Friday, October 30, 2015

Rays add new marketing guru to front office

According to the Tennessean, the Tampa Bay Rays will have a new executive front office member in 2016. Jeff Cogen, current CEO of the Nashville Predators, will be joining the organization on February 1st, following the NHL All-Star Game. Cogen will split time between the Predators and Rays beginning on November 30th.

With the departure last season of longtime Rays executive Mark Fernandez and attendance at a 10-year low, it is no surprise the Rays brought someone in.

So who is Jeff Cogen?

First of all, Cogen is a long-time friend of Rays President Matt Silverman. According to the Wall St Journal, Cogen was one of the first team presidents Silverman befriended when he joined the Rays in 2006. So there is a history of collaboration.

Second, and most important, Cogen has a long career in sports and entertainment. According to the Predators' website, he has worked in the following positions with the following organizations:
  • CEO, Nashville Predators
  • President, Dallas Stars
  • President, Texas Rangers
  • Vice President, Dallas Stars
  • Executive V.P. of Marketing and Sales, Southwest Sports Group
  • Chief Operating Officer, Florida Panthers
  • Director, and later Vice President of Marketing for Olympia Arenas, the managing company of Detroit Red Wings, Joe Louis Arena and Fox Theater
  • Manager, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Shows
In total, Cogen has been working in sports and entertainment for nearly 30 years.

According to the Nashville Business Journal, Cogen and Predators' Chief Operating Officer Sean Henry have achieved much in their tenure. They've increased ticket sales, encouraged youth sports, increased season ticket holders and corporate sponsors, and re-energized the fanbase of a team that was rumored to relocated.

According to the Chairman of the Predators in the Tennessean,
“I have never seen a marketing person who is as thorough and organized and as systematic as Jeff,” Cigarran said. “That is now part of the DNA of the whole sales team. He can tell you every little thing that we sell, how is it trending. I’ve seen a lot of good marketing people … but I’ve never seen anyone as good as Jeff.”

While in charge of the Predators, Cogen saw attendance increase from a low of 14,979 in 2010-11 to 16,854 in 2014-15. A better team on the ice helped, but Cogen also "increased television ratings, and sales and marketing efforts."

An interesting quote from an article on Predators attendance summed up Cogen and Henry's thought process:
"If there are 500 or 1,000 fans from other cities, it makes for a fun night," Henry said. "But it's not a lot of fun when there are 7,000 of them. Then it's no longer a home game. So the real key is getting people that wear gold in our building. We need to give them reasons ..."

When asked about Major League Baseball in Nashville, Cogen emphasized how hard a small market has to work and what elements are needed for success.
"It's easier in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston, because to fill 40,000 seats you have to have a smaller percentage of the population. But I believe the market is robust enough, and corporate-laden and technologically savvy that we have the right mix of corporate and individuals that could support Major League Baseball, if there were facilities."
Needless to say, Cogen has his work cut out for him in Tampa Bay. While the Predators arena is located "in the midst of a very trendy entertainment district", we all know the location issues of Tropicana Field. How much can Cogen overcome that huge obstacle?

Corporate support has also been a huge problem for the Rays. Can Cogen get the Rays on the right track with corporate partners? Can he get more fans to the ballpark on the weekends?

I've often said the Rays can't sell baseball like other teams do. They need to think out of the box. Cogen is an out-of-the-box thinker. In 2011, the Predators gave away tickets. According to Yahoo! sports, the strategy was to "(a) get them in the building and (b) track that data to get them back". Cogen then claimed he can "turn 15 percent of non-paying attendees into paying fans". And Cogen didn't care much about season ticket holders paying when others didn't. According to Cogen.
"Empty seats don't look very good on television, they don't cheer very loud, they don't buy hot dogs."
Tropicana Field had a lot of empty seats last year. When full, they have often been due to opposing fans.

From what I am reading, the Rays have themselves a great acquisition in Jeff Cogen. I've often called the Rays marketing effort the hardest job in sports. Let's see what Cogen can do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 vs 2014 Tampa Bay Rays Attendance Comparison

Today I am going to do something I have never done before, but probably should have. I am going to compare year-to-year attendance. As I mentioned in my previous post, Rays attendance dropped nearly 14% from 2014 to 2015. This post will look at the second level: where did it drop?

