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Rocket City Trash Pandas break MiLB merchandise records

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Rocket City Trash Pandas break MiLB merchandise records

December 19, 2018 - 22:04 PM

The Rocket City Trash Pandas won’t play a game until 2020, but already the Double-A Angels affiliate in northern Alabama is breaking Minor League Baseball sales records. The previous record for sales in a three-month period (the standard length of […]

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22 hours ago, SportsLogos.Net News said:

Alabama is breaking Minor League Baseball sales records. 

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Wow, maybe Brandiose knows what they are doing 

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Nobody has said they don’t know how to merchandise. 

 

The problem is that merchandising should not be the sole consideration in developing a team identity, but Brandiose has an almost-exclusive focus on it.

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8 minutes ago, Gothamite said:

Nobody has said they don’t know how to merchandise. 

 

The problem is that merchandising should not be the sole consideration in developing a team identity, but Brandiose has an almost-exclusive focus on it.

 

Honest question, though, because I’m not super familiar with the business dynamics in minor league baseball; are there a lot of teams that have healthy enough stature to sustain themselves with merchandise being just a middling income stream? It seems like a lot of them are constantly moving and/or rebranding. There seem to be relatively few teams with the longevity of the MudHens, Redbirds, Voyagers, Isotopes, Express, etc.

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They rebrand because they’re constantly chasing the junk-food sugar rush of short-term merchandise boosts. 

 

The moving, I think, is more about where they can get the best stadium deals.  Actual costs of running a team aren’t all that high in most markets, since the players are paid by the major league clubs.  MLB clubs spend around half their net revenue on player salaries.  MiLB clubs spend zero.  So teams leverage cities against each other to improve facilities, which is how they attract and retain major league affiliates.  Not to mention that the better the affiliate they can pull in, the more potentially marketable the players will be.

 

The PawSox didn’t leave Rhode Island because they were losing money.  Far from it - they’ve been very successful at the box office. They moved because Worcester is spending $100M in public cash to build them a stadium.

 

Finally, I would love to see where the Pandas are spending that merchandise cash.  Is it going into the club to “sustain themselves”, or is it being distributed as dividends to the owners?  Because if it’s not demonstrably the former, then the argument that these brands are somehow necessary falls apart very quickly. 

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On 12/20/2018 at 7:21 PM, andrewharrington said:

 

Honest question, though, because I’m not super familiar with the business dynamics in minor league baseball; are there a lot of teams that have healthy enough stature to sustain themselves with merchandise being just a middling income stream? It seems like a lot of them are constantly moving and/or rebranding. There seem to be relatively few teams with the longevity of the MudHens, Redbirds, Voyagers, Isotopes, Express, etc.

Yes. Even for teams who sell a lot of merchandise, it's a relatively minor revenue stream...tickets, sponsorships and concessions are much larger pieces of the pie.

 

And teams are definitely not "constantly moving and/or rebranding." There are 160 affiliated minor league teams...of them, there are 2 new markets this year (Amarillo and Fayetteville), and maybe 7-10 rebrands. This is pretty typical.

 

Great Falls has only been the Voyagers since 2008. Most teams have kept their names much longer than that.

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On 12/20/2018 at 8:05 PM, Gothamite said:

Actual costs of running a team aren’t all that high in most markets, since the players are paid by the major league clubs.

Revenues aren't very high, either, though. Many minor-league teams lose money.

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24 minutes ago, eastfirst107 said:

Revenues aren't very high, either, though. Many minor-league teams lose money.

 

So, the ones that stick around in the same place with the same identity for long stretches of time, are they doing anything special or are they just in the right place, doing a good job with local marketing to get butts in seats, and maintaining a good relationship with their parent club? Is it that simple?

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41 minutes ago, eastfirst107 said:

Revenues aren't very high, either, though. Many minor-league teams lose money.

 

No, revenues aren’t high. 

 

But many minor-league teams lose money?  That we would need a source for.  Team values have skyrocketed in the last decade, and although that’s not always reflective of profitability, it certainly tells us that the sport as a whole is pretty healthy.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sergeiklebnikov/2016/07/08/minor-league-baseballs-most-valuable-teams/

 

 

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8 hours ago, andrewharrington said:

  

So, the ones that stick around in the same place with the same identity for long stretches of time, are they doing anything special or are they just in the right place, doing a good job with local marketing to get butts in seats, and maintaining a good relationship with their parent club? Is it that simple? 

