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.