Let’s just all agree that the 2014 Padres season was one to forget. Not just the terrible performance on the field: the historically inept offense, the continuing starting of Eric Stults, just having to see Alexi Amarista playing the field everyday. It was a historically bad season off the field as well. Arguably, the performance by the Padres front office, specifically the marketing and PR departments were historically bad as well. Let’s get a quick recap of the smorgasbord of errors made by them:
BS Plaza. Just the worst.
Over a one month period, the team posted at beer stands that beers were 24 oz., then reduced the cup size to 20 oz. while keeping the price and signage saying 24 oz. up at the stands. This was picked up by the U-T and found itself on the front page of utsandiego.com.
The three ring circus that was the search for a new public address announcer conducted online. Let’s not forget this public debacle was kicked off by firing the long time PA announcer to foster this stunt. Most fans agreed they didn’t care about the search or voting, and that the stunt went on entirely too long.
After a successful Bring Back the Brown throwback weekend, Ron Fowler went and mucked up the works by publicly stating the old mantra of only a “vocal minority” wanting brown uniforms.
To do damage control, the team sent Wayne Partello to Padres Social Hour to try and calm down the fanbase. He then blustered about “focus groups”, how great PCL uniforms are, and pretty much did as much as possible to distance the team from the possibility of going to brown uniforms.
To do damage control for BS Plaza, the team sent Mike Dee to Padres Social Hour to try and calm down the fanbase, Dee blustered about how Bud Selig somehow saved baseball in San Diego. Of course, the taxpayers that actually financed and paid for the ballpark were given no credit. Dee then insulted fans by saying they just didn’t remember all of the “great” work done by Selig.
Offered a bobblehead giveaway in September, presumably for Huston Street or Chase Headley, that had to be canceled due to the front office trading that player away.
BS Plaza. Deserves to be mentioned twice.
The funniest part of all of the marketing and PR failures by the Padres was the fact that it caught them so offguard. It’s as if they have no realization of what fans want or expect out of the team. After preaching accountability when firing Josh Byrnes, the team is keeping the 2014 marketing and PR team together after what can be argued is a historically terrible performance. But it’s a new year, right? Everyone gets a fresh start in the new year. So, we here at Gwynntelligence referred the case study of how to improve the Padres marketing and PR in 2015 over to our proprietary think tank to come up with some suggestions. Here are the results:
1. More Concerts
After the aforementioned bobblehead snafu, the front office scrambled and announced a new partnership with Belly Up Tavern. Instead of the bobblehead giveaway, the team offered up a postgame concert; in this case, featuring O.A.R. The twitterati didn’t seem very impressed with the offering of O.A.R., but I can attest that, at least on the East Coast, they are huge. They have filled Madison Square Garden, Red Rocks, and a ton of other big time venues. At the same time, in San Diego, they play 2nd tier locations like Belly Up and the California Center for the Arts. So maybe not the most market-appropriate “big get”, but I really like the idea. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like me a giveaway item. But looking at the pile of unused “fedoras” [TRILBYS!] in my closet, I don’t really need some of the more misguided giveaway items. The team had a fantasy in 2014 that the Rimel’s Deck would become a post game party area which didn’t really happen, partially due to the awful location and sparse upper deck crowds, partly because half the time the deck is closed due to a private party, and partly due to a complete failure to publicize or promote this idea. I think the postgame party idea is a good one if executed correctly, and a postgame concert is the right way to do so. Now O.A.R. was kind of a swing and a miss (even though I like them), but imagine if the team brought in a NOFX, a Reel Big Fish, or pretty much any House of Blues San Diego caliber band? Couple that with post game lowered beer prices and I think you have a hit. It should be noted that former mobile DJ Wayne Partello has stated a desire to make music more a part of the ballpark experience, so I think this idea has a real potential for happening eventually. Hopefully the tepid response to O.A.R. last season doesn’t scare them off from trying the idea out again this season.
