Sports Marketing Paper


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Sports Marketing Paper

  1. 1. Levels of Sport 1 Levels of Sport Marketing and Entertainment Dan Gruenberg Marketing 750 The Ohio State University
  2. 2. Levels of Sport 2 Have you ever attended a Major League sporting event of any kind? What about a Minor League event? Think about the differences in your experiences. Major League teams tend to get the acknowledgement, but what some do not understand is what they miss out on by ignoring what happens at Minor League sporting events. Unless you are in a regional market, you rarely see commercials or advertisements for Minor League teams; therefore, you do not pay any attention or recognize any need to attend an event. However, you are constantly exposed to advertisements for the Major Leagues, increasing your desire to attend a game. Minor League teams are at a big disadvantage when it comes to funds available in order to afford the necessary advertising to increase consumer awareness. That is a big shame because of the experience that Minor League teams can offer. In this paper, I will look at the different markets for Major League and Minor League sports, most notably addressing baseball because of the clear distinction. I will talk about the difference in the type of customer for Minor League compared to Major League teams, and how that is affecting the type of advertising they are executing. I will specifically talk about some promotional events for both Minor League and Major League teams, including some examples from my internship this past summer with the Florence Freedom, an independent professional team. Lastly, I will address the marketing research that will continue to raise the Minor League market and popularity as we head into the near future. Fan’s Perceptions and Behaviors Vary Tremendously The type of customer likely to attend a Major League game, compared to a Minor League game, hits an entirely different market. First and foremost, Major League fans want one thing when they attend a game: a win! When you attend a Major League Baseball game, the entertainment and enjoyment value comes from the level of play. In the chapter “Consumer
  3. 3. Levels of Sport 3 Psychology of Sport,” in the Handbook of Consumer Psychology, they discuss how “enjoyment…increases when a disliked competitor loses and decreases when a liked competitor loses” (Madrigal & Dalakas, 2008, p. 859-860). As you watch fans around the stadium, they are intently watching every pitch, every swing, and every mistake. They “boo” pitchers if they give up a home run and hitters if they strike out. They yell for the manager to be fired after a losing season. Those are just a few of the examples of the behavior that you might see a fan display at a Major League game. However, the problem may not be the fans, but rather, based on what they hear and see. The bottom-line is that they expect perfection. So one must ask, where does that idea come from? Why are they expecting perfection? And the answer may be found within the team itself. How the Teams Contribute To the Different Emotions and Experiences? Major League teams, especially baseball teams, advertise for the quality of play. They address what their specific market wants to hear and they recognize the exceptional talent in their league. Teams will occasionally have a promotion, but they advertise the ability of these exceptional athletes. Even when they do have promotions, it does not have as much to do with fun, as it does with the athletes themselves. One specific example is this past season, on July 6th, the Cincinnati Reds gave a Ken Griffey Jr. mesh jersey away to fans as they walked through the gate (“Reds Promotions & Giveaways,” 2008). Their promotion was addressed to maintain the baseball image, while also influencing people to purchase from their merchandise shop. While Major League teams like the Reds advertise for their baseball play, Minor League teams, such as the Florence Freedom, advertise for the “fan experience.” The customers that attend Minor League events are often attending for a very different reason than those previously
  4. 4. Levels of Sport 4 discussed with Major League Baseball teams. Minor League Baseball fans tend to be more relaxed and less concerned with the outcome of the game. Their ultimate goal is to have an enjoyable experience with hopefully a competitive game. When attending a Minor League Baseball game, “sporting events are consumed primarily for their emotional content… [It] may be viewed as a series of episodes that collectively comprise the experience.” Whereas fans of Major League teams are very passionate about their teams and they have a high allegiance, those of Minor League teams tend to have low allegiance. In those cases, “enjoyment appears to be moderated by suspense such that a highly suspenseful contest with a negative outcome [would be] evaluated more favorably than a less suspenseful one with a positive outcome” (Madrigal & Dalakas, 2008, p. 862). Simply put, at a Minor League Baseball game, you will not hear the negative bashing of players because it is a different motive driving the fans at the game. They are there hoping for a good game and a great experience, perhaps to get away from other problems they may have in their lives. Marketers and advertisers have an entirely different