Branding the Baseball Experience
I cannot begin to express how excited I am that SPRING is Here! That means many days of playground running with my kiddo, zoo exploring, fishing, local park and backyard hiking, and camping trips… and possibly a few bonfires. But one of the things I love most about warmer weather is Baseball.
Baseball, and pretty much any sport you can think of, creates a fan experience. You go to the stadium and watch your favorite team take the field while you enjoy drinks, snacks and the occasional jump up to catch that fly ball, all while hoping in the final minutes of the game your team is winning.
And with any sport, your favorite team has a catchy name and mascot – the Brand for the city/stadium to merchandise and top fans to show their support. Some teams do this very well, and have an easy time if their team is top in the league, while others have a long way to go.
My favorite team, being a Clevelander, is the Indians. Yeah, we annually reconsider changing the team name, but I’m not biased and the natural tribes of Ohio had a major influence on its history. I don’t know that I’d ever be able to call them anything else. And I’m not even sure what the stadium is called these days (JK, though it really has changed names several times since it was built 20 years ago).
My point being, this year Opening Day had one of the largest crowds ever. Proof of great branding and selling the baseball experience for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in several years.
A recent article from Crain’s Cleveland Business, talked about the ongoing changes management considers to annually meet visitors needs as well as developing new ways to engage fans in the stadium at a recent luncheon. While the team is still on the lower end of the baseball profitability spectrum, big things are in the works to turn the team around and get more fans back in stadium seats. Mark Shapiro, team president commented that one of the questions they discuss most is, “How do we create a compelling experience for you to want to be here?”
One way they brand the baseball experience is by making the stadium a comfortable place. At one point it was as simple as adding cup holders for fans, now it includes a range of improvements from new scoreboards, heating and cooling system components, plumbing fixtures and pumps, concession stands and seating. Not to mention corporate sponsorships, interactive mobile trivia, and in-person sponsored efforts that get fans excited to be at the stadium.
Another is to align a team of coaches and players that work together to build excitement each and every time they take the field – and the more they win, the easier it is to market the fan experience because they Want to be part of the success.
Additionally this year, the Indians are changing their uniform design and look of the brand focusing more on the “C” rather than mascot, Chief Wahoo. We’ll have to see if this part of the team marketing will pay off by end of the season. If nothing else, the fans will be inspired to dress in the new brand.
What do you think are the best ways to brand the baseball experience? If baseball isn’t your sport, what branding methods have gotten you to that last game?