Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Marketing of the game

It is all about marketing these days, although
winning is what brings fans to the park some
teams do well without winning because they know
how to market their team.

By Amaury Pi-GonzalezThe Chicago White Sox have the best record in
baseball this season. Yet US Cellular Field is
drawing less fans than last season. In the Northern
part of Chicago de Cubs at Wrigley continue to be
the favorites in Chicago, even though they have not
won a World Series in over 90 years.

The Cubs have the tradition
of being “loveable loosers”and they market well to the Chicago fans
keeping the memory of some great players in their
franchise like Ernie(Let’s Play Two)Banks,Ferguson
Jenkins,Billy Williams,Ryne Sandberg, among others.

In some areas economic and demographic profiles
are extremely important. In Anaheim Arturo Moreno
the owner of the team during the past couple of
seasons renamed the Anaheim Angels, the
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He had not made
many friends since in Orange County with the
City of Anaheim or in Los Angeles with the city
of Los Angeles. This is a huge market and Moreno
knows the importance of marketing. After all he
made his fortune in the advertising world.
He wants the Angels to have the name of Los Angeles included. Originally in 1962 the Angels
were the Los Angeles Angels and they played
at Dodger Stadium, but even then they didn’t
called it Dodger Stadium but Chavez Ravine
since they always wanted to be different than
the Dodgers. Campaigns in Spanish are
crucial in Los Angeles a city that recently
elected a Hispanic Mayor, the first in
113 years.

But let’s face it, the only thing that Anaheim is
famous for is Disneyland not the Angels. However,
I understand the bold move by Art Moreno whom
I met at Safeco Field)in 2004. The Angels won
the 2002 World Series and what they need
to “catch up”with the Dodgers is not to change
their name but to win more championships.

In Miami the biggest problem for the Florida
Marlins, a very good team that could be in
the World Series this season is their current
park. They play at 199th street in Miami which
is actually closer to Ft Lauderdale than to
Miami. They need a new park in downtown
Miami. I know this town very well and my
fellow Cuban-born compatriots love baseball
with a passion, as well as many other Latinos
in this very Latin of all cities in the US.

In New York the Yankees do not need much
marketing. They get all the publicity all the time,
everytime their owner George Steinbrenner opens
his mouth to criticize his team he makes national
news. This is what you get when you have won
26 World Series. The New York Mets will never be
as popular as the Yankees in New York, they know
it. The “Miracle Mets”of 1969 won the World
Series and then did It again in 1986. I was behind
the microphone during the 1986 World Series
working for the then CBS Hispanic Radio Network
for the USA and Latinamerica. Later I worked the
Subway Series a few years ago in which the
Yankees won and more than ever I saw with my
own eyes that the Yankees and not the Mets
are New York’s team. The Mets could give
cars to their fans but the Yankees win World
Series and winning World Series will keep
generations of loyal fans.

The Seattle Mariners do market a lot their
1995 team. That team didn’t win the World
Series. But when you are a young franchise
like the Mariners(founded in 1977)you have to
market what you have, but let’s do not go
overboard here. Just a few years ago the
Mariners won 116 games in a season yet they
didn’t win anything. But the Mariners situation
is very different. They are the only Major League
team in this part of the world, if you want to
see Major League Baseball in the Pacific North-
west you cannot do it in Portland,Boise or
Eugene, you have to go to Seattle.
People must understand that the main reason
the Mariners do market a lot that 1995 team
is because without the success of that team
the Mariners would probably not have been
able to build Safeco Field and keep this
franchise in Seattle.

My good friend Tony Oliva(who should be in
the Hall of Fame)was one of the Minnesota
Twins great players with Rod Carew and
Harmon Killebrew. They will have a new
park in Minneapolis. Tony told me last year
that the Twins have good fans but they
need a new facility. I love Minnesota and
their fans who have great knwoledge of the
game. This is a small market team and
they do depend on their history and they
continue to enjoy great success on the
field. The White Sox are in first place but
come September I put my money on the
Twins in the Central Division to win it again.
The fans in Minneapolis deserve a ‘state-of-
the-art’facility’. If just for their great hospitality
and midwestern attitude, not the type of
attitude you get in New York where they
think they are “God’s gift”to the world.