Just in a market with limited competition, maybe a great affiliate that fans are drawn to, maybe the area just likes baseball more, etc.

 

A couple good examples would be the Iowa Cubs and South Bend Cubs. Look at the Short-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers. 20 years with almost the same logo and same affiliation in the same ballpark. And there isn't much sign of that changing any time soon.

 

But then you look at Akron, at AA, and they rebranded from Aeros to RubberDucks and I'd have to say the fan support has improved as the team name now fits more with the city, is kid friendly (though Aeros was to with the old mascot). But also Akron is on their first major renovation of their stadium just a few years ago.

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On 12/24/2018 at 11:20 AM, andrewharrington said:

So, the ones that stick around in the same place with the same identity for long stretches of time, are they doing anything special or are they just in the right place, doing a good job with local marketing to get butts in seats, and maintaining a good relationship with their parent club? Is it that simple?

 

That’s an awful lot of things to put in a “that simple” basket.   Each of those is a job and a half. 

 

But i think the biggest part of the puzzle not mentioned is the stadium situation.  Many if not most of the MiLB teams moving now are moving because the other city lured them with a stadium deal.  

 

Even good teams that are in the right place, do a good job with local marketing to get butts in seats, and maintain a good relationship with their parent club can move for greener stadium pastures.  Witness the PawSox, who should have had everything going for them in Rhode Island. 

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On 12/20/2018 at 8:05 PM, Gothamite said:

The PawSox didn’t leave Rhode Island because they were losing money.  Far from it - they’ve been very successful at the box office.


That depends upon how you define "very successful".

 

I've been a Pawtucket Red Sox season ticket-holder since 1990. I maintained ownership of my season tickets even after moving to the west coast, as I have enough baseball-loving family and friends living in Southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Eastern Connecticut to warrant hanging on to them. Over the years, I've seen the highs and the lows of PawSox baseball.

Following the completion of McCoy Stadium's renovation in 1999, the team enjoyed a pretty heady decade in the stands. Fan support rose in six of the ten seasons from 1999 through 2008, with attendance peaking at an average of 9,561 patrons-per-game in 2005 (good enough for the top spot amongst 14 International League franchises and the fourth-best mark amongst all 30 Triple-A teams).

That said, PawSox attendance has fallen in eight of the last ten seasons. Part of that has undoubtedly been fueled by the impact of the stagnant economy in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. There's also the fact that, even with the improvements that were made to it in 1999, McCoy Stadium is a decidedly "bare-bones" facility surrounded by a mix of single-family homes, some tenements, and industrial buildings. In other words, it isn't a "destination" ballpark. Finally, the death of longtime PawSox owner Ben Mondor in 2010, followed by his widow's sale of the franchise just about four years later, really seemed to impact the public's perception of the team.

By the time that the potential sale of the team had gone from rumor to reported fact in the autumn of 2014, the PawSox had shed nearly 2,200 fans-per-game from their peak attendance mark in 2005, slipping to an attendance rank of 9th out of 14 IL teams. And that was in a season that saw the team win the International League Governors' Cup Championship and advance to the Triple-A National Championship. When the 2015 PawSox season ended, some seven months after the new owners had officially taken control of the team and announced plans to move the team to a new, state-of-the-art ballpark they hoped to see built in the neighboring municipality of Providence, attendance had dropped still lower, to an average of 6,572 fans-per-game (9th out of 14 IL teams; 17th out of 30 Triple-A franchises). Three subsequent years of unsuccessful haggling over a deal to get a new stadium built in either Providence or Pawtucket has resulted in the announcement of a relocation to Worcester, Massachusetts in time for the 2021 International League season, as well as an average attendance of 5,982 for 2018 (11th of 14 IL; 20th of 30 Triple-A). You have to go back to the 1992 PawSox season in order to find a lower team attendance average... and that was when the ballpark's capacity was still around 6,000 seats.
 

