The typical corny sports cliches that often cross over into the world of business do not apply when describing Magic Johnson's winning bid for the Dodgers. This deal is not a slam dunk, it is not a touchdown, and it is far from a home run.
In today's economy and in today's highly competitive entertainment industry sports owners, particularly owners of baseball teams, are tasked with the completing the ultimate Hail Mary, getting fans to part with their hard earned dollars in their particular team's venue.
The obstacles he will face are not unique in baseball but they are definitely exacerbated by being in, arguably, the most competitive and saturated market for entertainment in the country.
1. The team needs to win: No one wants to come out and see a loser and in baseball with so many games, if the team is for some reason out of the race come August the attendance numbers will be abysmal for the last 40 games of the season.
2. The team needs to own its market: Right now it could be argued that the Dodgers are the least relevant pro team in the city. With the Lakers being the Lakers, the Kings and Clippers on the verge of exciting playoff runs, and the Angels signing Pujols there isn't a ton of time for the Dodgers in the conversation of casual sports fans. It doesn't help matters that USC football and UCLA basketball also add to an already cluttered sports landscape.
3. Going to Dodgers games needs to become cool: Not only are there great sports teams to watch nearly every day, there are concerts and theater productions in town almost every night. Fans are that much more conservative with their sports dollars because there are hot concert tours coming through nearly every weekend. The Dodgers need to be what the cool kids are into in order to get fans to pass on these shows in order to go to more baseball games.
4. Recognize the importance of what is happening online: If you were to poll 10- to 16- year olds living in LA if they would rather go to one Dodgers game or download the new Angry Birds game, the answer would be resounding in favor of the video game. Kids are online at all times with the proliferation of iPhones and like all MLB teams, the Dodgers especially need to capture these young eyeballs and hearts.
It’s not just about providing games and highlights online, the team needs to take a new approach and not only demand its players but compensate them to interact with fans on Twitter and Facebook. Every key player should be tasked with promoting upcoming games and giveaways and all should be encouraged to hand out those oh so precious 'retweets.'
5. Use food value as a draw: This is another move that all MLB teams need to embrace but the Dodgers especially since they have such a large stadium. Teams understand the importance of adjusting price for when the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox come to town by why not extend that philosophy to the concessions.
Give fans a reason for coming out to the park when a less popular team like the Brewers comes through town. Have special priced concessions to really build some brand loyalty. Yes, teams look at discounting tickets as a way to get people to spend at the concession stand but if this is a long term investment for Magic he needs to rebuild the brand first before asking for the fans hard earned money.
The good part
While Magic does have a lot of obstacles in front of him, he does have some strong assets to work with. The Dodgers have a great promotional calendar built and almost every night provides a promotional item give away (bobbleheads, miniature Cy Young trophies, replica stadiums, t-shirts, sweat bands etc.) and that builds fan loyalty and gives them a reason to come to the park that particular night.
They have a dedicated and capable sales staff that given the chance to pitch a winning team will successfully get a lot of former corporate clients back on board. The investment team has its challenges but it does have lots of assets to capitalize on the upside potential.
Patrick Ryan is co-owner of Houston-based ticket brokerage, The Ticket Experience. The company was ranked No. 321 on Inc. 500’s fastest-growing private companies in 2011. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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