Finding out where attendance dropped could give insight into reasons why. Of course there are overarching reasons such as reduced interest in baseball regionally, cost, or transportation. But before we come to that conclusion we should try to identify the most and least times attendance decreased and see what the tea leaves show us.

Then after we pinpoint the biggest problems the next step to theorize "why?" followed by "what should the Rays do about it?".

2014 vs 2015 attendance by Month:

We see here that during the summer months of June and July, Rays attendance in 2015 wasn't far off of 2014. But in the early and later months of the season, attendance was far worse in 2015. This variance might require us to consider different reasons for the 2015 attendance decrease.

The most accepted theory for the early part of the season is the popularity of the Tampa Bay Lightning during their Stanley Cup Playoff run. We have explored the Lightning effect on the Rays quite a few times. The important thing to realize is that the Lightning didn't only affect the Rays on the exact day of their games. They affected interest in the Rays for the entire time the Lightning were in the playoffs. And then when the Lightning season ended, the Rays had to wait for people to have expendable funds again.

Once the area sports fans had expendable funds again, they sought out the Rays. When looking at the slight decreases over June and July, we have to consider other factors. Among the most popular:
  • Lack of identifiable players
  • Loss of marketable and recognizable players
  • Team performance
  • Interest in opponents
  • Bad stadium experience
  • Increased security
  • Increased ticket costs
  • Stadium political situation

Some of these may have affected people. Some of them may not have had any affect at all. Some may have been affected by mix of all the factors. Without polling everyone who did not go to a game, there is no way to tell.

The decreases in August and September are little tougher to estimate about. They probably have a lot to do with the aforementioned reasons, but with more emphasis on team performance. As we have proven before, being in the playoff hunt does positively affect attendance. If a team muddles around .500, as the Rays did this year, fans lose interest and attendance in August and September is closer to May than July.

2014 vs 2015 Rays attendance by day

There is a lot of negative here. No day was spared in the Rays 2015 attendance decrease. While Monday and Wednesday look a little less depressing, we have to remember the Opening Day sellout was on a Monday and Wednesday featured several "Parks and Recreation Day" promotions where summer camps full of kids filled the stadium. Without those promotions, Monday and Wednesday would probably be similar to Tuesday or Thursday.

The day that took the biggest hit was Friday. As I have often written, Friday is an interesting day for baseball. Whereas fans still have to fight rush hour traffic to get to the park, those who work the typical Mon-Fri work week are not pressured to leave early due to the work the next day. Friday night games should be the best time to unwind after a stressful week. Unfortunately for the Rays, fans opted to do something else to unwind.

While popular consensus is that Tropicana Field is difficult to get to on the weekdays, weekend attendance shouldn't face the same time and traffic obstacles.

Here is a breakdown of the Weekends and Weekdays from 2014 to 2015:

What is interesting here is that as bad as weekdays were (8 games under 10,000 tickets sold), weekends had the bigger drop from 2014 to 2015. Nearly double as many fans didn't buy tickets to Tropicana Field on the weekends than on weekdays in 2015.

Fixing weekend attendance should be the Rays marketing department's number one priority in 2016.

2014 vs 2015 Month/Day cross-analysis

Now let's take the months and days and put them together. We'll segment the days into Weekends and Weekdays so we don't run into too small of a sample size.

This chart shows exactly where the Rays saw their worst decline in attendance in 2015.
  • Weekends in May: - 36%
  • Weekdays in Sept: -27%
  • Weekends in April: -26%
  • Weekdays in August: -23%

If we continue with the Tampa Bay Lightning effect on the Rays early season attendance decline, we see that only 9 of the Lightning's 20 playoff games in April and May were on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday - home or away. But again, the Lightning effect on the Rays needs to be considered for the entire series. If a fan spends $200 on Lightning playoff tickets on a Monday, they are probably not going to spend more money on a Rays game on Friday, even if tickets are 90% cheaper.

