SBD/April 1, 2014/MLB Season Preview

Brewers On Positive Sponsorship, Ticket Sales Track For '14 Despite Braun Troubles

Braun t-shirts and jerseys are selling about as much as before the suspension
Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio has "committed to a higher payroll" of more than $100M this season to "improve the Brewers’ win-loss record and make a run at the playoffs," according to Rich Kirchen of the MILWAUKEE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said that season-ticket sales are down 6-7%, which was "caused more by the losing record" than LF Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension for using PEDs. However, Schlesinger said that ticket sales this year "should exceed the 2013 level of 2.5 million, a significant number given the Brewers’ market size." He added that sponsorship revenue will surpass the '13 level and "no sponsors departed due to the Braun debacle." BMO Harris Bank was the only major sponsor to leave, and a bank spokesperson said that that "was not due to the Braun scandal." Several new sponsors have "signed on." Kirchen notes the Brewers "must boost attendance to cover the higher payroll." Brewers execs believe the organization has "made amends to fans for the losing season and the Braun mess via a popular ticket-voucher program after Braun’s suspension, and free admission to the annual fan fest in January." Schlesinger said that the team this season is "adding six Brewers T-shirt-giveaway games ... and is considering an additional bobblehead game featuring Hank, the stray dog that’s added some team marketing flair heading into the season." Meanwhile, Braun's problems "do not seem to have fazed the vast majority of sponsors of the Brewers at Miller Park." PNC Bank VP/Corporate Communications Saul Boscan said that bank execs are "staying the course with their sponsorship." The Brewers added Delta Dental of Wisconsin as a new sponsor in the offseason. Delta VP/Sales & Marketing Dave Peterson said that the Brewers' audience "hits the insurer's target demographic of families throughout the state"(MILWAUKEE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/28 issue).

NO LOVE LOST: ESPN's Mark Schwarz noted the Brewers this offseason conducted a survey of season-ticket holders to gauge how fans would react to the return of Braun. Schwarz said, "Forty percent of those polled say they are huge Ryan Braun fans and the suspension doesn’t mean a whole lot to them. Just under 40% say they are quite disappointed with Ryan Braun, but they feel that he's making amends and they're willing to give him another chance. A little over 10% said they will never forgive Braun for what he did but they love the Brewers and they will still come to the games, and about 10% said, 'Athletes are human beings. We know they make mistakes. If this guy hits a lot of home runs, it's cool with me.'" A Brewers exec said, "There's a Midwestern sensibility here and the marketing people tell me that his T-shirts and jerseys are selling at about the same level they did before the suspension." ESPN's John Kruk said as long as Braun "has a 'Brewers' across his chest and if he's hitting home runs, stealing bases, playing good defense like he can and helping them win games, all's forgiven. But if he struggles, boos" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 3/31).

HAMMERIN' HANK: In Milwaukee, Bill Glauber notes within "minutes of the gates opening" at Miller Park yesterday for the team's opener against the Braves, fans "began to scoop up merchandise celebrating the stray dog that has become something of a Brewers mascot." At the "main Brewers store behind home plate, there were $3 pins, $5 pennants, $20 stuffed animals and $32 t-shirts, all bearing the likeness of Hank." Twenty percent of the Hank proceeds "go to the Wisconsin Humane Society" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/1). Brewers execs said that they are "not exploiting the sudden star status" of Hank for "marketing purposes and will limit his exposure to the public." The MILWAUKEE BUSINESS JOURNAL's Kirchen notes Hank is "in metro Milwaukee living with the family" of Brewers VP & General Counsel Marti Wronski. Schlesinger said that Hank "will not be at Miller Park all the time and the organization wants him to live a normal life." Meanwhile, Milwaukee-based marketing firm Thirsty Boy Owner Steve Koeneke said that Hank is "succeeding in attracting attention from non-Brewers fans with his amazing rise to near-mythical status" (MILWAUKEE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/28 issue).

BATTER UP: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted the Brewers on Friday announced a multiyear partnership with Grand Rapids-based supermarket chain Meijer. It is the "first sports partnership for Meijer in Wisconsin." The deal "calls for branding on both the right-center and left-center field walls" at Miller Park, as well as advertising on the Brewers' website (JSONLINE.com, 3/28)....The BUSINESS JOURNAL's Kirchen notes the summer collegiate Northwoods League Lakeshore Chinooks "landed a trophy catch for the talent in the baseball team’s new television commercials" in Brewers announcer Bob Uecker and Baseball HOFer Robin Yount. Uecker and Yount are members of the team's ownership group. Chinooks VP & GM Dean Rennicke said, "When you have Bob and Robin -- two of the biggest icons in Milwaukee Brewers history -- with your mascot, that's pretty powerful stuff" (MILWAUKEE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/28 issue).
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