SBD/April 1, 2014/MLB Season Preview

"Puig Mania" Playing Prominent Role In Dodgers' Marketing, Advertising Plans

Bank of America is sponsoring a Puig bobblehead
giveaway at Dodgers Stadium on May 13
Dodgers Exec VP & CMO Lon Rosen said the franchise knew it “had something” in RF Yasiel Puig well before he became the most buzzed-about MLBer in '13, but the team had no idea how widespread “Puig Mania” would become. Fully understanding the phenomenon on their hands, the Dodgers are ready to up the ante in ’14. The Dodgers heading into this season have made Puig a prominent figure in their marketing and advertising. He is among a select group of Dodgers currently featured on billboards, commercials and the team’s media guide cover. There already are two Puig-based giveaways planned for early-season games: a Fathead wall decal and a bobblehead in his likeness. “As soon as he hit the major leagues he performed so well on the field and he’s got such an outgoing personality; he’s a good-looking kid,” Rosen said. The Dodgers in recent weeks have been pushing Puig through digital and social media, as well as community outreach. The team produced a two-minute video of Puig surprising players from the El Sereno Little League during a visit to Dodger Stadium. Rosen added the Dodgers’ new team-owned RSN, Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA, also is using Puig for promotions. For its first installment of “Timeless Dodgers,” a series of past game replays, the net aired Puig’s MLB debut. In addition, Puig already has made several appearances on “Backstage: Dodgers,” the net’s all-access show, during Spring Training and the team’s season-opening series in Australia. In one episode, Puig provided comic relief, riding around Australia on a three-wheel bike with a basket.

FAN APPEAL
: Even Rosen did not anticipate just how quickly Puig would make his presence felt upon being called up to the majors. Rosen said, “You can’t create something like that. It’s sort of lightning in a bottle, and we were very fortunate to have Yasiel emerge as quickly as he did.” Rosen said the Dodgers were careful, taking time and easing the Cuban-born rookie into merchandising, promotions, marketing and advertising. But Puig proved a magnet for the attention of fans and the media. After Puig’s MLB debut on June 3, local ratings for Dodgers games increased almost 40%, and games in which Puig played garnered higher ratings than those he did not. He rose to national prominence, leading ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and “Baseball Tonight” telecasts regularly. Fanatics.com VP/Communications & Corporate Branding Meier Raivich said that the site sold 80% more Dodgers merchandise to customers in L.A. in June and July last year compared to the same dates in ’12. As popular as he is, Puig’s limited endorsement portfolio includes deals with Rudy Project sunglasses, Wilson and Panini America. He also has used Twitter and Instagram in recent weeks to promote Beats By Dre headphones, as well as the brand’s new music service. Puig’s agent, Wasserman Media Group’s Adam Katz, declined to comment on whether Puig has an endorsement deal with the brand. However, Beats Head of Latin Programming Jerry Pullés yesterday in an e-mail wrote it was “great getting Yasiel on board.” Pullés did not disclose any additional information.

SOCIAL SLUGGER
: While it was Puig’s hot start at the plate that initially raised his profile, his big personality has helped keep him a fan favorite. Puig has proven particularly precocious in dealing with fans on social media. Rosen: “You can see from his Instagram and his tweets, he’s really taken to the American culture and understands. This is a kid that sort of understands what to do.” Puig, who MLB Network named its “Socially Savvy Rookie” of ’13, tweets in both Spanish and English. He has used his Instagram account to highlight his community involvement, sharing pictures of himself visiting sick children and local little league teams. He also can be seen posing with local sports celebrities like Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol and Magic Johnson.

LATIN FLAVOR
: Puig has proven popular with Dodgers fans across the board, but his appeal has been even greater among Hispanic fans. Q Scores Exec VP Henry Schafer cited research conducted in Q4 ’13 as showing that the Cuban rookie has greater appeal among Hispanics than any other MLBer -- with a score of 28 -- except retired future HOFer Mariano Rivera, with whom Puig tied. He scored particularly high marks with Hispanics ages 35-49. The Hispanic population’s adoration of Puig has been a boon for the Dodgers, as Los Angeles County is home to about 5 million Hispanics -- 45% of the population and more than any other U.S. city center. Among the area’s vast Hispanic population, however, the Cuban population is miniscule, making up just 0.4% of the county’s residents.
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