Now for the good news from the above chart. Weekends in August in 2015 were nearly identical to weekends in August in 2014 and the follow day/month slots actually increased in attendance from 2014 to 2015:
  • Weekends in June: +13%
  • Weekdays in July: +11%
  • Weekdays in April: +4%

Weekends in June had a well-attended series against the Red Sox and a Lee Brice post-game concert to help with attendance. June weekends in 2014 only had one postgame concert with Weezer.

Weekdays in July in 2015 had the benefit of two Parks and Recs Days whereas July 2014 only had one parks and recs day on the docket.

Finally, the most probable explanation for April's weekday increase has to do with more weekday games in 2014. Both years benefited by having Opening Day on weekdays but in 2014 the Rays played 8 weekday games in April, in 2015 they only played 6.

If we don't count Opening Day, the Rays average weekday attendance in April 2015 was 13,670. In April 2014, the Rays average weekday attendance was 13,790. A difference of only 120 less fans on average.

This concludes our latest deep-dive into the Rays attendance. I'm going to try and create the same charts for all the Minor League teams in the Tampa Bay area. I'm curious where the Minor League decreases are biggest and whether or not they match the Rays trends.

Monday, October 26, 2015

When a long distance love comes back

In late August 1985, my father took me to my first Major League Baseball game. It was “Back to School Night” at Shea Stadium and I received a Mets binder I still have somewhere. I don’t remember much about the game, to be honest. It might have been one of Dwight Gooden’s most impressive pitching performances of the year or it could have been a blown save by current Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell.

My dad was a vendor at Shea Stadium during the Mets first World Series run in 1969. He would tell me stories of running out on the field after they clinched the pennant during their Miracle season. He still holds the yearbook and newspaper clippings as prized possessions. And years before he sold his wares in the aisles of Shea, other family members worked at Shea in the opening days of the ballpark.

There was no way as a kid who liked baseball living in the suburbs of Long Island in the mid-1980s I was going to root for anyone other than the Mets. All my friends were Mets fans, except for one Yankees fan and we barely hung out with him. We were Mets fans. It was a great time to be a Mets fan.

But time moves on, and with it people and passions. I moved to Florida the year after the Mets won the World Series. Although I kept my fandom alive, the only times I watched the Mets was versus the Cubs on WGN, versus the Braves TBS, or on any national televised game. I was still a fan, but following took effort.

Six years after I moved to Florida, the Marlins started spring training in my parents’ town. Baseball had come back to me. I attended a few spring contests a year, mostly when the new Marlins played the Mets. The Marlins on local television also meant the ability to see the Mets more often.

In 1998, when the Devil Rays started, they were an afterthought. I wasn’t living in Florida at the time, had never been to the Tampa Bay area, and never even thought about rooting for MLB’s newest expansion team.

That all changed in 2006 when a job opportunity led me to move to Tampa. I attended one Devil Rays game in 2006, five in 2007, then over 20 Rays games in 2008, to include one game in every postseason round.

Somewhere along the way, Tropicana is where I lost my heart. And somewhere along the way, I started writing about the Rays. These two things probably have a lot to do with each other. When you put anything to words, you start caring about it more.

As I grew as a Rays fan and starting carving out my own niche in the Rays blogosphere, the only attention I paid to the Mets was reading websites such as and Faith and Fear in Flushing. I would stay interested in the way you stay interested in a long-distance friend’s Facebook posts.

“Oh, they had a baby? That’s nice. I haven’t talked to them in a while. Maybe I will drop them an email sometime.”

Then, to the surprise of most people, the Mets started playing well. Very well. So well, in fact, that they are now in the World Series for the first time since I moved to Tampa.

And I am struggling with how much I should root for them, comment about them, and even celebrate them.

Last night, as a matter of fact, I compared my conflicting fandoms to running into an ex. Not the type from a bad breakup, but the type you grew apart from due to circumstance. You say hi, you smile, they still mean something to you, and you wonder what might have been, but you know life is different now. And if your present partner is nearby, you may have to explain.

