10 September 2015

Getting a Full House During an Azkals Game at the Philippine Stadium

The Philippine Sports Stadium early n the evening:  a glorious sight.

While the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan is not exactly in the same league as the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, it is nonetheless a work of art as far as I am concerned. The INC, for all its recent troubles, has really done Philippine football a great service.

To see the stadium for the first time early in the evening after the sun has set, with all its lights turned on, is awe inspiring to say the least. It is almost like a work of art.

Its lobby alone is already like that of a mall or a five-star hotel. The inside of the stadium is like being in a parallel universe where football is king of sports in this country: the bright lights almost turn the night into day; the seats are neatly laid out and individually marked with metallic numbers; the pitch is flat and meticulously manicured.

It is light years away from the trusty if rickety old Rizal Memorial.

The only disappointment from my first visit to watch the Philippine Azkals play Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifier was that the attendance was not anywhere near what it should have been, and particularly so considering the stature of the opponents and the importance of the match.

The stadium’s capacity is pegged at 20 thousand for football matches; but the night’s attendance was estimated to have been merely 7,500. Realistically, and considering that football is but an emerging sport in this country, that number was better than the average attendance in recent Azkals matches.

However, it also represented 12,500 unsold tickets and, therefore, unrealised potential income. How, then, do you sell out the Philippine Sports Stadium for a Philippine Azkals match to maximise the stadium’s earning capacity?

When my office used to promote concerts at DLSL in aid of the school’s scholarship program, we learned from professional promoters that the ideal situation was always to get enough sponsors to cover all expected expenses so that ticket sales became guaranteed income.

They do say that there is no such thing as a free lunch; and the first question that potential sponsors always ask is how much exposure they will get. For an Azkals match, there is always television coverage; but this does not guarantee exposure because where the camera pans is not something a promoter can control.

There is also media exposure, but whether the sponsor is mentioned at all is always at the mercy of an editor. Thus, the selling point to attract potential sponsors will have to be the size of the crowd; and the more the merrier.

Assuming that a base of hard core football fans willing to brave tsunamis, typhoons, earthquakes and the most horrific disasters of all – EDSA – to travel to the Philippine Sports Stadium for an Azkals match can be optimistically pegged at 10,000, this still leaves another 10,000 gaping seats and unrealised potential income.

In a perfect world, the entire stadium ought to be filled with football fans. The world is not perfect, of course, and if the objective is to fill the stadium, then anybody promoting an Azkals match – the PFF, we assume – ought to be willing to tap a non-football market.

To my mind, and from experience, one of the easiest markets to tap into will have to be schools. What needs to be sold is not necessarily the football match but instead the experience; and experience is educational and, therefore, worth a trip.

There is also the added benefit of, hopefully, coaxing any first-timers into becoming fans. There is nothing original to this concept. Colleges and universities have been asking their Physical Education classes to attend NCAA and UAAP matches for the longest time.

Of course, these PE students have an established affinity to their respective schools. Do not argue with me that these same students do not have an affinity for the Azkals because I will bitch slap you! The Azkals represent the country and no school ought to ever come before the Pearl of the Orient Seas.

However, to call on this patriotic duty, the PFF needs to invest in a little public relations. That this untapped market becomes available at all may come at no more than the cost of a cup of coffee with the schools’ decision makers. I know what I am talking about. I used to work in a school.

Any school within a 50 kilometre radius from the stadium can be treated as a potential market, particularly those north of the stadium from where travellers need not pass through the torture of navigating EDSA.

If possible, kick-off time may have to be pegged earlier, particularly if there is a desire to attract the younger market. At any rate, even an 8 o’clock kick-off may be alright for senior high and university students. Besides, if at all, they will arrive as part of organised tours, anyway.

There was something of a festive atmosphere outside the stadium when I went with my club to watch the Uzbekistan game. There can be a flea market or a trade fair outside, street dancing, mini-concerts or a host of other activities that can make a trip to the stadium by students something to look forward to; and the Azkals match can be the crowning glory to an activity-filled day.

Of course, I am just thinking hypothetically and I do not really know if the PFF has the manpower. Still, 10,000 new ticketholders with a conservative average ticket price pegged at PHP 150 is PHP 1.5M of added income; not to mention that a full house becomes more attractive to potential sponsors.

Money matters apart, imagine what the impact will be not just on the Azkals on the pitch but on others watching the full house on television. Worth a thought, and worth a blog, at any rate.


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