customer to target for Minor League events. They do not put nearly as much focus on the style of play as they do the experience that will be awaiting the arrival of their fans. While the Reds advertise their players, and hand out apparel, teams like the Freedom hold various promotions or events every game. While Major League teams attract the competitive sports guru, Minor League teams attract the wives to come out with their families for an experience enjoyable to them and their kids. Minor League teams also pull college students, who can not regularly afford tickets to a Cincinnati Reds game, for example. At a Reds game, you pay around $15 to sit way up in the upper deck, needing binoculars to see the game. At a Freedom game, the most expensive ticket you could buy is $9.50, and those are right behind the plate. Minor League teams focus their marketing and
  5. 5. Levels of Sport 5 advertising efforts towards that specific market. Thus, their promotions and events are often centered on drawing those types of fans into the stadium. This past season, the Florence Freedom held promotions for the family such as: all you can eat deals on Monday’s offering several $1 items, charity benefits on Tuesday’s, and “Education Day” on Wednesday’s, where they offered free tickets for each reading voucher brought in by a kid. They also held “family fun” Sunday’s, where kids could sign up for Kids Club, allowing them to use the playground in the park for free. To target college kids, they held “Thirsty Thursday’s,” which included $1 beer all night long. On Saturday’s, they had several drink specials where the player’s would even come down and drink with the fans. Several events were also held including: 80’s night, Halloween in June, Christmas in July, Toga Nights, etc (“Fireworks Fridays, 2007). Their efforts dealt with everything but the actual style of baseball. They wanted to stress the fan experience because that is what their customer is interested in. Most of the younger kids do not care much about the actual game, but they are interested in the fun they can have outside of the game (and, of course, harassing the mascots). Companies Getting in on the Act All of the different promotions are a way for Minor League teams to separate themselves from the big leagues. They can show people what makes them special, and why people would have a more enjoyable time coming to their stadium. More and more companies are realizing the excitement behind Minor League sports, especially baseball. Therefore, they are taking advantage of the opportunity by sponsoring teams in order to reach a different type of customer. According to Sports Consultant Scott Salinardi:
  6. 6. Levels of Sport 6 Minor League Baseball offers unique opportunities for companies trying to market themselves in the community…companies are realizing that you can still have a sponsorship presence on a small budget. Marketing in a minor league environment allows companies to reach a cross section of consumers ranging from die-hard baseball fans to entire families that attend games. (“Minor League Baseball”, 2001) The biggest reason companies are beginning to act is because the surge in attendance at Minor League Baseball parks is approaching an all-time high. As I have already discussed, the surge is due to the entertainment value. Fans feel they get more for their dollar as opposed to going to a Major League game. As Minor League Baseball official Jim Ferguson put it: “The baseball game is still the thing…But to make the business of baseball stronger, whether the teams do well or not, we’re still going to entertain you.” Salinardi went on to add: Now more than ever, Minor League Baseball has become an attractive way for baseball fans and families to spend their leisure time…Minor League Baseball continues to offer a fun, affordable, and convenient way for baseball enthusiasts and families to spend time with each other in an era where other entertainment alternatives…continue to raise their prices. (“Minor League Baseball”, 2001) Based on pricing, family concerns, and entertainment value, marketers should be able to seize this opportunity to increase the Minor League market even further. The Recession’s Impact on Today’s Minor League Market Given the pricing differences between the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues, the recession we are currently in offers the Minor Leagues an opportunity that is staring them straight in the face. With the economic concerns that people have, marketers should be trying to
  7. 7. Levels of Sport 7 get out there and show people how much enjoyment they can still experience due to the cheap ticket prices. College students have long been a target market because of the low prices, but now is a time that they can further their market and extend to families that are struggling because of the economy. Those families still manage to go to a baseball game once in a while, but would enjoy many more if they were able to afford the prices. Minor League Baseball gives them that opportunity (Parry, 2008). The value is unmatched and the consumers that understand the value they are getting act in a much different way. Consumer behavior is completely different compared to a Major League game. The fans at a Minor League game are more interactive; they are more willing to experience the broad sense of the game, and relish