That’s why I am writing here today.

Granted, I am not alone in rooting for the Rays but keeping the Mets in my heart. When the Mets visited Tropicana Field earlier this year, Rays social media feeds were full of people confused with who to root for. That’s to be expected when roughly 30% of Florida residents were born in New York.

Even the owner of the Rays is a self-professed Mets fan, although I think there is a huge difference between my conflict as a fan and Stu Sternberg’s ownership of a competing franchise. The Rays grew as an emotional investment for me, as compared to a way for Stu to increase his financial bottom line. But that’s a post for a later date.

So for now, I am rooting for the Mets. I’m wearing my RA Dickey jersey to sports bars. I’m talking the glory days of Gooden, Strawberry, Carter, and Hernandez with fellow Mets fans. I’m catching up with who Daniel Murphy is.

I have not forsaken the Rays. I’m still writing about them. But I can’t let go of the team that got me into baseball in the first place.

At least I am not a Yankees fan.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Attendance Review: 2015 Tampa Bay Rays

Welcome to our first attendance review of 2015 and our ninth annual attendance review of the Tampa Bay Rays. Today we will look at the home attendance of the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays.

Total attendance: 1,247,668 (down 198,797 tickets sold (13.74%) from 2013: 1,446,465)

Per Game Average: 15,403 (down 2,454 fans per game from 2014: 17,857)

Highest attended games: 2 x 31,042 (Opening Day 4/6 vs BAL, 8/8 vs NYM.)

Lowest attended game: 8,701 on Thurs, May 7th vs TEX.

Lowest point of average attendance: June 23, Game 37 (Avg attendance: 14,141)

Average Time of Game: 2 hours, 56 minutes

(red shading = below annual average of 15,403)


By Month:

Because the Rays played four games in October, I created a line for Sept/October. July was the Rays best month and May was the worst. Click here for a breakdown of July attendance and here for a breakdown of May. May was the worst attended month since 2005.

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day of the Week:

Following typical trends, the Rays drew poorly during the week and better on weekends. Monday's average attendance was aided by the Opening Day sellout. Rays attendance increased 30% on the weekends compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 12,688
  • Sat-Sun average attendance: 18,328
  • Increase: 30.7%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

The following chart shows how often each day outdrew the day before.

As to be expected, no Monday game outdrew a prior Sunday. Although 38% of Sunday games outdrew the Saturday before it, every Saturday game outdrew the Friday game played the day prior. Half of Wednesday games had higher attendance than Tuesdays and 55% of Thursday had higher attendance than Wednesdays. Only 62% of Fridays outdrew Thursdays.

By Opponent:

The biggest surprise of the 2015 season was how poorly games versus the Yankees were attended. I covered this a few months ago, but attendance versus the Yankees was 44% lower than it was in 2014. In total 120,742 fewer tickets were sold to games versus the Yankees at Tropicana Field. That total is 61% of the Rays total 2015 decrease.

The highest drawing opponent of the year was the other New York team, the Mets. As I predicted in March, the attraction of seeing their team drew many New York transplants to Tropicana Field. Add in the Mets place in the standings, and it is no surprise the series drew well.

By Starting Pitcher:

Despite all the injuries to their starting rotation, only 8 Rays pitchers started home games in 2015. The Rays drew best for Matt Andriese's starts, although Chris Archer was not far behind with three times as many starts.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have to be careful with saying Archer was the draw. He also pitched in three games that preceded post-game concerts.

On the other side of the spectrum, games Drew Smyly pitched drew the least amount of fans.

Our next chart depicts how attendance reacted from one starter to the next. If a pitcher is a great draw, the percentage between he and the prior starter should be higher.

Once again, games started by Matt Andriese led the way, outdrawing previous games in 4 of his 5 starts. Chris Archer games outdrew the game before 8 of 16 times, with Archer also pitching Opening Day.

By Promotion:

Although "First Friday" is not a Rays promotion, it is a nighttime block party hosted by the City of St. Petersburg several blocks away from Tropicana Field. We include it here because the two events could either aid or detract from each other.

