Friday, November 17, 2017

Cold weather may have lead to low attendance for UMass' Fenway visit

By Zachary Baru

When the University of Massachusetts' football team faced the University of Maine on Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston, the temperature was 36 degrees with 12 mph winds, possibly leading to the low attendance of 12,794.

The game was part of the Fenway Gridiron Series, a five-game football series at Fenway including 3 college football games and two high school games between November 10 and November 22.  The series is promoted by Fenway Sports Management, and is yet another attempt to make Fenway Park more than just a baseball stadium for 82 regular season Red Sox games.

Year after year, Fenway has seen an increase in concerts and sporting events, as the Fenway Gridiron Series is an excellent way to make the venue a year-round destination for fans, just as Gillette Stadium and TD Garden is each year.

The big question is, was the less-than anticipated attendance of 12,000-plus strictly because of the weather, or was it something else?  UMass for years has been trying to increase their presence throughout the eastern part of the state, playing games at Gillette Stadium and marketing themselves as a team for the entire state.  Clearly the end result has been sub-par, as a game against a regional rival in a venue as special as Fenway Park should have had a much bigger crowd.

There has been talk about possibly having more UMass games at Fenway, and even a UMass lacrosse game at the ballpark as well.  But with such a low attendance, the chances of more UMass games at Fenway seems questionable.

If the windy, cold weather truly contributed to the lack of fans at Fenway, then possibly UMass Football could make a return visit.  For UMass, the goal has long been to market more across the eastern part of the state, where more of the population and larger sponsors are located.   Hopefully in the near future UMass sports can find a way to attract larger crowds in the Boston-area, which would only help promote and grow the UMass sports brand.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Clubhouse questions could effect bottom line for Red Sox

By Zachary Baru

July 2017 has been full of the wrong type of attention for the Red Sox when it comes to off-the-field news.  Unfortunately for Boston's long-loved baseball club, one major trait has come into question in recent weeks - the character inside the clubhouse.

Is this really a serious issue?  When it comes to the bottom line, it certainly is.  While in the long run this whole controversy could simply be just a slight drop in the popularity of the team, and potentially team revenues, the real issue at hand here is that any potential drop in popularity or revenues warrants concern.

But how could public concerns over the "character"of members of the organization translate to a potential drop in revenue?  The short-term answer is simple: ratings.  The more the public has a negative opinion of the internal makeup of the organization, the more likely it will be that fans will elect not to watch the games, or at least until the issue is dealt with internally, thus pleasing the fans.

Will all of this blow over?  More than likely.  But for now, this is a concern for fans, and should be a concern for the front office as well.  Ratings are incredibly important in sports, and nothing in sports can be a better barometer for a teams' popularity.  Which leads to the long-term affect of all of this mess - ticket sales.

Unlike ratings, ticket sales is not always an exact barometer of a teams' popularity.  Fans can obviously buy tickets far in advance and feel they need to use them, or simply be given tickets as a gift from friends or from businesses looking to entertain clients, potential clients or staff.  Long-term, this wave of concern from fans could result in lower attendances, meaning potentially less concession, merchandise, parking and other revenues.  In other words, make sure fans are happy, because professional sports is an industry full of domino effects.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, they are part of a market where fan scrutiny is the very essence that makes the market so successful for sports teams.  It is this passion that brings Boston teams off-the-field success year after year.   So while Red Sox fans may be upset over the character within the clubhouse, it is this criticism that continuously makes for a unique, and successful market.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Three marketing challenges for the Red Sox in 2017

By Zachary Baru

It comes quicker and quicker each year.  The 2017 Major League Baseball season is upon us, and with it comes a whole new list of challenges for the marketing department of the Boston Red Sox.  While this is anything but a full list, here are a sliver of the issues the team will face in 2017 from a marketing standpoint.

Issues from the recent success of other Boston teams, to a worldwide sports issue in the the ever-changing ways of society and the attention spans of young fans, to the criticism that has already begun from the media and fans about the teams' recent performance.

