The baseball post-season is upon us and expectations are high. For Phillies fans, just five years ago merely making the playoffs was a tremendous achievement. While it is still an accomplishment, having the best record in the majors, combined with winning the NL East crown for 5 consecutive years and the World Championship in 2008, raises the bar higher.
This post isn't really about their chances of the Phillies post-season success. Their chances are excellent and their starting pitching is the best among the 8 playoff teams. Baseball wisdom is that pitching wins in October. We'll see if they can bring home another Series trophy. Regardless, whether they do or fall short, their marketing efforts are nothing short of phenomenal. On this dimension they are already champions.
The facts are indisputable:
1. Sold out stadiums
2. Highest attendance in the major leagues
3. A rabid fan base within the market and beyond
The Phillies have continued to capture the imagination of the market and have made attending a game a "happening" throughout the season, delivering a string of sellouts dating back to July 2009 and averaging around 45,000 fans each game. As a result, the combination of the buzz at the stadium and the increased TV/radio ratings helps the Phillies deliver significant value to their sponsors whose association with the team provides a fulcrum for their own marketing initiatives. As a playoff team, they also generate millions of additional dollars for the local economy from out-of-town visitors, hotel rooms, media, sponsors, and so on. Let's hope that these visitors stay here until late October.
But this hasn't always been the case. As we wrote a year ago in a similar blog post, empty seats were common here in the late 90's and early last decade. On the field, the team was average during this time. Furthermore, the buzz was nonexistent, and there was little "red" to be seen on the backs of fans. Even those that did sport Phillies colors largely wore retro Schmidt and Carlton jerseys, great players of yesteryear. The Vet was cavernous and not a particularly exciting place to watch a game. Aside from the late 70's, 1980, 1983 and 1993, there were few bright moments, and small crowds were the norm. In the last 8 years of the Vet's existence (1996-2003), the Phillies averaged less than 22,000 fans per game. Too many mediocre seasons in a dull, concrete municipal stadium made for little excitement.
The Phillies were fortunate (and smart) enough to have created an exciting winning team almost immediately after they moved into Citizens Bank Park. They delivered to the region, positively starving for a Championship, a parade in 2008 that it hopes to duplicate in a few weeks.
Maybe they will do so again (we hope), or they may fall short. But through smart marketing, product success, vision, and perhaps some self-made luck, they have created the "environment of success" for the future. A successful team, packed houses, sponsorships worthy of a significant investment, TV/radio ratings that deliver significantly "engaged" audiences, and smart baseball decisions all factor in the equation for their marketing.
On this dimension, the Phillies are indeed Champions again already.
Let's Go Phils!