Just when I thought there wouldnâ€™t be much to mull over before things actually get under way on Friday, yesterday turned into quite the eventful day. The afternoon featured a conference call with The White Sox VP of Marketing, Brooks Boyer and the evening featured an event with Blogs with Balls and Bloomberg Sports discussing products useful for playing fantasy baseball and what major league teams can use.
The Blogs with Balls event was fun. If you happen to be a stat person, these products would probably give you a ridiculous amount of pleasure (read sensory overload and have you drooling). Bloomberg Sports gave a brief demonstration of its Front Office 2011 to use for fantasy baseball. While the product has features to help you prepare for the draft, they realized that most people who attended the event had probably already done their draft. What is really cool about this is the information you can use during the season to help you win your league. One feature that I was intrigued by was the ability to link your fantasy league (if you play using CBS, ESPN or Yahoo) to their tool. When you link your league, the Bloomberg tools will sync with your leagueâ€™s settings and rules and help you scout, evaluate trades, suggest trades and all the other things you would do as an owner taking into account what you are scoring on. In other words, all the information you are getting is taking into account how your league is set up and scores points.
Attendees at the event also got to see a brief taste of what the Bloomberg product can do for Major League teams. They have data dating all the way back to before 1901. It has every kind of information imaginable on a pitcher, such as what pitches are thrown, by inning, by batter, count, ballpark, etc. There is also the same type of information available for hitters as well.
Rick Peterson was also there to speak and he was discussing the use of the data from Bloomberg as well as how this data is used for helping pitchers. I also got to learn about the probability of a guy making an out based upon the count he has and it turns out that it isnâ€™t as simple as throwing strike one, which you always hear in broadcasts that as long as a guy throws strike one, chances of him getting out are better. Sure, first pitch strikes are great, but there is a little more to it than that. Without getting too much into the explanation, generally if a pitchers is ahead 1-2 or 0-2, the batting average is in the low .200s. However if the hitter is ahead with a 2-1, 2-0 count, the batting average is well over .400. While I donâ€™t consider myself a stathead, it was fascinating to see all of this information and if I ever got the opportunity to play around with the version available to MLB teams, I have no doubt I would have fun exploring and learning about pitchers and hitters.
The conference call with Brooks Boyer was highly informative. He was able to tell us about the two biggest amenity changes to the ballpark, Bacardi at the Park as well as the Metra Stop that will be located at 35th. The bar / restaurant will have tons of tvs and two levels. There will be accommodations to have private parties there. Initially, the restaurant will be open only on game days. Speaking of which, if you listen to 670 The Score in Chicago, April 7th, will feature Mully & Hanley doing a live broadcast at Bacardi at the Park beginning at 5 am. Feel free to go out early and get ready for that first pitch coming up in the afternoon.
The Metra stop is part of the Rock Island line. For those who live on the south side and in the south suburbs, this will be a great thing to take advantage of since you will be getting dropped off so close to the park without needing to drive to games. The White Sox are working with Metra to have a dedicated train for getting people to games.
Of course, the things Brooks is most excited about for the upcoming season is the product on the field. Just as many fans are excited about the moves that were made in the offseason as well as how some players have performed over spring, the product should be most exciting to see on the field. Below is a summary of some of the other questions that Brooks was asked about during the conference call. There were a wide variety of topics covered.
On choosing the new organist:
The process evolved and began with an open call. After the list of qualified candidates was selected, they then did auditions in the ballpark with people around to listen to them play. With Lori, she is not only talented and brings an infectious charisma. The selection committee felt as though she had been there and would be able to carry on the tradition of organ music that Nancy Faust had done. As to how much Lori will be at games to play, they would like for her to be there as much as possible, however they do understand she has teenage kids so some time may be taken away due to life with them (which is not a bad thing!)
On dynamic pricing:
Brooks admits that the brief experiment into dynamic pricing toward the end of last season wasnâ€™t very dynamic. To figure out the dynamic pricing, they use a company out of Dallas, Texas that helps to analyze data using things such as team record, weather, pitching match-ups, promotional nights, etc. Then they get a recommendation as to what to set prices at. The White Sox can either use that price or not. For those with season tickets, you can rest assured that dynamic pricing wonâ€™t leave you with more expensive tickets if it happens that the team really wants to get some tickets sold. Brooks said the floor on the dynamic ticket pricing will be the season ticket holder prices. In other words, dynamic prices will never be lower than what you as a season ticket holder paid for your tickets. As they continue to experiment with dynamic pricing, it will mostly be in the lower deck.
The most noteworthy is probably Bacardi this season with the opening of the restaurant / bar. DiGiorno will be at the park selling pizza, Additionally Ford will be a sponsor in addition to Chevy. While sponsorships did dip after the 2007 season due to economics, things are steadily growing. Even as some sponsors have been lost, new ones are still brought in. The BP Cup adds a new level to the sponsorship.
The Beers of the World stand is now being replaced by a craft brews stand. For those who are not into the standard sear fair of Miller, this is exciting news. Especially if local brewers are featured prominently. With the recent acquisition of Goose Island by Anheiser-Busch, this wonâ€™t have any effect at the park. Miller is still and will remain the most accessible beer at the park due to their partnership with the team. You can still find Bud, you will need to look really hard for it.
On Marketing to Women:
With the most recent campaign from the Victoriaâ€™s Secret PINK line with such slogans as â€œMeet Me in the Dugoutâ€ Â as well as some shirts by other companies saying â€œChicks Dig Diamonds,â€ I asked Brooks about how the team goes about marketing to bring in new female fans without alienating existing ones. Brooks has only seen the ones that say â€œI only Kiss White Sox Fansâ€ and on the concept as a whole says those type of things are gimmicky and short-term. Ultimately, he would rather focus on ways that look 3 and 10 years down the road to build the fanbase when it comes to marketing to female fans. They would rather not promote things that are kitschy and appeal only to the crowd of 22-27 year olds singles, but ensure that the values the team represents in advertising and in the things that they do at the ballpark make women feel comfortable coming to the Cell and overall have women say that the White Sox represent them. However, if the merchandise buyers for the team got that stuff, he wouldnâ€™t go in and demand they stop selling it. Having options to appeal to everyone is more what itâ€™s about.Â Ultimately, Brooks says:
â€œPromoting the Victoriaâ€™s Secret line isnâ€™t going to grow our fan base which ultimately adds to payroll which hopefully puts players on the field.â€
On Social Media:
For the White Sox, social media is the fastest way to talk to the fans. Some teams have used it as a quick way to sell discounted tickets, however the White Sox donâ€™t seem to use it for this purpose. Instead, they can use it speak directly with fans as well as control the message they want out there about the team rather than it coming from someone else pass along the message. Upcoming, fans will see an very aggressive use of social media, especially with Twitter. And for those who really enjoy sharing, the White Sox are working with Ticketmaster now to set up a system to allow someone to purchase tickets and immediately show on her Twitter or Facebook account which game she is going to. Brooks wouldnâ€™t be surprised to find that within the next year, that once you purchase a ticket you will immediately be able to look up who is going to be sitting by you, seeing their photo as well as know where other people are going to be sitting. As for more players using Twitter, probably not. However, younger players coming up in the system may use it more just due to the fact that they are â€œgrowing upâ€ with it.Overall this call was incredibly informative and I would love to have a chance to sit down and further pick Brooks brain on the marketing for the team.Â Ultimately it all comes downto the product on the field and if that takes care of itself by winning, the rest should fall in line.
As you can see a lot of stuff was covered. If you have question about anything, please ask as I didn’t get everything covered. For more reading the conference call with Brooks, check out what James, Jim, and JJ had to say about it.