SBJ/November 5-11, 2012/Events and Attractions

MLB stays flexible to help staff weather Sandy

The onset of Hurricane Sandy brought mixed emotions for MLB’s New York-based staff of more than 250 helping to run the World Series in Detroit.

On one hand, a Detroit Tigers victory in at least one of three home games would have forced a longer series and boosted business across the board. But a San Francisco Giants sweep would free staffers to leave Michigan sooner and get home before the storm arrived in full on Oct. 29.

In an effort to solve that dilemma and ease the burden on employees, MLB granted a liberal leave policy. League staffers were able to return to the New York area whenever they felt they or their families were at risk from the storm.

Those whose core tasks were finished and with suburban families generally left Detroit first, trailed by upper Manhattan apartment dwellers less at risk from the storm. MLB also allowed staffers preferring to wait out the storm to stay in Detroit as long as needed.

The Giants’ sweep allowed New York-based MLB employees to get home before the storm.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
With flights to New York City canceled by the time the Giants completed their sweep Oct. 28, carpools immediately formed, and dozens of staffers made the 600-mile drive from Detroit to New York overnight Sunday into Monday. MLB also arranged a charter flight Tuesday morning, after the storm, for those who stayed in Detroit.

MLB automotive sponsor Chevrolet chipped in, supplying some of the cars used for the trip. It wasn’t quite a police escort, but heading east on Interstate 80 through Ohio and Pennsylvania were several promotional vehicles emblazoned “Official Car of Major League Baseball.”

“There were a lot of different approaches people took to get back,” said Pat Courtney, MLB senior vice president of communications. “Some of us drove back right away through the night after it was done. Some people flew to Albany or Hartford first thing Monday and got back from there. Some chose to stay.

“But it was a good exercise in teamwork. We were all in contact with each other throughout. Emails and texts were going everywhere to get this coordinated, and fortunately, we all got back safely and are still safe.”

SLEEPING SOUNDLY: With the abrupt sweep by the Giants, World Series ratings sank to an all-time low average of 7.6 and 12.7 million viewers, down 11 percent in viewers compared with San Francisco’s five-game Series victory in 2010. Fox Sports, for its part, tried to keep an even keel regarding the ratings issues. The network’s post-series communications, predictably, conveyed the nightly ratings victories that the World Series generated against network and cable competition. The World Series also showed ratings growth on Fox Deportes, up 18 percent in men ages 18-49 over last year.

But Fox Sports Media Group Co-President Eric Shanks said the World Series, despite its prominence, remains only one component of Fox’s overall baseball business in broadcast and cable TV.

“I don’t lose one ounce of sleep over ratings,” Shanks said. “You just can’t get hung up over one game or one series. You’re always going up against something, competition-wise. But the important thing is that from where we sit, baseball is trending up overall. There are a lot of new stories, new players, emerging markets coming on in the sport. And that bodes well for us when you look at our entire investment in baseball between broadcast and the regional sports networks.”

Giants President and CEO Larry Baer: “Our footprint now goes well beyond Northern California, and it’s getting bigger.”
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
ANOTHER PREDICTION: Two years ago after San Francisco’s 2010 World Series victory, the club’s first since moving from New York in 1958, President and Chief Executive Larry Baer predicted significant growth in the Giants’ brand power and economic might.

Much of that came true as team payroll grew to a franchise record $118 million last year and again to $131 million in 2012. The club was the first to be featured on Showtime’s documentary TV series “The Franchise,” merchandise sales reached new heights, and attendance grew to a team record 3.39 million in 2011, a figure the Giants missed by a mere 10,000 this year.

With two titles in three years and the Giants established as a dominant on-field power, Baer now predicts a sizable “compounding effect,” in which the club’s brand becomes a global force more on par with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. Among the club’s initial goals is more international sponsorships.

“Our footprint now goes well beyond Northern California, and it’s getting bigger,” Baer said. “And you look at the power of our market here, we’re the social media capital of the world. What happens on social media networks, what happens first as things get invented, quite often involves the Giants in some way. Twitter is five blocks away, Facebook is 30 miles away. Apple is 35 minutes away. And when you look at what MLB is doing to reach new demos, younger fans, we’re right in the heart of that.”

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