the experience they gain from paying the measly $9 for a ticket. Sports Marketing Objectives Leading to the Need for Research Now that we have dissected the different kinds of consumers for each level of sport, we need to look at this from a marketing perspective. We need to determine what marketing researchers can do in order to ensure that things such as the recession do not go unnoticed and that they are able to capitalize on that opportunity. We have to determine what researchers and advertisers can do to increase the Minor League market by focusing on their particular consumers and the behavior that those consumers exhibit. The first thing we must do is decide whether sport marketing is relevant to Minor League teams. There are three objectives to sport marketing: selling sport as entertainment, “motivate people to engage in sport activities,” and use sports to advertise the sale of products not related to sports (“Sports Marketing,” p. xi). We have already seen several examples of how Minor League teams, such as the Florence Freedom, sell their team and sport as entertainment. They
  8. 8. Levels of Sport 8 also “motivate people to engage in sports” by hosting events such as: baseball toss on the field, charity tosses, award contests, etc. Many teams motivate little kids by having different sport related games for them to play on, such as the speed pitch. The Freedom are even taking it to the next level. They are making people believe they have a chance to play professionally. On the front page of, they have an advertisement for an open tryout inviting anyone to just come out and play baseball. Lastly, both Major and Minor League teams do an exceptional job with the final objective. They advertise for others and in return, get sponsored. By advertising products and services for other companies, they help those companies maintain brand loyalty, which in turn helps them connect their image to other profitable organizations. Positive reactions to those various companies will result in a positive reaction towards their team and organization. First Research Method: Find out Fan’s Desires Now that we have determined that the efforts of sport marketing are extremely relevant not only to Major League teams, but Minor League as well, we need to take a look at the actual research. According to the “Consumer Psychology Handbook,” talking to various sports fans, “researchers identified six broad themes of fan consumption: game participation, social events surrounding the game, fan contests, role conflicts ensuing from fan identity, social connectedness ensuing from fan identity, and life lessons and decisions related to fan identity” (p. 868-869). Those factors drive the marketing force for both Major League and Minor League teams. However, they approach their problems differently. While Minor League teams are not as upfront in their marketing efforts, they have to find ways to put “butts in the seats.” After all, their attendance is still the main revenue producer, just as it is with Major League teams. Part of
  9. 9. Levels of Sport 9 the problem for Minor League teams is that many researchers have only used their time and effort to focus their research on sports marketing for the Major Leagues. Therefore, they do not have something to base their marketing efforts on because they do not have as much evidence as to what customers and fans are looking for. While fans of Major League teams are focused on “win/loss record, star players, opposing team quality, and great publicity,” a research study was directed at figuring out the precise benefits that Minor League fans are interested in. When the findings came back, fans of Minor League teams seemed to be interested in “[their] love of the sport, economic, and convenience factors” (Zhang et al., 2003). While some argue there is no point going to a game just for their love of the sport, “in some cases, sports that aim at providing pleasure rather than win-loss records may be more beneficial for health [and a person’s stress level. It also can encourage] greater participation in physical activities” (Curry et al., 2002, p. 399). That is one of the benefits of advertising an open tryout for the Freedom. They do not concentrate as much on the win/loss record, but rather how they are able to involve their fans any way possible. As advocated by the research findings, Minor League teams need to do further research into their customer’s sociodemographic backgrounds. Second Research Method: Figure out Sociodemographic Backgrounds By looking at their customer’s backgrounds, they will be able to identify the type of fan they are attracting. They would be able to take a large sample to determine where they are drawing their crowd from. Based on their results, they should be able to get an idea about whether they are getting the majority from college towns or whether they are getting the majority from those families enjoying the day with their kids. It is even possible that they are attracting an unexpected group, such as the older folk that you may not anticipate. That is what the
