to the ballpark.  They buy peanuts and crackerjacks, beers and hot dogs, cotton candy and knishes (hey, it’s New York.)

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