For the Red Sox, marketing and public relations has historically been handled well, and is one of the franchise's best off-the-field assets.  Every year brings something new to focus on, and shown from the attendance numbers and broadcast ratings, the team gets the job done.  Sometimes we take for granted how hard it is to manage teams in the seventh largest media market, and arguably the top market in terms of on-field success in the last twenty years.

1. The competitive Boston sports landscape.

The 2017 Red Sox season begins with the Patriots coming off a fifth Super Bowl win, in a market has long set the bar high for professional sports.  Playoff appearances, division titles, or even league-leading records are practically meaningless to the high-standard Boston sports fan.  And for good reason: in Boston, success is expected.  Period.

While the Celtics are not at the Patriots level of success, they are still on the upward swing, climbing towards the level of success that Boston sports fans expect.  They are young, explosive, and exciting to watch.  And most of all, they weren't expected to be where they are right now.  Boston sports fans are hard working individuals that appreciate a team that works equally as hard as they do.  The Celtics are just that, and enjoying an exciting 2016-17 season that is winding down shortly.

For the Red Sox, the bar is just as high as it has ever been.  Boston fans expect more than just a playoff appearance in 2017.  This is the great part about being in a successful sports region.  It makes the fans demand more, and forces the franchises themselves to strive for more.  The question is, how will the Red Sox market themselves to promote that they are on the path to a successful season?  The message needs to be sent out early to capture the interest of fans, especially during a potential Celtics playoff run in the coming months.  The consequences could be a backseat in the Boston sports landscape.  And with the MLB loosing their market share to other leagues within recent years, this is a risk the Red Sox cannot afford to take.

2. The decreasing attention-span of viewers.

Ask any parent, teacher, or anyone who is frequently in contact with our youth, and they will tell you what is happening to society.  It is a decreasing attention-span, and it is spreading to more than just the millennials.  The ever-increasing option of instant gratification has been growing for years, and for baseball, is causing a huge problem for retaining viewers and fans.  The Red Sox, like all other baseball teams, need to tackle this issue quickly.  

Football is full of ten second "highlight reel" plays, that capture the excitement of movie clips for sports fans.  Collin Cowherd brought this up years ago, and it is something that is a major issue for all baseball teams.  As popular as the Red Sox are, they are no different - they still have to win back the battle of their fans' attention, especially the young fans.

Basketball and hockey have similar "highlight reel" flows to the game, and while baseball will always have home runs and diving catches, it is still a three-hour game in a world that now demands information in 140 characters or less.  The question is simple: how can the Red Sox win back these fans?  The answer, however, is not so simple.  It will take extensive marketing, strategically crafted for young fans and fans who baseball is most at-risk for losing.  

Social media will be a key way of reaching these fans, but should not be the only focus.  The fans that are turning away from baseball still watch plenty of television and listen to sports radio on a daily basis.  The marketing campaigns need to reach these fans that are leaving the game, and prove to them that baseball is changing and is still worth watching.  The longer baseball waits to tackle this issue, the further it will get from winning the battle.

3. Criticism from the media and fans.

Criticism from the media and fans in Boston will be nothing new to the Red Sox.  The bar for success is hard to debate - it is high in Boston.  And no one will be feeling that more than John Farrell, who has already felt pressure from the media and fans.  David Price continues to get criticism from both the fans and media alike, and Pablo Sandoval's contract has also generated some discussion, as he is in year 3 of his $95 million contract.  But the criticism does not end there, leading to the question of how the Red Sox will send a message to the fans ensuring that they are heading in the right direction.  

Positivity will be key, and should be a focus for marketing this season.  Fans need to be aware that this team is on the path to success.  With good, positive marketing, the Red Sox can steer the conversation away from all of this criticism during the off-season.  

