Previously this author wrote about “Presenting the Case to Build and Maintain a Successful Sports Franchise: A Great Venue, Lease, Market, and Personnel” in the American Bar Association’s Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries publication entitled Entertainment and Sports Lawyer. In that article, we discussed that the foundation of a successful sports franchise is found in its ability to obtain and maintain a great venue, lease, market, and personnel. In this article, we will break down those previous items further in four easy to remember tenets to demonstrate how a baseball team (or sports franchise) can maintain its success.
Everything starts at the top: decision-making, consequences, and everything in between. The leader/owner/president of a baseball team is the franchise’s decision-maker and it is through this person(s) that others will be hired to handle the leader’s delegated responsibilities. The people hired, the personnel, can be white collar, blue collar, no collar, front office, back office, and no office. It all comes down to delegation and consistency in decision-making by the team’s leader and those elected to carry out the vision and to make trusted decisions.
Look at the best baseball teams and sports franchises, those with consistency in leadership and vision are often the most successful. That is unsurprising, however. Those who are consistent are generally the most prepared to succeed.
Your brand is how the community responds to what your team pushes into the marketplace. In other words, your brand is how others perceive you. Branding is what your team does to influence that image and perception.
Branding can be found in many forms. Most recognizably, branding is three equally important parts: (1) team merchandise, (2) marketing and community engagement, and (3) the team’s record of success or lack thereof.
Team merchandise is the most visible of the three because it is what is sold, worn, and seen on television, in person, and on every other platform imaginable. Marketing and community engagement is what the team personnel do to influence the brand through their social media accounts and other news media outlets. An example of this might be a player(s)/talent attending charitable functions and engaging with fans that is followed by a social media post to the baseball team’s varying platforms of communication. Lastly, whether a team has the appearance of competing and trying to win (e.g., the effort to win) on a consistent basis speaks volumes that goes to the team’s public image and terms of acceptance as a winner or winning franchise.
The more consistently that a baseball franchise works the above three together the more likely they are to become and stay successful.
Like it or not, baseball is becoming a secondary product at a three-hour game for many. The best baseball venues now have Wi-Fi access throughout the ballpark so that patrons and fans can watch videos and post to their social media accounts that they are at the game with a #hashtag going back the team’s social media platforms where it ends up on the team’s video board at the ballpark. However, many who attend sports events now are generally communicating with others not attending the game in person. With access to more information and toys, people’s attention spans have minimalized, while their appetites for more has expanded. Unsurprisingly, America’s pastime became America’s downtime, now filled with in-game entertainment.
In-game entertainment, at least in baseball, has not led to cheerleaders or mascots (at least not for more traditional team brands like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, etc.), but access to quality and diverse food and beverage is also now important. The days of hot dogs and beer is now a novelty and reminiscent of a time gone. Today, sushi, crab cakes, Taco Tuesday, and craft beer is more likely with each Major League franchise having their own special ballpark selections versus a one-size fits all model.
For fun, next time you are at the ballpark, hold your own experiment. During the next baseball game or public event that you attend, look around you to see how many people are on their cellphones posting to their social media accounts, texting, or watching an NBA Playoff game (this is especially true when the NBA team is in the same city of the baseball team). Then, count the times that the video board or team personnel call attention to something other than the game through fan pictures, kiss cams, fun facts, hat shuffles, or in-game merchandise giveaways.
It is interesting to note that teams and sports differ on the amount, style, and type of in-game entertainment. In Boston at Fenway Park, you are more likely to sing “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond in the bottom of the 8th inning, where in San Diego at Petco Park you are more likely to catch a Padres t-shirt through a mini-rocket launcher by one of the team’s ball girls.
Winning Changes Everything
Nothing takes the place of winning. In competitive sports, where there is pride, honor, and glory on the line, winning is the threshold for determining success. When a team wins, many a things have been forgiven, forgotten, and remembered. Mostly when a team wins, people keep coming back for more and that means more revenue.
Winning also influences your brand because a team that spends money and wins games and World Series titles is seen as a winner, but maybe an expensive winner who spent too much obtain those wins. Depending on the person, a brand changes based on the person’s perspective.
Winning also sells more team merchandise and increases a team’s chances to land ever-growing television and sponsorship agreements.
Winning = more revenue.
Leadership, Branding, Entertainment, and Winning are a part of any successful business and baseball is no exception.