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SBJ/October 31 - November 6, 2005/Marketingsponsorship
Astros, Sox should see sales dividends from October success
Published October 31, 2005
The Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros, thanks to their World Series appearances, gained an immediate leg up on their sales efforts for 2006, and each club expects a significant bump in attendance and sponsorship revenue.
The Astros, which drew 2.8 million this year on a base of 18,000 season-ticket holders, aim to bump that total to 3.1 million and have 22,000 season tickets sold. The Astros have surpassed 3 million in attendance twice in their 44 years of existence. The White Sox, similarly, want to hit 2.5 million in attendance next season and have 15,000 season tickets sold. The club drew 2.3 million this year to U.S. Cellular Field.
The recent history of World Series participants suggests that such ambitions are realistic, and perhaps may prove embarrassingly timid. The St. Louis Cardinals, coming off their first NL pennant in 17 years, increased attendance 16 percent this year. The Florida Marlins made a 32 percent jump in 2004, the Arizona Diamondbacks rose 17 percent in 2002, and the then-Anaheim Angels leapt 33 percent in 2003. The only pennant winner this decade to not increase its turnstile count the following year was the 2001 New York Mets.
|The roof was open for Game 3 in Houston
after Bud Selig stayed tuned to The Weather
“It’s a classic selling approach. People get excited about what we’re doing, and a lack of supply helps fuel the demand further,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox vice president of marketing. “Now the upper deck at our place doesn’t seem so bad.”
Both clubs made World Series tickets available as incentives to buy full-season packages for 2006.
“We already have a very strong base of sponsorship, so this gives a big opportunity to go back to those sponsors and try to extend a lot of our deals,” said Pam Gardner, Astros president of business operations.
MLB’s efforts to launch The Baseball Channel have slowed in recent weeks as it sorts out the rest of its TV landscape. Baseball recently renewed its deal with ESPN for $2.4 billion over eight years, but another portion of the cable package is still available. And negotiations are ongoing with Fox, its longtime network partner, on an extension to the deal that expires next year.
“We’re still looking at late winter, somewhere in that window, to get [the new network] going. I don’t want to say we’re treading water. Maybe more like dog-paddling,” MLB President Bob DuPuy said. “We’re waiting to see what happens on our various deals. If there isn’t interest in the other [cable] package, we may end up keeping it for ourselves. But we think there’s going to be interest.”
Perhaps the happiest man before Game 1 was Hugh Panero, XM Satellite Radio president and chief executive. A beaming Panero was in Chicago for Game 1 to witness the first of two giveaways during the Series in which every fan in attendance received a voucher for a free satellite radio.
There was a catch to the promotion, which was scheduled to be repeated in Houston: Fans had to prepay for at least three months of XM service to get the radio hardware, valued at $80. But XM expects to add thousands of subscribers as the company pushes its customer base to nearly six million, more than double its level when it signed the $650 million MLB deal a year ago.
“We work with a lot of people, and this unquestionably has been one of our very best partnerships,” Panero said.
A decision on who will own the Washington Nationals may finally be approaching after nearly four years of delays, missed deadlines and inactivity surrounding the former Montreal Expos. DuPuy said he hopes to have a recommendation on the new owner on the agenda for MLB’s next owners’ meeting, Nov. 16-17 in Milwaukee.
The leading candidates for the Nationals are former Seattle Mariners owner Jeffrey Smulyan, Maryland developer Mark Lerner, and a team of district businessmen Fred Malek and Jeffrey Zients. Despite DuPuy’s desire to finish the long-overdue deal, a lease deal for the Nationals’ new stadium is still not complete. Progress has been made in recent weeks on the document, DuPuy said. But MLB views the lease as a prerequisite, and Washington, D.C., political leaders are mired in a fractious power struggle over control and direction of the stadium project.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, helping lead the review of ownership candidates, bristled about the lack of progress on the lease, saying, “There are things they have to do in Washington, and they know what they are.” When asked who he calls in Washington to advance the project, he growled, “All of them.”
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, not known foremost for his sense of humor, tried to inject some levity into the Minute Maid Park roof debate that preceded Game 3. “I need to get a new life, because I sat and watched The Weather Channel all day determining about low temperatures, high temperatures, medium temperatures,” Selig said. “And we’ve talked to about 800 weathermen.That means 400 of them will be right, and that’s probably an inflated number.”
Selig’s jocularity continued during the presentation of the Roberto Clemente Award. The commissioner presented a trophy to Harold Reynolds, 1991 winner of the award and current ESPN broadcaster. Reynolds won the award before the large, gold trophy depicting Clemente was designed, something Reynolds jovially complained about over the years.
“I’ve heard guys bitch and whine, but, boy, this was something, and now we don’t have to hear it from him,” Selig said.
Astros owner Drayton McLane and Reinsdorf each flew their entire full-time staffs and spouses to their World Series road games. “It was an incredible gesture,” Boyer said. “Jerry does these types of things and they hardly ever get talked about.”
The Astros did not match Chicago in opulence for their World Series gala, holding their event at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, while the White Sox entertained guests at the ultra-luxury Palmer House Hilton. But typifying Houston’s intense devotion to the Astros, the club’s invitation-only party drew considerably more people and included a fireworks display over downtown.
DuPuy spent much of the World Series fighting jet lag after making a whirlwind 9,800-mile trip to attend an International Baseball Federation meeting in Switzerland, confining the entire jaunt to about 48 hours between Games 2 and 3.
The IBF is fighting the IOC’s recent decision to drop baseball as an Olympic sport, and is aiming for a reinstatement vote by the IOC at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
Secondary ticket markets were everywhere. And that was perhaps most visible directly across the street from Minute Maid Park, where The Ticket Center, a longtime Houston-area brokerage, set up temporary shop in a parking lot with a large, bright orange sign that was impossible to miss. The company’s status as a licensed broker allowed for the high-profile display. Chicago’s wins in Games 1 and 2 cut into local prices considerably, but good seats were still fetching nearly $4,000 each, and standing-room-only tickets $700.