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, with the two aforementioned issues, criticism about the team really should not handled with belief that "any publicity is good publicity".   The Red Sox, and all of Major League Baseball, has enough battles to face right now.  On-going criticism about the team should not be looked at as a non-issue.


Where we are now...

The Red Sox front office may have a lot on its plate when it comes to marketing the team in 2017, but one thing is for sure, history tells us that they know how to handle it.  They have one of the best marketing teams in not just present-day sport, but sports history.  This is the same franchise that marketed "Paint the Town Red" back in 2003, and sold us on a group of guys that were counted out in 2013, and went on to become world champions.

This is a franchise that knows how to market its product.  And 2017 should not be any different.  While Boston is home to some of the best on-field successes in the last 20 years, this region is also home to some of the best front offices the sports world has ever seen.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Nearly 40,000 attend Revolution season finale

By Zachary Baru

Generally speaking, if it's a Sunday afternoon in late October, and tens of thousands of cars are pulling up, you are typically speaking about a Patriots game.

But in 2016, football is not the only option for this sort of crowd.  Sunday, October 22 was all about soccer at Gillette Stadium.  From the thousands who poured in early at Patriot Place, to the thousands of others tailgating in the parking lot, it was a celebration of soccer at Gillette, with 39,587 of the beautiful game's fans their to watch the Revolution close out the 2016 season with a 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact.

This was a dramatic difference from the season-ending match in 2005, when the Revolution played the Chicago Fire before 11,182 fans.  But the Revs have come a long way since then, becoming a major part of the sports landscape throughout New England.

Not a believer?  Kids, teens, young professionals and adults can be seen year-round throughout New England wearing Revs gear. And no, it is not just the soccer fields anymore, although those are even more filled with Revolution merchandise.

The popularity of MLS is very much on the rise, steady with the growth of soccer in the U.S.  As the MLS and its teams focus on marketing the game more than cheesy promotions, the fans have bought in, and many are jumping on board.

Some of the biggest growth can be seen with young professionals in urban areas.  They love soccer, love partying with the supporter's clubs, and naturally love MLS.  And you wonder why a soccer-specific stadium within the city limits of Boston is so important?

The popularity of the Revolution and all of MLS is heading in the right direction.  So where will this take us?  Higher television and radio ratings?  Higher ticket sales?  A new stadium?  2017 looks to be an interesting year for soccer in New England. Soccer fans, you've waited long enough for this.  Just sit back and enjoy.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Big lineup ahead for concerts at Fenway

By Zachary Baru

This year will be one to remember at Fenway Park for more than just baseball.  The concert lineup for 2016 is, to say the least, impressive.

This summer, Fenway Park will welcome seven different acts with eleven dates total.  It all begins with Dead & Company playing two nights in Boston on July 15 and 16.  Price levels for Dead & Company will be $55, $80 and $104.

Just one day later, Paul McCartney will make it three consecutive days of concerts at Fenway with a performance on July 17.  From a marketing standpoint, this is a tremendous way for Live Nation and the Boston Red Sox to kick off the concert season.

The season at Fenway continues on August 3 with James Taylor, coming off his stop at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook on August 1, and of course his traditional appearance at Tanglewood on July 3 and 4 at the famous Koussevitzky Music Shed.

Just two days later, Pearl Jam will invade Fenway with two nights on August 5 and 7.

As if that wasn't enough, Billy Joel comes to the ballpark on August 18, followed by the Zac Brown Band on August 20 and 21.

The concert season comes to an end with Jason Aldean and Kid Rock on September 9 and 10.

Fenway Park has certainly come a long way building up a reputation as one of the premier concert locations in all of New England.  While the Boston Red Sox, Live Nation and all of the artists will be the parties to profit from this, the local economy in the city will reap the benefits as well. These eleven dates are eleven additional opportunities for all businesses in the area - hospitality, retail, etc, - to benefit from the influx of people in and around Fenway.

