Thursday, September 29, 2011

Red Sox Brand Remains Strong

By Zach Baru

For those who believe the Boston Red Sox are simply a "sports team" and not a "brand", one only has to walk down the streets of Boston at any given neighborhood, and at any given time of day to realize how powerful that Red Sox logo really is.  It is everywhere.  It's on hats, shirts, cars, you name it.  Where ever you may go in Boston, you are sure to be somewhere in the presence of one of the most important, and popular brands in all of New England, the Boston Red Sox.

In fact, it is so popular, it dominates the media.  In newspapers, on television or the radio, and social network sites, the Red Sox are constantly a topic of conversation.  There are countless books on the idea of this "fascination" we have for the Red Sox.  So what happens when an event like last night occurs, and an entire region is shocked by an occurrence of events all unfolding within three minutes.  What is the current state of the Red Sox brand?

Is it so strong that it can never be weakened?  Boston has been through this before.  Every generation has their story.  But what is so interesting about what happened last night is not so much the ending, but what lead up to it.  An entire month of negativity, in which case some fans actually wanted the Red Sox to loose.

So hear we are.  This is a very different situation than the one in 2003.  Then, the momentum of the Red Sox brand was not slowing down, it was only growing.  It was feeding off of the hunger for a World Series title.  Eight years later we already have two titles, and with recent success we expect just that, even more success.  

It became evident at the beginning of the season that there had been a bit of a change in Red Sox Nation.  Suddenly, games weren't selling out so fast.  More tickets were available on game days.  And fans were showing up later in the game, and leaving earlier in the evening.  This continued throughout the season, raising the question, is the bubble popping for Red Sox Nation?

From a brand standpoint, as long as the seats are all sold, the ratings are high, and the headlines are still dominated with coverage, the Red Sox brand remains strong.  Even if we go from baseball playoffs to hockey season in a matter of minutes.  Only a brand as powerful as the Red Sox can get away with that.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Review: "All Pro-Panel", What's Next for Social Media and Sports

By Zach Baru

What would the common fan's reaction be to seeing the phrase "@Celtics" painted on the court at the TD Garden?  This was one of many questions being raised, and ideas being brought up at last weeks "All-Pro Panel" at Game On outside Fenway Park.  Although the many high definition television sets inside the bar had games being played, the only discussion from the 125 attendees was the role of social media in professional sports.  

As social media continues to revolutionize the way businesses market their products, social media is making the very same impact on professional sports franchises.  As one of the representatives from four of Boston's professional teams put it, social media is the new form of a press release.  The public relations department of a franchise is no longer the only form of communication or announcement from the team.  News and other information is now instantly released using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

The Red Sox are just one example of a Boston team using social media as a way to connect with fans, and promote themselves at the same time.  Their "Tweet Your Seat" promotion has become very popular, having fans Tweet their seat location at Fenway for a chance to win prizes.  "It's a great way to get people involved when they're in the park," says All-Pro Panel attendee Liz Sklar, an Emerging Technology Strategist at allen & gerritsen, an advertising agency in Watertown, MA. As the dependence of traditional media such as newspaper and television starts to decline, the connection between social media and sports continues to grow.

Other highlights from the panel of representatives from the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins:

  • The use of hasthags on television broadcasts of games will continue to grow.
  • Twitter and Facebook are used as a way for teams to get feedback from fans, formerly lead by sports radio. 
  • Leagues have strict regulations for the use of social media by its franchises.
  • Google+ is not a major player for social media marketing by franchises. 
  • Only 25% of Facebook users who "like" the Red Sox live in New England.

Interesting quotes from the panel:

"If you don't engage and leverage your social media followers, the platform is absolutely worthless." - Peter Stringer, Director, Interactive Media, Boston Celtics

"We're not looking for direct ROI from Twitter from a Bruins perspective, we want to really connect." - Chris DiPierro, Director of Marketing, Boston Bruins

"We treat social media responses as one big focus group" - Colin Burch, Director, Marketing and Broadcast Services, Boston Red Sox

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Monday, September 19, 2011

Slap Shots: Revolution, BC, Cannons

By Zach Baru

Sad to see the Blazers' 2012 season suspended, hopefully they will they call another local venue home for 2013.

With the integration of social media and premium seating, the new Putnum Club at Gillette Stadium truly is a "sports marketing playground".

2012 prediction: BC versus UConn at Gillette.

It's amazing, this fall the TD Garden will have a tennis match before a basketball game (October 1, Staples Champions Cup, Agassi vs. McEnroe).

As the weather begins to cool down, the attendance is heating up for the Revolution, with  two consecutive home games having over 15,000 fans.

Nice to see Frozen Fenway reaching out to fans all over New England for their double header on January 7, 2012, with UMass vs. Vermont, and UNH vs. Maine.

From a prospective of broadcast revenue, the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference is priceless for BC.

Arena football and the TD Garden, a perfect match.

Congratulations to the Boston Cannons winning the Major League Lacrosse championship, now move back to Nickerson where you belong.

Will the Dropkick Murphys' concert at Fenway Park's "Bleacher Theater" be a catalyst for future intimate shows at the ballpark?

In tribute to Garry Brown.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blazers to Be Missed in Boston

By Zach Baru

As Boston celebrates a Major League Lacrosse championship, the city looses a big part of the lacrosse community.  Earlier this month and just days after the Boston Cannons won the MLL championship, the Boston Blazers announced the suspension of their operations for the 2012 National Lacrosse League season.  

This is a major loss for lacrosse fans in Boston, which has a rich tradition of not just lacrosse, but professional indoor lacrosse as well.  The original New England Blazers began playing in the Worcester Centrum in 1989 and moved to the Boston Garden in 1992 to become the Boston Blazers.  The Blazers continued to play in the new FleetCenter until the end of the 1997 season when the Major Indoor Lacrosse League became the NLL of today with a new entity and individual team ownership.

Today's NLL saw the Boston Blazers join the league in May of 2007, with their first season at the then named TD Banknorth Garden in 2008.  The ownerships of the two Blazers' franchises had no relation, but both have had the same goal, giving Boston fans a chance to be part of one of the fasting growing sports in the country.  Over the last ten years, the number of high school lacrosse programs in the United States has nearly doubled from 1,600 to over 3,000 today, reason to believe in the long-term success of professional lacrosse.  

And if the last decade has been any indication, the success will come from the indoor game, as the NLL continues to dominate in ticket sales.  In 2011, the NLL averaged 9,722 fans per game, while the MLL averaged 6,417.  It is also noted that four of the ten franchises in the NLL averaged over 10,000 fans per game last year, while the MLL had one such example of its six teams.  This season, MLL's Denver Outlaws averaged 12,331 fans per game, which is much inflated by their annual Fourth of July game in which the city holds a fireworks display at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.  

As professional indoor lacrosse in the United States has a longer history than its outdoor competitor, it is no question that the NLL continues to beat the MLL in attendance each year.  In the NLL's twenty-five year history many of its games, including a large amount of championship games, have seen sell-outs of major arenas throughout all of the United States and Canada.  Attendances have often reached up to 19,000 fans, proving to marketers that the valuable young adult demographic will buy into this sport.

There is no question the NLL will be missed in Boston.  The Blazers have made themselves a part of the community, not only on the field, but off the field as well.  They have reached out to youth lacrosse programs throughout the city, growing the sport, and creating a presence within the community.  Something all franchises should make a part of their daily routines.  It is sad to see them leave, but professional indoor lacrosse has and will always have a rich history in the city of Boston.  Only time will tell what the future holds.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at