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MLB’s Attendance is at a 37 Year Low!?

2. MLB Attendance At a 37 Year Low:

Big Ideas:

  • Baseball’s bad trend lines continue to get worse. 
  • Baseball has hired a new CMO to tackle this issue.
  • Strategy before tactics

We’ve discussed my affection for the game of baseball and how much going to games at Safeco Field, Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, and Old Yankee Stadium have meant to me over the years. 

I’ve also been pretty consistent in sharing with y’all the need to put strategy before tactics. 

This story highlights a few bad trends for baseball:

  • Attendance is way down. This matters because it was falling before and even if you take the pandemic into consideration, the trend is problematic. 
  • TV viewership is falling as well. 

These things are fundamental issues that baseball is dealing with and they are potentially only going to be made worse by labor issues confronting baseball. 

In thinking through this story, it is important to note that MLB hired a new CMO and she needs time to get the ship in order, but after reading a profile someone shared with me this week, a couple of things about her standout:

  • It sounds like she is grounded in a similar train of thought to me when it comes to marketing meaning doing the job of proper marketing. 
  • Leading to a focus on strategy first, tactics second. 
  • It seems like she is starting with a full brand diagnosis…which is exactly the correct first step to take. If I were advising her or in the role, I’d say the first thing you have to do is diagnose the situation. 
  • Not getting caught up with tactics just to say something is being done. 

Going beyond these observations, what can I teach y’all about proper marketing as it relates to rebuilding the baseball fan base?

Let’s get three out of the way this morning. 

First, begin with a good diagnosis. 

You need to do some research: qualitative and quantitative research. 

A solid diagnosis takes time and you need to look at your brand tracking, update your segmentation, talk with loyalists, hit up your perceptual maps, focus on the brand’s heritage, and look to see what you’ve learned that you can use again or not use again. 

My favorite here is heritage because I think there is so much opportunity in using the heritage of your teams well that isn’t always tapped…but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. 

Second, think about the long and short of the situation. 

I’ve shared the research from the IPA in the UK before done by Les Binet and Peter Field. This week, I came across a piece that highlights this stuff from a different angle. 

Recognize that there isn’t a magic wand that will fix this today and that the accurate prognosis of the situation will require an investment in both the long and short of brand building and sales activation. 

In FMCG, that looks like 60/40, typically. In retail, a little different, maybe around 55/45. And, in my area, B2B, 50/50 is the number in most cases. 

Just know, you have to invest in both. 

Finally, going forward, do some sort of brand tracking. 

For young brands, this is tough because there isn’t always enough brand equity and name recognition to make the tracking helpful. 

But no matter what stage you are in, you are going to need to pay attention to your brand to make sure it is sending the message you want to send. There are any number of tools and scorecards that you can create to do your own brand tracking. 

I was working on a brand scoring exercise during the lockdowns in DC and I may share some of that data on my blog to allow y’all to see what I would put into a brand scoresheet. 

The key idea here is to do strategy, know where you are going, how you will get there, and track your progress.

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