As we see on the chart, Camp Day, Bobbleheads, and Alumni promotions did very well. Each promotion outdrew the day before. That's what promotions are supposed to do, provide incentive for fans to come to the ballpark. They should outdraw games without promotions.

Alumni days were promotions catering to alumni of University of South Florida, Florida State University, and University of Florida. These promotions usually involved a giveaway for fans who bought a special promotions-based ticket. Among the three universities, the University of Florida promotion drew the most fans.
  • UF Saturday Night: 31,042
  • USF Saturday Night: 24,327
  • FSU Sunday Day: 18,613

However, UF Night coincided with the Mets and their visiting fans and USF Night coincided with a Kasey Musgraves concert.

Day Game / Night Game Splits:

As shown, the Rays drew better on weekends than weekdays. Among weekday games, day weekday games outdrew night weekday games by over 9,000 fans per game (possibly aided by the Camp Day promotions).

On the other hand, night weekend games outdrew day weekend games by 3,500 fans per game. As the Rays didn't play any Sunday night games, we can fairly say that Saturday was the most attended day/time of the week for Rays fans.

Overall, in their 41 home wins, the Rays drew 15,369 fans per game. In their 40 home losses, they drew 15,438 per game.

And although wins and attendance are not correlated at all, here is how the Rays performed at various levels of attendance.

We will have further breakdowns of these attendance numbers and how they relate to long-term trends in upcoming posts.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tampa Bay Baseball Attendance Year in Review: 2015

As noted here and in several other places, Major League Baseball attendance dropped significantly in the Tampa Bay area in 2015. But as we all know, the Rays are not the only game in town. The Rays share the region with four spring training complexes and four Minor League Baseball teams.

There is more baseball in the Tampa Bay region than there is any other sport. More teams, more games, and more options. So looking at how baseball did in the region overall is a good way to start our offseason attendance analysis.

First, the good news, total baseball attendance in Tampa Bay was over 2 million for the 10th year in a row. (Click to embiggen.)

(Chart does not include the 39,386 tickets sold to see the relocated Baltimore Orioles games.)

Breakdown of Tampa Bay baseball in 2015, including the relocated Baltimore games:
  • Total amount of games: 408
  • Attendance to 261 Minor League games: 423,996
  • Attendance to 81 Rays games: 1,247,668
  • Attendance to 62 Spring Training games: 474,578
  • Attendance to 3 relocated games with Baltimore: 39,386
  • Attendance to 1 Minor League playoff game: 1,345
  • Total attendance: 2,185,628

Now the bad news. While over 2 million fans is impressive, total baseball attendance in Tampa Bay dropped nearly 9% in 2015. Not only did the Rays attendance drop, but so too did regional Minor League Baseball attendance. Regional Minor League attendance decreased for the first time in six years.

The following chart depicts attendance for Spring Training, Minor League Baseball, and the Rays since 2005. It also shows the percentage of change and the Rays percentage of the total attendance. Again, click to make bigger.

Led by the Rays' decreases, total Tampa Bay baseball attendance has decreased every year since 2012. In 2015, Spring Training attendance returned to its 2011-2013 levels. Regional Minor League attendance decreased to its lowest level since 2010. The Rays also decreased by a double digit percentage, their biggest percentage drop since 2011 and their lowest attendance since 2005.

Another way to look at regional attendance is by the average amount of attendees per day from the first game to the last. In 2015, Tampa Bay area baseball averaged 10,166 fans per day. That means every day there was baseball, from the first Spring Training game to the end of the Rays season, that was the average amount of tickets sold per day.

The following chart depicts the average amount of baseball tickets sold per day in Tampa Bay since 2007.

We can also examine these numbers in graph form:

Games and Days with Baseball:

Average per day baseball attendance during baseball season in Tampa Bay:

Not surprisingly, 2008 had the highest total attendance and total days of baseball in the Tampa Bay area. That year, the Rays extended their schedule into late October by making it to the World Series. World Series games also averaged above 40,000 fans per game.

The year with the most games played was 2011, another Rays playoff year, but also a year that includes the Bradenton Marauders' regular season schedule, which beginning in 2010, added an additional 70 local Minor League games to the ledger.

