22 September 2005

Neil Hayes column

Contra Costa Times columnist Neil Hayes has a pretty scathing indictment of the fanbase and the attendance woes in today's edition. Like Hayes, I don't have an explanation for it. The worst part of it is that it's the one negative that the local media immediately latch onto here. I've heard comments from Gary Radnich and Raj Mathai, and I had tuned into other local newscasts, I probably would've heard the same from their counterparts.

Here's a different perspective on attendance:
  • The A's drew 48,203 total during the three-game series against the Twins, including a large number of no-shows on Tuesday night due to the storm remnants that came through the area.
  • The Yankees yesterday drew 50,382 on Wednesday night alone, and have averaged more than 50,000 for the season.
  • The A's will be down in total season attendance for the second straight season unless they average 40,000 per game for the final seven games of the homestand. I project the final number to be slightly over 2.1 million for the season, which places them 2-5% below either 2004 or 2003 figures.
In attempting to analyze the situation, I posted a diary on Athletics Nation, along with a poll that asks which group is hardest to market to: the casual fan, the fringe hardcore fan, the small business person, or a large corporate entity. Take a look at it and vote. I don't think the situation can be solved by simply winning a playoff or World Series, or even by building a new ballpark. My feeling is that there needs to be a bigger effort to build the die-hard fanbase along with a push to promote the family experience at the ballpark, which is far underrated and isn't exploited enough.

Some appear to be either content with or resigned to the idea that the A's won't draw more than 2.1-2.2 million per season in the current situation. Frankly, that shows a lack of creativity. There needs to be more done to build the culture that is the A's fanbase. There are no simple or automatic ways to do this, but it should be what the A's ownership shoot for. The ownership group can't be happy with this, and there has to be a renewed focus in the offseason. As clever as the "A's Brand" ad campaign has been, it's had a limited effect on attendance. People still come for the usual promotions and giveaways.

Here's an idea for A's marketing: Put fans in the ads. Interview the diehards. Have them explain why they love the A's and the game. Show shots of parents raising their kids to be A's fans. Do a TV ad of a local East Bay family who has 3 generations of proud A's fans. Promote the culture. More than any other sport, baseball mines the mythology and history of itself. Sometimes it goes a little overboard in that respect, but there are ways to tap into those emotional links without appearing smug or aggrandizing. There's room for the A's Brand campaign as well.

One item from the column that could get easily overlooked: Hayes' plea for the A's to invest in their own radio station. With Bob Agnew hinting at changes at KNEW and KQKE, there may be some interesting news about that in the offseason.


Zonis said...

I also highly advise a DEDICATED Sports Radio Station for the A's. They can focus on the East Bay, on the Raiders, Warriors and A's. Perhaps the main reason the Giants have that hold on the Bay Area is that they have an outlet, a propaganda clongomerate, in KNBR. You come to the bay, or you grow up here and all you hear about is GIANTS GIANTS GIANTS. You NEVER hear about the A's. The A's need to rebel and make their own, take that fanbase away. Howelse can we compete? We can't afford a TV Network, so a Radio Station is the next best thing! And I bet we could have one for 1 Year of Jason Kendall!

Anonymous said...

Another sports radio station is badly needed in the Bay Area. KNBR is almost all local shows that excludes the A's, while 1050 is Fox sports radio during most waking hours. I want to hear the Dan Patrick show, because Rome and The Brick are too intense for me and KNBR is awful. My point is that sports radio is by no means saturated in the bay area. If the A's aquire a station, have a mix of local and national shows to draw in a wide audience who will listen regardless of if they are A's fans. Also, with 1050 up for sale, I it sounds very possible that KNBR will be the only sports station left which is even a bigger opportunity for the A's.

Marine Layer said...

Well, let's not get carried away with the idea of "A's Radio Nation" just yet. There are a lot of factors that will come into play.

First, there are a limited number of AM stations that might even entertain having the A's on there:

KGO and KCBS aren't interested because the ratings are low.
The 10-11 foreign language stations? Nope.
Christian radio (4 stations)? No.

So that leaves around half the area's AM stations, and they have to want a product that hasn't historically had really high ratings. It's going to be a struggle. I do think that it is in the A's best interest to invest in a station since they'll have some control over the programming. There are only a few with the wattage comparable to KNBR, so we listeners may be stuck again with a low-power station. FM has many of the same issues, and is less desirable because it doesn't reach as well at night as AM does.

I wouldn't assume that a new sports talk station is coming soon. But it wouldn't surprise me if it did. For the record, KNBR 680 and 1050 are for sale, and we don't know yet if they'll be sold together or separately. We may find out by the end of this week.

Georob said...

The market is there for two sports stations, otherwise KNBR wouldn't have taken over 1050(so they could control it). Whoever buys 680 will probably not mess with the format, but 1050 is another story.

If 680 and 1050 stay under the same ownership, would they BOTH have sports, and would 1050 open its doors to the A's? After all the Giants are such a big part of 680's revenues, that to promote the A's(even on a different station) might be considered too risky.

The players to watch are Clear Channel and Infinity, both of whom are big enough to successfully do a sports format should they buy the stations. Should 1050 no longer be a sports station, then 910 and 960(already owned by Clear Channel) should be the ones to watch for format changes as already has been noted.

It's going to be interesting to watch all these AM radio stations. It's been rumored that Clear Channel has offered to buy the ABC stations(KGO and KSFO) And while I'd love to see the A's on 810, 560 is where they were for many years and probably where they should return. In addition, the big band format formerly on KABL and the 50s-60s rock oldies formerly on KFRC are looking for new venues, so who knows?

One last thing. While we'd all love to see the A's on a station that will promote them 24/7 like the Giants on 680, keep in mind that KNBR has had a 25 year head start. I remember when they got the Giants to move from KSFO and they made a BIG DEAL out of it. KNBR immediately started promoting the Giants like crazy even when they were still playing MUSIC!

So, even IF Lew Wolff were to buy a station and turn it into "1050..THE BIG ATHLETIC SUPPORTER" (Sorry, couldn't resist!) It would still take a long time to a establish an identity similar to KNBR's

Georob said...

One more station that could enter the mix: 1260 AM (the old KYA) which has been simulcasting KOIT FM since the Reagan administration.

Perhaps 1260 could pick up one of the "orphaned" formats mentioned in my previous post; clearing the way for an A's station elsewhere.

However, 1260 would be AWFUL as the A's flagship, as I think they go down to about 3-1/2 watts after dark.

Anonymous said...

I agree with zonis. I don't particularly think that the A's should be the sole subject of any station. But make it an East Bay Sports Station that would include the Raiders and Warriors as well, and I think u have a strong candidate for competition. Even if we don't establish an identity like KNBR has, so what!!! We just want something that we can identify with and KNBR is not that. Oakland and the East Bay should have long ago had a Oakland sports station, seeing as Oakland does have more big league sports teams than any other city in the Bay Area.

Bleacher Dave said...

ML, you're idea about showing fans in the ads is a good one. More prominently featuring the Oakland greats and winning history in promotion would also be a step in mining the mythology and history of the A's in Oakland.