SBJ/20100628/This Week's News

Moreno set for All-Star showcase

When Arte Moreno purchased what were then the Anaheim Angels in 2003, he was widely celebrated as the first Hispanic to own a big league team in America. Moreno’s also a member of another minority: While the term “marketer” gets thrown around a lot in sports, there are, in fact, precious few team owners who made their living actually plying the marketing trade.

Moreno, 63, has a marketing degree, and he made a fortune as a marketer, building up an outdoor advertising business, taking it public and eventually selling it to Infinity Broadcasting for $8 billion. Disney’s reputation of expertise in managing entertainment properties is unparalleled, but since assuming control of the Angels from Disney, Moreno has more than doubled the club’s revenue.

By any business measure, the team is up since Moreno took control.

With the Angels hosting the MLB All-Star Game in two weeks, Moreno spoke with SportsBusiness Journal about his team, his business and his love of the game.

Everyone involved in hosting an All-Star Game has always told me how much extra work it is, and team sports are already labor-intensive. What’s in it for the Angels?
Moreno:
As a fan, you get to see things like Derek Jeter batting against “Doc” Halladay. We get to showcase our stadium, fans and environment. If people are more comfortable with their surroundings they’ll be more inclined to visit, whether it’s a restaurant or a ballpark. So it’s a way for people to sample our product.

What does a person who is a marketer by trade bring to team ownership that another owner might not?
Moreno:
It’s about knowing your customers’ needs and wants beyond winning. A marketer does the research on what his customers’ needs and wants are and is flexible to changing those. It’s important to do the research first. The toughest thing in problem solving is understanding the problem, so we hire independent researchers to assess what our brand awareness is and what they like and don’t like. That’s ongoing.

Still, technology makes it relatively easy to gather information. The question is whether you are flexible enough to adjust to what you’ve learned. … You have to listen, also. A lot of times businesses get to the place where they feel entitled instead of saying, “You are always welcome.”

Nice mantra. How have you put that into practice?
Moreno:
Our season-ticket holders have told us that if they could get preferred parking they would pay more for it. OK. Some of them told us we need to give them a system to easily tell what tickets are available for any particular game. The communication part can’t be emphasized enough. But the marketing stuff, for me, is easy.

If a good friend called you and said he was buying an MLB team, what’s the first advice you would offer?
Moreno:
I’d ask if he was doing it for fun or to make money. I’ve always had a flair for baseball and seeing sons and daughters going to baseball games, or a kid going to a ballpark for the first time still makes me happy. People always tell me how much [franchise value] appreciation we have had, but I haven’t been able to go in and buy a beer based on that yet. In the short term, there are other things I have done that have made more money. Long term, if you do a good job, you should have an asset that appreciates, just like a house.

Is the crunch over? Are your revenues back to pre-recessionary levels?
Moreno:
Yes. Sponsorship revenues are up single digits over last year, and overall we are trending positive, but people and businesses are still so cautious with spending. Unemployment is still a big factor. They are waiting to make buying decisions. On the advertising [front], we are still seeing deals that aren’t as long term. Still, we are at over 25,000 season tickets, and this should be the eighth time that we’ve gone 3 million-plus [in attendance]; we are tracking to be 3.2 million-plus right now.

Moreno doesn’t rule out a
return to a corporate name
on the Angels’ home, but
“I still believe we are in the
branding stage.”

After the 2003 season, the Edison International Field of Anaheim was replaced by Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Can you foresee a time when the building will have a corporate name again?
Moreno:
Early on, we were focused on the branding of the Angels’ name, logo and colors. I still believe we are in the branding stage. I don’t think you ever completely get out of it, so I still believe that Angel Stadium works well in that regard. Don’t get me wrong, I am a businessman, so … . But it would have to be a very good partner and the number has to be right. In the short term, I haven’t seen anything like that.

The name change to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim created controversy. Was it ultimately good for business?
Moreno:
You have to remember the history to understand that. It went from the Los Angeles Angels originally in 1962 to the California Angels later, which means nothing to anyone outside of California because there are five [MLB] teams in the state. They really shoved them in a box when they called them just Anaheim. There’s 300,000 people in Anaheim and 3 million in Orange County and 18 million in the metroplex. The Angels were doing about $100 million when we bought the team; last season, we did almost $230 million. That’s six years later. When it comes to corporate sponsorship, there are people that are buying for Orange County, but others buy for Los Angeles, especially those buying broadcast advertising.

What we were trying to do with the name change is make it more inclusive. … When we are involved in an East Coast/West Coast series, they know who we are. We were trying to talk about our area and region. When you are talking about media markets and exposure, the [playoff] series last year we had with Boston and the Yankees, it gave us a good East Coast/West Coast rivalry and it makes for good TV ratings and positions us better in the media world.

Did it raise your brand awareness against the Dodgers?
Moreno:
I don’t try to measure ourselves against them. I always say our biggest competition out here is the weather. The Lakers just won a championship, and you’ve got all kinds of other entertainment options out here, so I don’t specifically focus [on the Dodgers]. It’s great the Dodgers and us are [combined] drawing 7 million or more a year.

With the All-Star Game in Phoenix next year, do you expect the Arizona immigration law controversy to be an issue at this year’s game?
Moreno:
I have no comment on that.

So, it’s a no-win issue for you?
Moreno:
It’s a political issue, and we are talking about baseball.

With all the league collective-bargaining agreements up in the near future, I’m wondering how interconnected you think all those are?
Moreno:
The magic word is always revenue. A lot of my business involves unions, and I have always looked at those relationships as partnerships, but any time the pendulum moves too far one way, that’s what causes unrest. You need to find balance.

My optimistic view is that we’ve had numerous years without a work stoppage. We have 30 different [MLB] owners and issues, but I’m hoping we’ll sit down, work it out and move forward.

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