The following chart shows daily progression of baseball attendance in Tampa Bay in 2015.

The high point for daily baseball attendance in Tampa Bay occurred on August 8th, when 34,049 people saw baseball in Tampa Bay. While the Rays sold out their game versus the Mets, 2,247 tickets were sold to the Tampa Yankees, and 760 tickets were sold to the Dunedin Blue Jays.

Points of interest:
  • The Rays only accounted for 58% of total baseball tickets sold in Tampa Bay.
  • There were 10 days during which the Florida State League and the Rays schedule overlapped and there was no baseball played.
  • On May 27th, Minor League Baseball in Tampa Bay outdrew the Rays 13,719 to 10,365.
  • As usual, the Rays were not scheduled to be home on July 4th weekend. Minor League Baseball in Tampa Bay drew 20,966 fans on July 3rd for their fireworks promotions.

The following charts depict daily attendance for the Rays and Minor League Baseball.

Rays total attendance:

Tampa Bay Minor League baseball attendance:

Points of interest:
  • On July 3rd, the Clearwater Threshers set a franchise daily attendance record with 9,966 tickets sold.
  • July 3rd was also the season high for the Bradenton Marauders (5,812) and Dunedin Blue Jays (5,188).
  • On August 11th, the Tampa Yankees sold 548 tickets, their lowest in at least 8 years.


There are many theories why Rays attendance decreased. We will talk about them in time. Analyzing Rays attendance is sexy and popular. But few people will look at the big picture in regards to Tampa Bay baseball attendance. Over the next few weeks, I'll look at where the Minor League teams took the biggest hit. If attendance decreased the most early in the season, we might consider the effect of the Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run. If attendance decreased the most late in the season, we might place blame on the 30-plus days of continuous rain that poured on the area.

This post showed the facts and the big picture. The "so what?" and "what now?" will come at a later date. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tampa Bay Rays Attendance Review: September 2015

Welcome to our sixth and final monthly review of the Tampa Bay Rays 2015 attendance. This post will look at attendance in games played from September 11, 2015 to September 30, 2015.
  • Total September 2015 Tampa Bay Rays home attendance: 163,423
  • September 2015 Home Games: 12
  • Average attendance per game: 13,619
  • Highest attendance: 20,698 on September 12th
  • Lowest attendance: 9,150 on September 29th
  • Average September game time (9 inning games only): 2 hours, 58 minutes
  • Highest attended series: 16,965 per game vs Red Sox, September 11-13
  • Lowest attended series: 9,291 per game vs Marlins, September 29-September 30
  • Competing sporting events:
  • Total September Tampa Bay Minor League Baseball attendance: 20,281
  • Tampa Bay Minor League attendance per game: 2,028 (10 games)

From 2007 to 2014, average September attendance has been slightly above the annual average (20,209 vs 20,145).

Since 2008, Rays attendance in September has been related to their playoff chances. In 2008 and 2010 - years the Rays made the playoffs - September was the best attended month the season. In 2011 and 2013 - also years the Rays made the playoffs - September was the third most attended month of the season. In years the Rays were out of contention, Rays attendance in September was either fifth (2012, 2014, 2015) or the worst attended month of the year (2009).

Comparing September 2015 with previous years

The following chart compares September 2015 average attendance to average September attendance in recent years.

September 2015 per game average attendance was 18% worse (3,170 fans per game) than September 2014 per game average. September 2015 was the worst September per game average since 2004.

The following chart depicts games played in September, wins and losses, and the average September attendance since 2007.

Weekdays vs Weekends

Let's now look at the Rays September attendance on weekdays (Mon-Thurs) and weekends (Fri-Sun). As I have pointed out before, the Rays usually have one of the biggest differences in Major League Baseball in regards to weekday versus weekend attendance.

This chart shows the Rays average weekday attendance in September since 2007.

The following graph depicts the above chart.

After three years of relative stability in the 15,000 range, 2015 attendance saw a considerable drop.

