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Marketing The 2008 Phillies

Former Phillies bench outfielder Ruben Amaro fielded a chat Friday with team employees — err, fans — via the Internet.  Here are three of my favorite nuggets:

Q:  Are there any plans to get a left-handed bench option for when Dobbs and Jenkins are starting?
Amaro:  One option that is currently on our roster is Chris Snelling.  While he’s battled his share of injuries in the past, he can flat out hit.

Malcolm:  Chris Snelling – MLB – 221 AB / 6 HR / 19 RBI / .240 AVG / .357 OBP / .380 SLG

I wouldn’t say he can “flat out hit.”  In fact, some of his career totals match up well with … uhh … Rubern Amaro Jr.

Q:  Any interest in taking a chance on Bartolo Colon?
Amaro:  That would be unlikely.  We have concerns about his overall health.

Malcolm:  Hey Ruben, question from January 2007 — any interest in taking a chance on Freddy Garcia?

Q:  How does the Phils’ starting rotation stack up against the NL East?
Amaro:  With all due respect to John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, I would take Cole Hamels and Brett Myers at the top of a rotation over any others in our division.

Malcolm:  And with all due respect to Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton:  Crap.

This Amaro chat leads me to a subject I hold dearly:  Marketing.  I hold it dearly because marketing says a lot about how one runs an organization.  It’s incredibly important.  The Amaro chat, in a way, was a method of marketing:  Get a figurehead out there to speak about the organization in a casual manner.  Of course, Amaro spouts out a couple Microsoft Word-quality cut-and-paste phrases, but the goal is to reach out to the fans, mainly, us fans, the ones who know how to use computers.

Sadly, the Phillies market mainly to the rest of their fanbase — the families, the older people.  As a result, the Phillies have always been seen as — well — corny.

For one, the Phils weekly magazine is “Phillies Clubhouse.”  It sounds too cutesy.  And most of the show’s feature pieces are feel-good schlock about the team in the community or some stupid interview where answers are painfully obvious.  There’s probably just a little too much emphasis on the Phanatic, though he is the best mascot in sports.  The “college nights” and Thursday night “club” events at the park are watered down.  Even the Phillies broadcast song sounds like it’s a Wiggles B-side.  It’s all too cute.

In fact, I normally receive snickers from co-workers, friends, etc., upon telling them for whom I pledge my allegiance.  It’s not because the Phils are perennial also-rans, but more because the team image is safe.  And that’s true:  Look at the front office.  We complain about the conservative moves being made this offseason; well, it’s an organizational thing.  This is a conservative franchise.

Living in Connecticut, I get a fair share of Yankees and Red Sox exposure.  Like them or not, these are the class teams of baseball.  And they each play marketing strongly:

The Yankees bathe in their tradition.  “Yankeeography,” an hour-long bio show on Yankee greats, spotlights everyone from Babe Ruth to Bill Dickey.  “Yankees Classics” runs the gamut from Jeter’s heroic games to Thurman Munson’s big performances.  Outside of television, the Yankees never have a slogan.  They’re above slogans.  Instead, they parade their World Championships and unifying spirit.  They parade their legends.  They have old-timers day and, really, every other day at Yankee Stadium is there to honor someone.  The fans eat it up, because it makes them feel honored that they’ve been rooting on the best of the best since birth.

The Red Sox amp up their current product with edginess.  Who has the gall to run with “Red Sox Nation” and make it a nationally known term?  Merchandise sales are ridiculous, but it’s because they’re not afraid to run out there with green shirts or pink shirts on a Sunday.  They involve women by playing up their “hunky” players (Lowell, Ellsbury, Pedroia).  Their TV coverage includes “Red Sox Classics,” which does the same as “Yankees Classics.”  Their Red Sox magazine show is fun, but not the corny fun of “Phillies Clubhouse.”  Features are a bit edgier, intriguing.  Even the theme music for Red Sox broadcasts is a rock song.  They make their young fans tough and proud.

Now, the Yanks have a full-service TV station at their use, and the Sox aren’t second fiddle in their home city.  But the Phillies can do a few things to improve their marketing image:

1.  Revamp the TV magazine show.  At least give it a new name.

2.  Create a “Phillies Classics” show.  There’s a wealth of material, and there’s a TV station that can reserve a weekly spot for it.

3.  Pump 2008 up as the year the Phils are going to win the World Series.  Even if they can’t grab anyone else between now and April, tell the city, the state, the world that the Phillies expect to go the distance.  Give the fans a reason to be excited without banking on Utley’s good looks, Rollins’ promises and Howard’s bat.  The front office needs to do something.  “Goosebumps” was a nice slogan, but it says nothing about how the team expects to perform.  The Phillies shouldn’t be afraid to tell people that they’re contenders.

The 2008 Phillies marketing campaign will begin soon.  Will there be a slogan, and what would yours be?  I’d go with ” ’08 … Or Else” or maybe “No Excuses” or “This Year … The World” or “You Will Celebrate.”  Something definite, something ballsy.

How would you market the Phillies in 2008?

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