                  

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But you admit that they’ve been halfway out the door for the last several years.  That has to hurt attendance.  And of course attendance was going to crater once the move was official. 

 

The PawSox have attendance problems because they’re moving, not the other way around. 

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14 hours ago, Gothamite said:

But you admit that they’ve been halfway out the door for the last several years.  That has to hurt attendance.  And of course attendance was going to crater once the move was official. 

 

The PawSox have attendance problems because they’re moving, not the other way around. 


 

"Halfway out the door for the last several years"? Not really.

 

In point of fact, for the vast majority of the time that discussions regarding a PawSox ballpark were taking place, the focus of team ownership - as well as state and municipal political leadership - was on one of three options. Said options were to (a) build a new facility on a site approximately six miles away from McCoy Stadium, in neighboring Providence, Rhode Island; (b) attempt a significant renovation of McCoy Stadium; or, (c) build a new facility on a site less than a mile away from McCoy Stadium, in downtown Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Within a year to 18 months of the new ownership group taking control of the franchise, the first two options were all but dismissed from serious consideration. For the better part of 3 years - right up until the point that talk of Worcester's city manager and city council taking concrete action to lure the team finally broke in the media - all of the haggling that took place for a new home for the PawSox was focused on the team remaining in Rhode Island. 

Prior to that, most of what had been heard regarding the possibility of the franchise moving out of Rhode Island were either unattributed rumors, or vague pronouncements on the part of political and business leaders in various cities (Fall River, MA... Springfield, MA... Weymouth, MA... Worcester, MA) - stating that if the PawSox owners couldn't ultimately close a deal in the Ocean State, then they should consider "City XYZ" elsewhere.

However, the PawSox brass didn't end their "exclusive" negotiation period with state and local politicians in Rhode Island until July of 2017. Said exclusivity ended with the close of the state's regular legislative session in June. In fact, when Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Timothy Murray approached Larry Lucchino in December of 2016 to discuss the PawSox moving to Worcester, Lucchino told them that team ownership was committed to working things out in Rhode Island, adding that they wouldn't even entertain discussion of a move elsewhere until July of the following year.

Did the official announcement of the move to Worcester impact average attendance in 2018? Yes. That said, the PawSox attendance problems predated the announcement of the team's relocation to Worcester. The  downward trend in attendance in Pawtucket had set in before new ownership bought the team and began discussing a new ballpark anywhere, in or out of state. In fact, in the decade prior to the 2018 season, PawSox attendance had dropped in seven of the ten seasons.

2018 - 5,982 (- 424 / overall drop of - 3115 since 2008)
2017 - 6,406 (+ 330)
2016 - 6,076 (- 496)
2015 - 6,572 (- 804)
2014 - 7,376 (- 451)
2013 - 7,827 (+ 276)
2012 - 7,551 (- 719)

2011 - 8,270 (- 73)
2010 - 8,343 (- 594)
2009 - 8,937 (- 160)
2008 - 9,097 (+ 236)

I still contend that the drop in Pawtucket Red Sox attendance has been fueled by the ingrained economic malaise that has long gripped Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, as well as the bare-bones nature of the McCoy Stadium experience. By extension, ownership's desire/need for a new stadium was driven by the impact on team finances that the drop in attendance has caused. Factor in the notoriously dysfunctional nature of Rhode Island politics, the specter of the $28.2 million in bonds that Rhode Island taxpayers had to shoulder payment of in the wake of the failure of Curt Schilling's 38 Studios, and the ham-handed manner in which the new PawSox ownership group pitched their convoluted financing plan for a  ballpark in Providence, and getting a new facility built for the team in the Ocean State was bound to be exceedingly difficult.             
 

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To be fair, live attendance is down across the board. New teams have that novelty factor going for them. But, the economy hasn't exactly been stout, and there's just so much other things to do the more internet-connected everything has become.

 

MiLB is entertainment first and foremost. Success of the team doesn't factor that much into fan support. They're not only competing for the sports dollar, but for the general entertainment dollar.

 

Why go to a minor league game when you can watch a major league game on TV in HD/4k? Or why go to a minor league game when you can go see a movie? Or stay home and see a movie?

 

Cost/Value is the biggest issue facing sports. If people don't see value for the cost, they won't come.

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