One of my very favorite marketing campaigns
was back in Oakland in the 1980’s. Andy Dolich
was the marketing guru for the Oakland A’S
and he worked on the “Bash Brothers”marketing
campaing, Canseco and McGwire bashing the
Bay. Or previously to that when Billy Martin
was manager in Oakland, the marketing of
“Billy Ball”the exciting and unpredictable
baseball teams managed by Billy Martin.
Dolich was a real genious. Some of the A’S
highlight films were translated and narrated
in Spanish by yours truly as I was part of the
A’S Speakers Bureau. Took those films to
schools and different communities events
in the Bay Area. It was nice to show the highlight
film at an elementary school, but when I took
a player like Tony Armas the kids went nuts,
that is the best promotion, the interaction
between players and kids who are the future
fans that will pay when they become men and
women to see their favorite teams.

The San Francisco Giants marketed Barry Bonds
on his way to breaking all the home runs records
and as of today that might be in suspense,
depending if Barry comes back or
not. But in sophisticated San Francisco where
the Opera was more popular than the Giants
in their Candlestick Park years, a new ballpark
was crucial for the survival. So you cannot
blame the Giants for using Pac Bell (today
SBC Park)as part of their marketing of the
great experience of Giants baseball.

Marketing campaigns are mostly based on
players, traditions,records, fans. I for
one get tired very quickly of many of the
corny television advertisements on many
baseball teams, done by marketing companies
that they hired for the solely purpose of
“promoting”their players. Sometimes I
cannot believe that teams pay big bucks
to develop very silly marketing campaigns,
but that is the world we are living in today.
It reminds me of a recent study by the US
Government that was at the expense of
us taxpayers and was something like
a $15 million dollar study done by a university
in the east coast that concluded that
if you”eat less and exercise 90 minutes a
day you will loose wait”. Only our government
can spend money like that !

The Oakland Athletics have some very interesting
television advertisement. One of my favorites
is the one when a couple of young players
visiting pitcher Barry Zito’s and calling him
(who is 26 years old) the “old man”. That is
clever and it uses reality and not fiction to sell
the team since the 2005 A’S are specially very
young in pitching. Stuff like that I like, it is
baseball related and it makes sense.
However, it is all relative. Age should have nothing
to do with performace, some of the best pitchers
in baseball today are over 40 years of age.
But at least the A’S television spots make some
sense. Last week I beat a 28 year old guy at
a game of “one of one”basketball at the “Y”
Do not talk to me about age, we are living
longer that at any time in history and in baseball
age is no longer a problem. Please ask Rickey
Henderson at 47 playing with the San Diego
Surf Dawgs…and trying to make a major league
team this year.

By know you can assume (correctly)that I am
not a big fan of marketing campaigns. For a 9
year old kid the best impression by a major league
player is not the television advertisement but
when that player signs an autograph for him.
Nothing can beat the players contact within
their communities, the interacting between player
and fan is really priceless. Most players have
in their contracts personal appearances and
visits to places in their communities. I believe
that is the best “marketing”a team can do
in the community.

I feel sorry for those teams like Tampa Bay
and Kansas City. They have limited budgets and
little success on the field. What do they market?
They do something I am sure, but not much when
your television rights are just a couple of
million dollars there is not much you can spend.
Tony Pena quit as manager of the Kansas City
Royals, a great catcher when he played he
was always known as a guy that never gave
up, never quit. But if you have to manage the
Royals you would understand. Pena won the
manager of the year in his first season in
Kansas City and he is a good manager but
the best manager in the world cannot win
if he doesn’t have the team. So, I excuse
Tony Pena for “throwing the towel”in the
City of Fountains. Maybe that is what they
market there ! the fountains in K.C.

Some teams like to market
their managers and that is a good idea
if you have a colorful guy
like a Billy Martin, Lou Pinella or that type
of personality, but if you have a cadaver that
sits on a side of a dougout and falls asleep
by the 6th inning and has the personality
of a ham sandwich…who can market such man ?

Managers are overrated. The best managers
can win you with pure strategy maybe 10 games
a year. 90% of the games are won by the players
not the managers. I think I can manage a
Major League team, I understand and have
been watching baseball since I could walk.
I asked that to one of my all-time favorite
managers Sparky Anderson during the 2002
World Series as he was working for TV in
Anaheim he told me that a good manager
might win you “10 to 15 games per year”.
But if you do not have the players you cannot
win and marketing ain’t going to help you.

Bill Shoemaker was the #1 jockey in the world,
he won more races than anybody else, but if
he rode a horse that was limping he is not
going to win the race.

Amaury is on his 3rd season as Spanish Voice
of the Seattle Mariners Spanish Radio Network
and on his 12th season as Spanish play by play
for the San Francisco Giants. For 17 seasons he
broadcasted Oakland A’S baseball for radio
and also on Telemundo Television as Sports
Anchor and play by play.
He is the Vice President of The Hispanic Heritage
Baseball Museum founded in San Francisco
in 1999.


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