After a busy weekend I am somewhat exhausted so I'm glad to note that the Rockies seem to be quiet today on the media front. Maybe too quiet. One reason why the Yankees and Mets seem to enjoy a remarkable ROI is the constant free brand exposure the New York media provides for them. This morning, for instance, there's really no additional news on the Gary Sheffield option plus likely trade that we haven't heard all week, but that didn't stop four major New York newspapers from talking about it anyway. Really the only "new" hot stove item that has come about from either team is this report about the Mets targetting Mark Loretta. Branding is all about consistent product placement and the constant barrage of media focusing on the big East Coast teams only serves to increase their market dominance. Teams like the Rockies, which play second fiddle on Monday mornings to Sunday's NFL coverage (plus NBA and NHL action) will continue to fall behind in the brand race.
What could or should be done about it? Well, as Rockies fans, we should note that the brand image will have effects on the team's ability to attract quality players, it will have an an effect on the potential revenue and payroll, and if you are against the current ownership it will have an effect on the likelihood of a future sale. When the team goes "dark" from the media for a couple of days -particularly just after ticket sales started up on Saturday- the brand image takes a subtle hit that will impact team revenues and value either now, in the future, or both. Previous customers need constant reinforcement that the team is moving forward, new customers need to be made aware of the product or team. It's just how branding works.
You want some proof? Check out this recent discussion thread at Baseball Think Factory concerning Jamey Carroll's snub in the Gold Glove balloting. The eleven responses range from "Carroll who?" to a non-sequitor discussion over confusion regarding Orlando Bloom/Orlando Hudson/Chris Tucker to this last one:
BBTF supposedly boasts some of the most intellectual baseball commentary on the internet, and if its correspondents have difficulty knowing Jamey Carroll, then something's wrong. Some of that goes to a general lack of effort by these fans to take a closer look at marginal teams such as the Rockies, but a lot has to do with these teams not aggressively seeking to utilize new media's 24/7 news cycle. This is where the Rockies and other teams in small markets or markets where they have to compete for media space with other professional sports need to overcompensate to make up for their geographic handicaps. Some suggestions:
1. Never be shut out of the major Sunday papers in your market. I don't care if it's the offseason, find something to give to the newspapers that they'll find print worthy. Really there shouldn't be a day that your team isn't in the news (but generally try to keep it away from prostitution/steroids/scandal) but Sunday's are particularly important.
2. Utilize new media. This is going to seem self serving since new media includes blogs like mine, but they don't need to use me if they don't want to(if they do, of course, I'm all for being used). The Rockies and other teams already have a tremendous tool at their disposal in MLB Advanced Media which has been at the forefront of marketing the sport on the Internet, and by keeping their own website updated and relevant the information they feed it will then be dissected and applauded or criticized all across the web by me and my colleagues -a word of warning though, don't make it sound like a press release if you want bloggers to pick up on it unless you know it's something we'll feel particularly strong about, one way (Vernon Wells) or the other (Darin Erstad).
3. Have a consistent, logical narrative. There are certain sports where team mythology is very important for building a brand. College football, for instance, thrives on this. Profesional football also uses it to great effect. If I mention Raiders football, or Bears football you will probably think of two different legacies, two different styles of play even though it's the same sport. This happens with companies in the business world too, think brewers like Coors or Anheuser Busch, Lloyd's of London, Walt Disney or other long standing firms that have built a loyal customer base and reputation by years of careful story-telling in the brand market. Part of the reason the Coors/Molson merger fell through is because after years of each company carefully building their respective brands, in the end they couldn't decide which narrative would trump the other one.
In baseball, teams that have successfully built brand narratives have a more loyal following than those that haven't. Having an old franchise doesn't necessarily mean you have that narrative in place, either. The Dodgers and Giants were successfully able to move their franchises and their brand image across the country, on the other hand, despite a long and mostly inglorious history in multiple cities, the Athletics have only recently established a consistent brand message and it's probably little wonder that support for the franchise continues to crest. I'm willing to bet that partly because of this recent run of success on the field and the consistency of mesage from Alderson through Beane running the team, that after the Mets and Yankees, the A's will be the next MLB team to upgrade their facilities (long overdue).
Another example would be to take a look at the different tracks of a couple of rust belt teams, the Reds and Pirates to see one example of a small market team working to keep its brand, Cincinnati, while the Pirates are seemingly out to undermine theirs. Neither team has been to the playoffs since the early nineties. Pittsburgh has the better ballpark and a 400,000 person advantage in its metro area population according to the last census, but Cincinnati had seemingly been doing the better job of keeping its brand growing. How would you measure this? Tickets sold to away games and merchandise receipts are usually a couple of pretty good ways of knowing. With the Internet, there are actually numerous other ways of checking a basic status quo of a brand. Look at how many E-bay memorabilia sales that team generates, you can check out sites like striketwo.net's team blog rankings or tag cloud to see how much buzz is being generated by fans of any given team or just go to a team discussion board or chat room and count views or posts at various times throughout the day. Obviously each measure by itself will have its drawbacks, the striketwo blog post ranking has the Rockies ahead of the Dodgers but a little snooping would reveal that's mostly because one particularly obsessive Rockies fan needs to get a life and stop posting sixteen times a week. Anyway, I better get going, this post is already crazy long as is.
Update [2006-11-7 8:44:43 by Rox Girl]:
While I was posting this, I didn't even notice that the Athletics were in fact leaking their new stadium info at that very moment. It appears soon we'll have the Oakland Athletics of Fremont in the AL West.