It has been a landmark year for the storied brand of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but not the way fans and officials probably hoped. The McCourt divorce trial, a vicious assault of a fan in the parking lot, financial troubles, dwindling attendance and a team that underperformed on the field have led to a tough year inn Chavez Ravine. However to their credit, the Dodgers keep trying to find ways to stayt relevant and look to the future by building some fan loyalty as things wrap up.
First came the announcement that their lead voices, including the legendary Vin Scully, were returning to the booth next season, giving fans a little continuity as the offseason looms with one of its most identifiable faces and its most unmistakable sound. Then the team this week announced a very aggressive social media plan for the month of September, which can help provide fans with more insight, connection and incentives to stay in touch with a brand they may have grown tired with due to all the off-field issues the team was having. Why does any of this matter? Shouldn’t the Dodgers just let it all go, quietly go into the offseason and see where the future will lead? Why draw more attention to themselves? The answers are simple…no, there is no need to go quietly. It matters very much for a brand that is going to have to find assets, rebuild loyalty and find ways to be relevant in a challenging and uncertain time, and with regard to attention…the attention is there, so try and find ways to make a positive.
The efforts the team are making are not high cost, but can be high impact. Social media remains a pretty free range space, and even on their darkest days, the team will draw some eyeballs, ears and butts in the seat in the final month. Why not try and engage them and reward their loyalty with prizes and access that are big on loyalty and low on dollar value. The team has marketable players and a brand that may be damaged but is not by any means dead. The Dodgers brand extends far beyond its Southern California borders still, so using the social space, one without walls, to reach out to even a casual fan base is a smart move. The promotion also sends a message to players that the organization has not abandoned them…they have value to the franchise and to the fan base, and the team is finding ways to stay relevant for them in the marketplace as well. While team ownership may and will eventually change, the Dodgers will remain a Southern California staple and an iconic sports brand, and those in the day to day spots have jobs to do. Challenging times sometimes lead to the most creative and executable ideas, and although the onfield results cannot be controlled, the enthusiasm for working in professional sports and entertainment at any level must be maintained and must stay high. Those in the box office and on the marketing team aren’t buying or selling the team, so using this time as a litmus test for ideas, and trying to be a leader in new areas like social media, is very smart to do. Could it backfire and people not be interested, or could an uncaring player drop the ball and use the space in a negative way? Perhaps. However the Dodgers appear to have cultivated a core of players who understand and enjoy the space, and they have made strategic moves to engage those players and see where it can lead not for this year but for the future.
Sports is cyclical, and those franchises down now will eventually rise up again. The great news for the Dodgers is that the brand, when it does rise again, will be recognizable and relevant even in the most challenging times. By pushing ahead proactively on the promotion front, the team is showing that they understand the responsibility of the position they are in today, and have created an avenue for fans to continue to engage and have some fun in an easy to access, no cost space, that can yield a solid and growing base of positive memories for the future.
It has not been easy for those in the Dodger employ this year, but it is great to see they understand the task and are trying ways to keep the ball moving forward on even the darkest of days.