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This Is L.A. Baseball Marketing
2005-02-11 10:49
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Dodger ad campaign.jpg
The Dodgers have taken a step forward with their 2005 marketing campaign, which steers away from an emphasis on the experience in the stands - a valid approach that had grown tired - toward an emphasis on the players and appreciation of the sport on the field.

Almost a year ago, I addressed the strengths and weaknesses of the 2004 "Bob Bobblehead" campaign:

Itís easy to see how the Dodgers came up with the idea. For a few years now, with no playoff games and few folk heroes for potential consumers to latch onto, the Dodgers have been selling the experience of going to the ballpark. Theyíve been selling the hot dogs and foam fingers, rather than the competition. Theyíve incorporated players like Eric Gagne into the ads, but in a fashion that indicates that itís not whether you win or lose, itís how you attend the game.

Given the perceived disappointment in the Dodger W-L column, the approach has made sense. Add in the fact that in-stadium giveaways attract crowds in much greater numbers than a longshot chase for the wild-card, and you can see why the Dodgers cut out the chase and made the Bobbleheads, rather than the Gagnes, the marketing departmentís protagonists.

No doubt, the Dodgers have researched where the tipping point is - at what point you have so many giveaways that they become self-defeating. But they donít appear to have reached that tipping point yet.

If there is a flaw in this approach, itís that your team becomes less like a baseball team and more like an amusement park. Itís about good times - and people love good times - but itís not about passion.

The new approach isn't completely about passion, though I'm interested in seeing what future television ads convey. It's more about history. But it's about a very special history, one that can't be found anywhere else.

Now, no doubt, the Dodgers would rather have a better left-handed link after Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela than talented but combustible Odalis Perez, but after Eric Gagne (who appears in another ad, I understand), there aren't that many to choose from. At the same time, they can adjust the campaign after the season starts, once hot players emerge and the fans are more acquainted with the many newcomers.

As for the much-discussed aspect of the campaign that it appears designed to counter the Angels' attempts to infiltrate Los Angeles, well ...

The Dodgers say their campaign precedes the Angels' decision to change their team name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. However, we know that the Angels had been thinking of a name change since at least last summer. It's hard to imagine the Dodgers and their ad agency, Dailey & Associates, weren't taking this possibility into account as they plotted their 2005 course.

Even if it were in response to the Angels' name change, why shouldn't it be? While there's certainly room for two teams in the area's largest city/county/region, while conceivably the Angels could even take over Los Angeles in years to come if everything breaks their way, the fact is that L.A. baseball for the past 40 years really has been about the Dodgers. I don't see any reason why the Dodgers should feel bad for asserting this - and I say this as someone much more amused than bothered by the Angels tortured name.

Overall, in contrast to some of the changes we've seen in Dodger Stadium in the past year, this is an ad campaign that has appeal for both the old and new fan. It doesn't sell anyone out. And I like that.

I still think nothing sells baseball like drama. I'm amazed how little team marketers have used great game action over the years. Put together a montage of such moments as a Koufax no-hitter, Rick Monday's home run, Orel Hershiser's 1988 and Gagne closing out a big game, and you've got something nearly irresistable.

Image credit: L.A. Dodgers

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