  10. 10. Levels of Sport 10 research should be designed to figure out. What kind of customers am I attracting right now? After obtaining the random sample results, the manager, owner, or marketing director should be able to come up with ideas on how to not only retain the team’s current market, but also take a dive into another market in order to increase its organization’s popularity. Managerial Challenges in Minor League Research While this research should ultimately be helpful, it does have various managerial implications. One of them has to do simply with time. Working with such a low budget, Minor League teams are working hard enough as is throughout the entire organization: that makes it tough to spend the necessary time to steal some of the market away from a regional Major League team. With the low budget, they then have to account for the extra costs of doing research. The major costs deal with the materials used to do the research. For Minor League teams, they have to limit their budget as much as possible. Because it is easy to change their websites, they can put various polls on there in order to get some idea of their customer. Another cheap way to do research would be to hand out questionnaires, dealing with relevant factors, to each fan as they walk into the stadium. However, the problem with the ideas for the website and questionnaire is that you have to take into account the sample error. That can come from various biases you may encounter, such as the non-response bias. Only sampling those at specific games does not represent those who are not present at those particular games, and it does not account for possible future customers. Therefore, it may not be a big enough sample size. The other factor you have to consider, when acknowledging the non- response bias, is that not all fans will respond to the poll or questionnaire for various reasons. The reasons might include: they feel uncomfortable with personal questions, they are leaving,
  11. 11. Levels of Sport 11 they do not want to be bothered, or they simply just choose not too. However, costs do not have to always be money-related. Costs can include the chances you take. Is it possible that attempting to get into that market will take away from my efforts to retain current customers? These types of problems are exactly why Minor League marketing is so tough. You first have to get the research in order to know who you are targeting. In the Minor Leagues, you face problems that you do not necessarily have to face in the Major Leagues. When working for a Major League team, you first have a much bigger staff. That makes the time issue not such a big deal. The biggest benefit to Major League teams is the budget. It is not unlimited, by any means, but that is how it appears when compared to Minor League teams. In the Major Leagues, they have almost unlimited resources, and different ways to contact people in order to get the research they need. There are not as many managerial implications or problems because they simply do not have the same worries. Partly, that is because they get national exposure. Everybody has heard of them and their name does the talking. They have lots of money to spend on commercials and advertisements, so there is no secret as to who they are. Minor League teams, on the other hand, have just enough money to advertise in their specific local market. While Minor League teams struggle to get the sample they need, Major League teams have a huge sample size that they can make inferences based on. They have resources allowing them to get research from different areas, whether their research comes from companies, schools, etc. Because of the larger sample size, they do not need to worry about as much non-response bias, and they can gain more faith in their results. The other problem that Major League teams do not usually have is getting into a new market. That is because their ability to spend money and use different methods of advertising allows them to extend themselves to any market, anywhere. Retention only becomes a problem when they are consistently losing; then the
  12. 12. Levels of Sport 12 “bandwagon fans” move onto the next team that allows them to “bask in their glory.” That is where the Minor League teams can separate themselves. They worry about their retention rate when they attempt to get into a new market, but the retention rate should be the least of their worries because of the excitement that stems from events outside of the context of the game. Because of the excitement surrounding their teams, they do not have to worry about fans leaving just because the team is not winning. Normally, fans do not attend Minor League events because the team is winning; they attend them for the experience alone. Win or lose, fans should still have a great time and from my experience at the Freedom, they do. If Minor League teams maintain the cheap, fun atmosphere, while emphasizing the entertainment value, the fans and merchandise consumers will keep rolling on in. Factors Contributing to Motives for Attending a Game After getting the basis of the research by looking at sociodemographic backgrounds, organizations must look at the motives guiding the fan’s experience. They must look at why the particular fan chose to come to your stadium compared to a Major League stadium. While we have already talked about a few, Sloan (1989) “discussed a number of [other] theories that might apply to fans’ motives for watching sports including those related to recreation and entertainment, catharsis and aggression, achievement seeking, and stress and stimulation.” Others added in motives such as: internalization and a sense of camaraderie. More research was done in 1991 by Gantz and Wenner to determine that a person’s sex was a big determining factor for various motives. “Compared to men, women were more likely to be motivated to watch sports for social reasons…[while] men were more likely to watch sports to get psyched up, relax, let off steam, and drink alcohol” (Madrigal & Dalakas, 2008, p. 868). That is one of the biggest