Looking at weekday attendance month-to-month, the Rays saw the average weekday attendance drop slightly between August and September 2015. 848 fewer fans per game saw the Rays during the week in September than August.
  • August 2015 weekday average attendance: 12,011
  • September 2015 weekday average attendance: 11,163

The following chart shows Rays average weekend attendance in September since 2007.

The following graph depicts the chart:

Again, 2015 attendance is the lowest on the graph. But 2013 also stands out. The Rays only played one weekend series in 2013, and it drew well. So definitely a small sample size.

We also see a lot of variance in the weekend-to-weekday percentage in September. This might be a combination of two factors: weekday attendance gets better when the Rays are in contention and the Rays play AL East opponents in September, and the Yankees and Red Sox used to be big attractions in the Tampa Bay area.


September capped off a terrible year for Rays attendance. The fact that the Rays were not in contention did not help either. Outside of promotions, casual fans had few reasons to visit Tropicana Field. As I predicted, September attendance was better than May, but I was wrong in that it was not better than June.

Adding the final regular season games played in October to September would also not help much. The Rays October average attendance was 15,276. Adding the October games to the September average only increases the average attendance for the month by 300 fans per game.

Keeping fan interest into September is always a difficult task, especially when a team is not in contention. For Rays, however, far too many fans opted to do something else instead of go to Tropicana Field.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Marketing Chris Archer

One of the biggest problems I see with baseball marketing is that baseball is marketed as "baseball the game", not as a following of personalities. While there will always be those who follow the game for the wins, the losses, and the statistics, marketing personalities is what will hook casual fans quicker and faster.

Think about pro wrestling. The casual fan is drawn more into the storyline than the actual moves. Only the most dedicated fan can tell you who does the best hurricanrana, has the best dropkick, etc. But almost every fan can tell you about John Cena's personality or why the Undertaker scares them.

Although not every baseball player wants to be known as a personality, some don't mind being public figures. Chris Archer is one of those players. Very few Rays personalities stand out as much as Chris Archer. Archer's appearance in the postseason on ESPN as a commentator showed the world what Tampa Bay fans already knew, Chris Archer is one of the most well-spoken, intelligent, charismatic young players in Major League Baseball.

Chris Archer is bi-racial, has a 100-watt smile, and plays the game with with enthusiasm. If he was an infielder, people would call him the second coming of Derek Jeter.

But Archer doesn't play for the Yankees, he plays for the team with the lowest attendance in Major League Baseball and a team with a fanbase struggling for recognition and respect.

Can the Rays capitalize on Archer's newfound popularity and all-star status and get fans to the park to see him pitch? Can the Rays make his starts #ArcherDay, as the Mets have built a cult following around Matt Harvey?

It begins with awareness.

This article will look at the ways to market Chris Archer, by order of importance. We will then look possible difficulties the Rays marketing team would have in selling Archer to the fanbase.

Marketing Archer in the Community

As much as he is seen on ESPN and on MLB Network, Chris Archer has also become a presence for good in the Tampa Bay community.

Archer has been nominated for the heralded Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player "who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement."

Each team has one nominee and the Rays nominee is Chris Archer.

Archer's work in the community has been well-documented in local media. But more can be done, especially from the Rays perspective. Archer could lead Rays community efforts or lead other altruistic efforts throughout Tampa Bay. The Rays already sponsor Give Day Tampa Bay, so why not put their most charitable player as the face of the effort?

If the Rays really want to invest, they could match Archer dollar-for-dollar in any charity he supports.

Marketing Archer's Appearance

With his afro in full effect, Archer has a very unique appearance. During the season, Archer tweeted the idea of an "afro night" at Tropicana Field. Hopefully in 2016, this becomes a reality. Perhaps accompanying a '70s Night promotion.
Starting with the Rays giveaway, the Rays should encourage fans to wear their afro wigs to Archer's starts. I've often advocated the importance of "fan groups" in creating a fun atmosphere. How better than through costume? What if everyone entering Tropicana Field with an afro wig on day Archer pitches received a voucher for a free hotdog and a coke?