2. Coaster Drop Off At the Stadium
At the end of the season, Mike Dee held a Q&A for season ticket holders that I was able to attend. This was my first chance to meet the man, the myth, the legend since I was rudely not invited to social media day. He mentioned to me that the team has a long term plan to convince the North County Transit District to run Coaster trains all the way to Petco and drop off there, which would be huge for North County residents that are not jazzed about the prospect of walking from Santa Fe Station to Petco Park. This project obviously has a lot of obstacles, specifically navigating the NCTD bureaucracy (who after banning alcohol on the train, have shown themselves to be buffoons) and physically adding a platform along the rails near Petco Park. All doable, and with marketing’s main directive to get butts in seats, anything that can help tap into the lucrative and affluent North County market better should be a top priority.
3. Speaking of North County…
When I spoke with Mike Dee, I mentioned how as a kid, the team seemed to reach out to North County a lot more. I told Dee about how excited I was as a boy to see Steve Finley roll up to the Encinitas Padres Store in his Acura NSX, sign some autographs, and make some fans for life. Apparently Dee was there too. As an assistant. In the old days, the Padres used to actively market to North County. Nowadays, they don’t come north of Mission Valley. I know North Park is the hub of everything cool these days, but the money is in North County. The Padres opened a Padres Store in Tijuana to try and tap into the Baja market. They need to do the same in North County. It really shouldn’t be that hard, a lot of players live in coastal North County, Rancho Santa Fe and Poway. Throw an appearance up North County’s way once in a while and I think it would help develop the fanbase.
4. Press Credentials for Bloggers
While I don’t need to worry about this, being blacklisted by Wayne Partello after all, providing more access to bloggers can help expand their coverage. For a team like the Padres, the more media coverage, whether it’s TV, radio or, yes, blogs, the better. With the moves Preller has made, this is a team that is starving for coverage and attention that can be converted into butts in seats and TV ratings. Letting Padres Public, Gaslamp Ball, or even our own David Marver sit in the press box, have access to players for interviews, and discuss Padres on the record with front office personnel would greatly improve the quality and quantity of coverage of this team. In an age where much of the coverage we see (Corey Brock, Bill Center, Padres Social Hour) is bought and paid for by the Padres, it would be nice to see some independent voices receive more access to produce better content.
5. Keep Doing the Things That Were Going Well
While 2014 was just awful for the Padres marketing and PR staff, there were some real successes. The addition of Padres Social Hour, and specifically the work of Jesse Agler, has been nothing short of fantastic. To produce an hour of content everyday for Padres fans has been a godsend for fans that have for far too long, been starved of quality Padres related programming. While Bill Center is fine, it would be nice to see a bit more variety in guests (and a little/lot less Batting Stance Guy). Some of the better episodes have featured local celebrity bloggers RJ’s Fro and Sac Bunt Chris, and I think it’s nice to hear from some voices that aren’t on the payroll of the Padres (insert shill humor here). The food and drink program at the ballpark has been excellent, and hopefully there is some churn and we can get some new options in for 2015. Certainly more beer variety is always welcomed.
6. Bring Back The Brown
This needs no real explanation, other than that fans are clamoring for it, the team needs a unique identity, and it would capitalize on the current baseball ops-gifted momentum and lock in a ton of fans long term. A uniform change that does not include bringing back brown would completely destroy that momentum and goodwill.
Obviously, this advice is predicated on the existing marketing and PR staff not royally screwing up again this season with unplanned for mistakes, slip ups and snafus, which I am not putting past them. It would also help to keep Uncle Ron away from all microphones. For a ton of fans, there has never been a more exciting offseason than this one, and enthusiasm is as high as I’ve ever seen it. Marketing is a tool to put this improved product in front of as many eyes as possible, and it’s a product that deserves to be seen this year. Hopefully following this hallowed strategy advice from Gwynntelligence, the Padres can capitalize and maximize their capture of fans in 2015.