  13. 13. Levels of Sport 13 factors contributing to why Minor League teams are beginning to target the women in the family. The wives are able to come with their family or other friends and socialize without so much emphasis on the score of the game. They can have fun regardless. If their husband wants to watch the game, that is okay. The women can just as easily socialize with others. The marketers are beginning to show that a family can come and enjoy a game even though they have very different motives as they walk through the gates. Part of the difference in the attitudes by each gender stems from the social ideas that we are exposed to. We get the idea that men are supposed to be competitive, and women are supposed to play for pleasure. Besides television, we get this information from various magazines as well. Research was done to determine the proportion of athletes represented in magazines that were men or women. In magazines for men, 85% of the athletes were men, with 15% of them being women. 42% of the images showed some type of power-performance activity, compared to only 28% of pleasure-participation activities. In magazines for women, 35% of the athletes were men, while 65% of them were women. 70% of the images showed a pleasure-participation activity, compared to only 16% of power-performance activities (Curry et al., 2002, p. 404). While those numbers have nothing to do with going to a baseball game, they do contribute to the gender attitude differences between Major League and Minor League Baseball. By constantly seeing that you are supposed to be into pleasure-participation activities as a woman, Minor League Baseball hits closer to that stereotype. Therefore, the Minor Leagues are more likely to attract women than the Major Leagues. They can market and advertise to that population because of the universal attitude about women in sports. Additional research should be done in order to obtain more details about the gender/sport relationship. The original research was done over a variety of sports, but reality is that it may be
  14. 14. Levels of Sport 14 different when comparing Arena Football to Minor League Baseball. There will definitely be similarities, but the gender differences might not be so apparent. The organization would have to research further into how gender affects the motives of sport observers. When researching for baseball, a good way to start would be to take the overall percentage of men and women at a Major League game, over a certain time frame, and compare that to the percentages, respectively, at a Minor League game. That would give a basis for our research. The next step would be to notice fans around the stadium and pay attention to the way they are acting. See if men are closely paying attention and women are socializing, which would coincide with the gender difference theory. Peak/End Rule Applying to Sports For the last bit of research, in order to prove to fans why a Minor League event is more enjoyable than going to a Major League Baseball game, the marketing researchers must prove that the peak-end rule is untrue in circumstances involving sports. Often when looking at sports, the outcome is the only thing that seems relative. But at sporting events, by design, they are supposed to be about the overall experience instead. The peak-end rule deals with the level of your excitement that results from the outcome. For example, I went to Yankee Stadium a few years ago, and I usually feel the need to root for a team because of my competitive nature. Naturally, I rooted against the Yankees, because of the fact that they are the most hated team in baseball. But the Yankees ended up winning in a dramatic 9th inning that caused tons of excitement. I even found myself cheering because of the way they accomplished victory. I got to thinking afterwards, and I realized that that is a day I will never forget. That fact has nothing to do with the Yankees winning or the way they won, but just the overall experience. In a few
  15. 15. Levels of Sport 15 years, the New York Yankees winning will be a lost memory, but what will remain is the enjoyment I got from one day in Yankee Stadium. Of course, that is without taking into account ticket prices, but that is a whole other story. With sporting events, the peak-end rule does not have the same effect. The experience trumps all else, even though most overlook that and choose not to believe it. Marketing researchers are then presented with the job of showing people that they can go to a Major League game, spend lots of money, and get enjoyment for five minutes when their team gets the game winning hit; or, go to a Minor League game, spend the $9 to get exceptional seats, and enjoy three hours of non-stop entertainment. To do this, researchers can give fans emotion dials, similar to those used for the undecided voters during the presidential campaign. They can rate their emotion on a time basis and compare