Andy Feffer leaving Nationals organization

(Courtesy the Nationals) (Courtesy the Nationals)

Nationals COO Andy Feffer — who helped drive the franchise’s Natitude and Take Back the Park campaigns, and who spearheaded the team’s move into “smart card” season-ticket passes and virtual ticketing — will leave the organization after this season, he said Friday afternoon.

Feffer, 48, had been the team’s COO since January of 2010, leading the Nationals’ promotional, marketing and merchandising efforts as they transformed from occasional national punchline into budding powerhouse. He is helping launch a new sports venture, he said, and plans to remain in the area.

“I knew I had accomplished what I came here to do, and like anything else, it’s time,” Feffer said. “I wanted to do something different. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. Going forward, I’ll certainly help with their transition, and anything they need in the offseason, I’m here to assist and help. You’ll continue to see me at Nats Park. I’ll be their biggest fan.”

“All of us here at the Nationals want to thank Andy for his contributions to the business of baseball here in our nation’s capital,” Lerner Sports COO Alan Gottlieb said in a statement. “From Natitude to virtual ticketing, we are grateful for his dedication and innovative marketing strategies that helped bring the Nationals to the forefront of Major League Baseball. Both personally and professionally we wish him the best of luck and hope to work with him again in the future.”

Feffer — who previously worked for the Orioles, Bobcats and the NFL Players Association, among other groups — focused on improving the Nationals brand, wanting it to connote both innovation and loyalty, through initiatives like the Red Carpet Rewards program for season ticket holders.

Perhaps most famously, Feffer helped launch the Natitude campaign before the 2012 season. While many fans initially scoffed at the phrase, others embraced it, and it came to be something of a catch-all term to describe the Nats’ run to the NL East title.

“They’re talented, and they’ve got the skills to back it up. That kind of edge and attitude is Natitude,” he said, when introducing the term.

Around the same time, he led the Take Back the Park program, attempting to fill Nationals Park with Nationals fans during a home series against the Phillies.

“Forget you, Philly,” Feffer told me, while explaining a ticketing system meant to favor local fans. “This is our park, this is our town, these are our fans, and it’s our time right now.”

He also helped lead the Nats’ new 2013 season-ticketing system. That program, which was modeled after European soccer clubs, used access cards to attempt to increase fan loyalty while integrating ticketing with other ballpark systems.

“How do you engage your fans in a way that provides better value for being a season plan holder?” he asked at the beginning of this season. “How do you get closer to understanding your customers, what they want and what they value? Tickets were a transactional thing; you pay, and you come into the ballpark. Now, you’re engaging with your fans in a much different way that goes far beyond a transaction. That’s why you do it.”

Feffer said the franchise will “continue evolving that program, creating more access and more rewards” for fans. And he said he’s anxious to see what happens next.

“I want to express my gratitude and thankfulness to the entire organization: the ownership group, the front office, the players and fans, for letting me be part of such a special story that developed here the last four years,” he said on Friday. “The key thing is they’ve got a really strong foundation in place, in terms of the business and the people. It’s only up from here. I think they’re just beginning. I think on the business side, the fan base is extremely strong, and it only gets better from here.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.

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Dan Steinberg · September 13, 2013