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01/25/10 4:18 PM EST

Reds seeing green in ticket sales

Latest marketing efforts helping in retention of client base

CINCINNATI -- The Reds players' offseason will be over in a matter of weeks when they report to Spring Training on Feb. 18. Opening Day is right around the corner after that on April 5.

For the Reds' ticket sales department, responsible for getting as many people into seats as possible at Great American Ball Park, there is no such thing as an offseason. The sales force has been on the go and the early indications are showing that their efforts are bringing results.

Season ticket renewals are up and sales are going well.

"I think that we've done a really good job of retaining our client base out there right now, which is the lifeblood of what you do in any sports organization," said John Davis, the Reds' senior director of ticket sales. "You try to retain your season ticket base and grow it. This year, we budgeted a 78 percent renewal and we're coming in now at right around 82 percent. Last year, for comparison, we were at 74 percent. We do feel good."

Although no specific sales totals were revealed, Davis also noted that new season ticket sales are two and a half times better than where they were at this point last year.

That is encouraging considering that the Reds have been one of the quieter teams during the Hot Stove season. Although this month's signing of Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman sent shockwaves, no major free-agent acquisitions were made that might have spiked sales earlier in the offseason. The club has also endured nine consecutive losing seasons. Add in the nation's economic nosedive last year and the club saw its attendance dip in 2009. It drew 1.747 million fans, which was down by around 300,000 from 2008 and the lowest attendance total since 1986.

What is behind the stronger ticket sales? The Reds are willing to offer their customers more reasons to want to buy or renew season tickets.

"We've really heard a lot of positive comments about the benefits we came up with this year to entice people to see the value of what it means to be a season ticket holder," Davis said.

There are new perks being offered to season-ticket holders that renew. One is a chance at buying more tickets for Opening Day, which is one of the most coveted dates on the Cincinnati calendar.

Season-ticket holders for 13 or more games now get complimentary access to the Riverfront Club restaurant. In the past, such access would cost $250. Those who renew before the Nov. 20 deadline can also attend a fan photo day, where they can meet and greet with players on the field.

"It was those kinds of benefits that people were looking forward to," Davis said. "We had a robust plan that we put into place, which started in April of last year. We identified clients and customers that we felt would be high risk for not renewing. They were either first-year clients or No. 2, we saw that they weren't using their tickets a lot. We would contact them and meet during games and ask them questions on how things were going, how they used their tickets and some observations.

"We wanted to get some feeling about what they were thinking. From that, we found that their issues with the Reds had very little to do with the product on the field. It was more about what they would get for the value of their dollar? What kind of benefits did they want to receive?"

Another promotion that moved sales was the introduction of the Reds "four-pack." Fans could buy tickets to four games (May 14 vs. the Cardinals, June 25 vs. the Indians, July 31 vs. the Braves and Aug. 28 vs. the Cubs) and receive four collectible hats and vouchers for value meals from McDonald's. As of Monday, the entire promotion of 3,000 tickets was nearly sold out. Sales were first made available to reds.com registered users in November before an advertising campaign for the four-pack started on Jan. 10.

For the first time during Reds Winter Caravan this week, a stop will be made in town at Great American Ball Park on Saturday for a "select-a-seat" event where potential season-ticket holders can view their possible seats.

"You can go out and test drive your seat," Davis said.

Anyone that purchases a 20-game package or more will receive an autographed baseball from the Caravan group, which includes manager Dusty Baker, broadcaster Jeff Brantley, Reds great Eric Davis and infielder Adam Rosales.

The club's "Baker's Dozen" ticket package is also available again. For the price of 12 games, fans can pick 13 games to attend on either Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. And for those who desire Opening Day tickets, fans will be able to register on reds.com for a chance to purchase them. The registration is available from Feb. 1-12.

The next indicator for how ticket sales are going will be once individual ticket sales start on Feb. 27.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.