it to the emotion that they face at a Major League game. The dial should provide a real-time report of what they are actually feeling at a particular time (Madrigal & Dalakas, 2008, p. 862). Minor League Market Should Continue to Increase After looking at the different types of fans that are attracted to Minor League or Major League games, we looked at various research to determine what Minor League teams could do in order to increase their target market and take advantage of events such as the current recession. Different types of consumer behavior results from the different kinds of sporting events. We saw the various target markets and how they differed between the two leagues. It became evident that Minor League teams face an extreme level of challenges that Major League teams do not have to face in their attempt to be successful. The peak-end rule plays a bigger part than anyone can imagine because that is the basis for why fans act the way they do at a certain event. Those
  16. 16. Levels of Sport 16 just attached to a team are more likely to follow the rule because they get all of their excitement out of winning. However, when it comes to the family atmosphere, the rule does not apply and the overall experience trumps everything. To the college students, in reality, the cheap beer trumps everything. Some college students would go to a game expecting to sit there and drink all night long. Just imagine how much an experience like that would cost at a Major League game. Due to the recession, Minor League markets should continue to increase. By doing more research, they should be able to step in to the bigger market and show people exactly what makes their environment so special. Based on the research techniques we have looked at, Minor League marketers now have the job to not only retain those two target markets; but also to advertise and extend that market to the fans and consumers who are just waiting for someone to come along and save them from the long lines and high ticket prices that come with the Major Leagues. To close this paper out, I do want to express that the Major Leagues have its benefits as well. Between discussing consumer behavior and research methods, this paper has almost come off as an advertisement for Minor League Baseball. In order to show what consumers can get out of a Major League game, I read a journal that talked about the way people consume sports, specifically baseball. They discuss assimilation as a way to consume sports. “Assimilating practices are the methods by which spectators become competent participants in the social world of professional baseball.” That involves all of the surrounding elements and how they can relate and interact with the baseball experience. Often, that is just reading the newspaper or talking with friends about specific players on a team (Holt, 1995, p. 7). You will tend to feel more attached to the team because of the players you follow. You may even be able to feel like you are part of that team. That is an element Minor League Baseball might not be able to offer, and
  17. 17. Levels of Sport 17 something you miss by not attending a Major League game. Aside from preferences that you or I have, the bottom line is that Minor Leagues now have a great opportunity to take over part of the market. Due to consumer preferences, the recession, and better marketing techniques, Minor League Baseball and all other developmental leagues, need to seize the opportunity that is right in front of them and capitalize on their chance to show fans the unique experience that they offer, outside of the actual game.
  18. 18. Levels of Sport 18 References Curry, T. J., Arriagada, P. A., and Cornwell, B. (2002). “Images of Sport in Popular Nonsport Magazines: Power and Performance versus Pleasure and Participation.” Sociological Perspectives. Pacific Sociological Association. Kahle, L. R., & Riley, C. (Eds.). Sports Marketing and the Psychology of Marketing Communication. Retrieved from id=ENCcI4qdd90C&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=consumer+behavior+in+sports&source=w eb&ots=uZjHmkd3gi&sig=bvx071RVh4hu23J0vFpqqZF3XAU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book _result&resnum=10&ct=result#PPP1,M1 Holt, D. B. (1995). “How Consumers Consume: A Typology of Consumption Practices.” The Journal of Consumer Research. Journal of Consumer Research Inc. Madrigal, R., Dalakas, V., Haugtvedt, C.P., Herr, P.M., and Kardes, F.R. (2008). “Consumer Psychology of Sport.” Handbook of Consumer Psychology. Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Minor League Baseball: A Marketing Home Run. Market Wire. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from BNET Business Network. Parry, T. (2008, Oct 13). The Big Fat Marketing Blog: Recession Should Be Time For Minor League Sports To Shine. Message posted to sports-to-shine/ Reds Promotions & Giveaways (2008). Retrieved from promotions.jsp?c_id=cin
  19. 19. Levels of Sport 19 Thompson, A. (2007). Fireworks Fridays, Hillbilly Weekend highlights in Florence Freedom 2008 Promotional Schedule. Retrieved from Zhang, J. J., Braunstein, J., Ellis, M., & Lam E. T. C. (2003). Market demand variables associated with game consumption levels of minor league hockey game spectators. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. Retrieved November 27, 2008, from BNET Business Network.