Yogis In The Outfield

Yoga with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier?  Drive-in movies at Milwaukee’s Miller Park?  A day as a groundskeeper with the Detroit Tigers?

Yes, it all can be yours – for a price.  And all in the name of professional sports teams looking for ways to drive new revenue.

Yep, that's Andre Ethier. And, yes, this is Dodger Stadium.

Yep, that's Andre Ethier. And, yes, this is Dodger Stadium.

Turns out that the economy has knocked sports marketers for a loop as ticket sales have fallen and corporate sponsorship dollars have dwindled.  Surprisingly enough, the players are not too excited to return any of their salaries to help out.

So what to do?  Indeed, what to do?  Today’s Los Angeles Times provides some answers with a feature on the lengths to which some teams are going to extricate funds from their fans’ bank accounts (er, “identifying and connecting” with their “fan demographic”) by dreaming up new, big ideas like a fishing trip with the pitching staff or batting practice under the lights.

Of course, it’s not just MLB teams engaging in this new marketing paradigm.  But the fact is, according to David Carter, professor of sports business at the USC Marshall School of Business, “People don’t want to spend their money on a baseball game right now. They want to spend their money on a baseball experience.”

Hey, I’m no professor, but I will say this:

Nothing brings in the revenue like a great on-field product.  I have no problems with sports teams getting creative as they brave this new world, but I would hope that it is never at the expense of trying to win a championship. 

It may be a romantic notion, but sports owners need to treat these franchises as more than just cash machines.  Anything less would be to violate the public trust that their fanbases have placed in them to provide a civic treasure to their respective communities. 

In the short-term, the public may be coerced into partaking in these “unique offers”, but a mediocre product will guarantee that the well will run dry sooner rather than later.  Leave it to Professor Carter to get straight to the point: “If people start thinking that these events are just another way for ownership to pad their wallets, then things will fall flat.” 

Can’t say it any better than that.  Marketers, be warned.

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~ by acm213 on August 3, 2009.

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