The Rays can also promote an #AfrosForArcher hashtag on social media. And maybe linking appearance with charity, perhaps every Archer afro giveaway could be coupled with Locks of Love or other hair-type charity.

Marketing Archer on the Mound

Simply on ability, there are only a few pitchers in Major League Baseball who are "must see" draws. Driven by the Legend of Fernandomania, sports media love to think fans are attracted to aces. And they might right be as the follow chart shows.

But we can't say these pitchers are the only variable effect attendance without factoring out per day of the week, promotions, opponent, and other variables. And that might take a little more math than I am will to do at this point.

Of Archer's 17 home starts, 9 were on weekdays (Mon-Thurs). Discounting Opening Day, Archer's starts drew an average of 13,228 - 988 fans over the weekday average of 12,240. On his weekend starts, games Archer started averaged 19,615 fans - 1,287 fans more than the weekend average of 18,328.

Again, this doesn't consider promotions - Archer pitched on a Wednesday camp day and prior to three post-game concerts.

Unfortunately, while there was an increase in average attendance when he took the mound in 2015, Chris Archer is tied with Matt Moore for the most games pitched since 2008 (3) in which attendance failed to reach 10,000.

That's not good.

Marketing Archer on the mound would focus on baseball fans who pay attention to every pitch, every strategy, and Archer's ability. This would require building storylines around Archer's stats, such as when he set the team record for strikeouts in a season. Fans concerned with watching Archer would be interested in that narrative.

This type of marketing would have get people talking and focused on what Archer is achieving. This is difficult and not something that worked well with David Price, but did work with Scott Kazmir when he was the only Devil Rays pitcher worth seeing.

Possible Difficulties

A few years ago, I wrote about the popularity of former Rays star Carl Crawford. I postulated that Crawford's background and upbringing from the rough streets of Houston contributed to his lack of marketability. I stated that Longoria or Zobrist were easier to market due to their similarity to the prime baseball demographic.

Marketing Chris Archer would have a similar problem. While baseball celebrates their multi-ethnic array of players, their biggest demographic remains over 50 years old, white, and male. The same demographic who idolized Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, etc. The same demographic who think Chris Archer should "get a haircut" and "play the game the right way".

While they might follow his stats, they won't wear an afro wig, and Chris Archer won't be their favorite player. Granted, they are not everyone in that demographic, but they exist. Chris Archer, social media, and afros don't speak to them. They would need another marketing pitch to lure them in to rooting or buying tickets. Perhaps Longoria or Kevin Cash would be able to better connect.


Chris Archer is great, both on the mound and in the community. He is the kind of player teams and marketing departments should celebrate. And while the Rays are celebrating, 2016 could bring more opportunities and avenues to promote their new ace.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tampa Bay Baseball Attendance Report - October 4, 2015

Tampa Bay baseball attendance for Sunday, October 4, 2015:

Total Attendance: 15,815

Tampa Bay Rays:
  • Team Home Game #: 81
  • Attendance: 15,815
  • Starting Pitcher: Matt Moore
  • Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
  • Opponent Starting Pitcher: Mark Buerle
  • Avg Attendance to Date: 15,403
  • Avg Attendance vs Opponent: 16,054
  • Avg Attendance per Day of the Week: 18,649
  • Avg Attendance for Starting Pitcher: 15,243
  • Promotions (if any): Jerseys off their backs, Raymond Halloween mask
  • Other events: Tampa Bay Bucs home game - Raymond James Stadium - attendance: 57,468

No other local games scheduled.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tampa Bay Baseball Attendance Report - October 3, 2015

Tampa Bay baseball attendance for Saturday, October 3, 2015:

Total Attendance: 21,963

Tampa Bay Rays:
  • Team Home Game #: 80
  • Attendance: 21,963
  • Starting Pitcher: Chris Archer
  • Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
  • Opponent Starting Pitcher: Marco Estrada
  • Avg Attendance to Date: 15,398
  • Avg Attendance vs Opponent: 15,
  • Avg Attendance per Day of the Week: 14,887
  • Avg Attendance for Starting Pitcher: 14,725
  • Promotions (if any): