As I've said before, and I will no doubt say again, there are few marketers as deft as those marketing professional sports teams. Maybe because I live in a city with big league teams. Maybe because I live in a city that's got a particular affinity for its big league teams. Maybe because these folks have actually moved me to purchase a bit of Red Sox merchandise. But all I can say is, these guys are good.
Witness last Monday's City Hall rally for the Boston Red Sox to celebrate their making it into the Major League Baseball play-offs.
Now, as excited as I was to be at Fenway Park for the game in which the Red Sox clinched their division title, and as hoarse as I remained 5 days later, it's actually not that stupendously big a deal to get into the play-offs. Eight teams out of 30 manage to do so, and while many of the races came down to the final weekend, that's still a reasonably high percent age (over 25%) of teams playing in October. In contrast, in the olden days of eight (later ten) teams in each league, only one team in each league moved on.
There are more teams now, so you do need to have divisions, but all this play-offs to get in the play-offs to get in the play-offs is largely a marketing artifact. More teams are winners. More teams play longer. There's more fan interest. There are more things to buy: divisional and wild-card caps and t-shirts. League championship caps and t-shirts. Tickets. TV revenue. DVDs of the games. Pennants. Cups. Bobble-headed dolls.
As I said, these folks are geniuses.
Back to the rally.
Now, the entire idea of a pep rally for a professional sports team might strike you as a bit odd to begin with - especially when said team hasn't won all that much yet. But MLB instituted the practice a while back of encouraging rallies in all the cities where a team has made it into the playoffs. This year, all of the cities obliged with the exception of New York, which is either too sophisticated and above it all to play this game - or which wisely figured that in a city where half the fans root for the Yankees (who made it to the play-offs as the AL Wild Card team) and half the fans root for the Mets (who rolled over, played dead, and squandered a big league to fall out of the play-offs entirely), it was best not to provoke anyone.
So, here we have a rally for professional sports team, to which thousands (maybe 10,000?) people show up to hear from the mayor, the owners, the players, the Standells ("Love that Dirty Water", played after games), the Dropkick Murphys (local Celtic punk band, with two Red Sox anthems in their repertoire, "Tessie" and "Shipping up to Boston", which was in the movie The Departed), and some country and western guy I've never heard of.
The Red Sox and Major League Baseball get to whip their fans into even more buying frenzy. (I wasn't there, but I'm guessing that there was stuff for sale, there or nearby.)
When I worked at Softbridge, we used to give the customers who attended our user group some sort of shirt on day one, and we'd be pleased as punch when on day two, most of them showed up wearing it.
How must it feel to walk around Boston - or, I'm guessing, any other city, including New York - where there are teams in the play-offs, and see that every other person is wearing a Red Sox cap, t-shirt, or jacket. Or, in my case, a nice little lapel pin that my sister got me a couple of years ago.
Sure, it's easy to push the goods when you have good product, but I'll say it again: these guys are marketing geniuses.