With the current lineup, 2016 certainly looks to be a concert season at Fenway that will be remembered for many years to come.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Just how big is the World Figure Skating Championships for Boston?

By Zachary Baru

This week, all eyes are on Boston in the world of figure skating, as TD Garden hosts a valuable, international event not just for the venue, but for the city as a whole.  The 2016 World Figure Skating Championships came to TD Garden Wednesday, and will continue through Sunday as Boston finds itself on the world's stage for this prestigious event.

The true value lies far beyond the traditional economic benefit from the influx of fans, as this week will be a commercial for the city to an international audience.  Additionally, after renovations completed within the last two years, the TD Garden will have a chance to show its capability of hosting large events, yet another reason to open the discussion of possible events in the venue's future.

One such event that is both due for an appearance in Boston, as well as a perfect match for the city, would be the NBA All-Star Game.  Back in 2013, the Boston Globe reported that Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told the paper the Celtics were considering filing an application to host a future All-Star Game.  Hosting the event, of course, never became reality, yet the opportunity and potential is still there.  An event with the international appeal and magnitude of the World Figure Skating Championships is a perfect chance to showcase the venue's potential to host on the international stage.

As the World Figure Skating Championships bring worldwide attention to Boston, one of the most notable effects is economic impact within the city.  Between the estimated 90,000 spectators in Boston from all parts of the globe, to the international media presence, the economic impact of the event will benefit hotels, restaurants and retail shops throughout the city.  According to the Boston Globe, the estimated economic impact in Boston will be between $38 million and $41 million.

Boston's selection as host to the championships will be the first time the city is hosting the event, and it marks the first time the championships have been held in the United States since 2009, when the Staples Center in Los Angeles served as the host venue.  Boston, however, is no stranger to competitive skating, as the city hosted the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 2014.

So for anyone thinking that this week's World Figure Skating Championships is just another event for the city of Boston, think again.  The TD Garden finds itself front and center to the world's figure skating audience, in a truly special event for the entire city.

Source: The Boston Globe

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Three things Boston sports business found out in 2015

By Zachary Baru

1. The Olympics will not be in Boston in 2024.

After a long campaign to bring the Olympics to Boston in 2024, ultimately it was decided that the city will not be hosting the games less than nine years from now.  The Olympics in Boston could have been a massive economic boost for the city, and all of the shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels throughout the region.  The Olympics would have been an effective advertisement for the entire world to view, showcasing everything Boston and parts of Massachusetts has to offer.  This, however, many feared would have come with an expense that the Commonwealth does need, and what many felt, does not want.  The argument over the pros and cons of hosting an Olympics will most likely go on for many, many years.  But one thing is for sure, much of the sports and entertainment industry in the region would have loved to be part it.  Both Gillette Stadium and TD Garden were part of a long list of possible venues that could have hosted events.  In addition to cities in the eastern portion of the state, the list of venues extended to Western Massachusetts as well.  Apparently some people in Boston still believe that Massachusetts extends past Framingham.

2. TD Garden's mixed-use development plans look stunning, and ambitious.

The future for TD Garden may one day consist of much more than an 18,000-seat arena and a major transportation hub.  Delaware North Cos., parent company of TD Garden and the Boston Bruins, have plans for a mixed-use development adjacent to TD Garden and North Station that will transform the arena and station into a center for commercial and residential use, as well as transportation and entertainment.  This project will be one to look out for in 2016.

3. Gillette Stadium makes a great venue for outdoor hockey.

After years of wondering what Gillette Stadium would be like to host an outdoor NHL game, this past week has shown the region that Gillette truly is a great host for the Winter Classic.  The real question is why did it take so long for outdoor hockey to come to Foxboro.  Hosting the game at Patriot Place will allow fans to make an entire day out of the game, with shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment and a hotel.  Gillette is proving to be a wise choice for the NHL and Bruins to host this annual event.  The only problem is that now we may be running out of New England venues to host the event in the future.  Can you say East Hartford in 2020?

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.