Giants Ballpark: The World’s First Freemium App?

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Good Evening:

For those of you who don’t know, a “freemium” app is software for your smartphone that’s free to download, install, and use, but comes with extra features that enhance the user experience but require payment. The Giants ballpark has existed longer than the iPhone, and yet in one curious aspect, it resembles a freemium app.

I know, I know: sounds like I’ve gone nuts. It is hard to fit a 42,000-plus stadium into an iPhone. Please bear with me.

From the ground up, the architects and owners of the San Francisco Giants baseball club designed their ballpark to allow fans to watch home games for free. I’ve mentioned the chain link fence that serves as the right field wall; herewith I present a collection of shots from the other side.

First Inning Crowd Located at the Right Field Line

First Inning Crowd Located at the Right Field Line (#38 was Brian Wilson’s Number)

Tweeting Before the Game?

Tweeting Before the Game?

First Fan of the Day!

First Fan of the Day!

As far as I know, no other stadium, arena or ballpark for any of America’s four major professional sports allows people to attend games for free. And these guys are the defending World Champs; that kind of quality for free is a pretty darn good deal!

But here’s where the “freemium” features come into play. First, you cannot watch the entire nine innings (or more) for free; at the end of every third inning, the police will (politely) usher the fans out to allow a new set of fans to watch for free. Yes, you can watch innings 1-3, catch a meal, then watch innings 7-9, but for a nominal contribution, you can buy a ticket for standing-room-only seats and attend the entire game. Perhaps not that nominal: according to the Wall Street Journal online, San Francisco has the 8th most expensive average ticket cost in the majors. Considering that the team has won two World Series in this decade, and considering how bad some of the other top 10 most expensive teams are, the tickets might be fairly priced.

Tim Lincecum Warming Up (he had an outstanding outing versus the San Diego Padres and earned credit for the win)

Tim Lincecum Warming Up (he had an outstanding outing versus the San Diego Padres and earned credit for the win)

For Three Innings, Strangers Become Friends and Comrades-in-Arms

For Three Innings, Strangers Become Friends and Comrades-in-Arms

The San Diego Padres Warming Up for the Game

The San Diego Padres Warming Up for the Game

Prepping the Infield

Prepping the Infield

Here’s another point to consider; for just a little bit extra, you can not only attend the entire game, you can also get an actual chair (yes, a chair!) that you can use for sitting.

See how the ballpark begins to function as a freemium app? Yes, you can watch six innings of free baseball starring a team that has gone to three World Series since 2000, winning two of them; however, start spending a little money and many new features become available–nine innings of major league baseball, a chair for a little extra, free rest rooms, et cetera. Suddenly it becomes apparent that free becomes one heck of a fine marketing tool.

Homeless Fan & Best Friend Attending the Game for Free

Homeless Fan & Best Friend Attending the Game for Free

Perhaps the Dog Is a 49ers Fan?

Perhaps the Dog Is a 49ers Fan?

For the past years, the team’s marketing team (one of the finest in baseball) has used some variation of this as the Giants’ slogan: “Together, We’re Giant.” An advertising slogan and marketing tool on television; in the free section, this becomes a genuine sentiment. Everyone is welcome to watch their free three innings of Giants baseball. A retiree in his Giants jacket, local tech workers putting in overtime on a Saturday, families, yours truly the blogger–we’re all equal in the free section because we all paid the same ticket price. Even a homeless man with all his possessions on his back and his best friend on a leash can attend, and together, we are all Giants fans. I should point out that before he joined us and settled in to enjoy three free innings of baseball, he laid out the dog’s blanket first. Sound priorities.

Too bad the dog doesn’t seem to be a fan.

Vonn Scott Bair

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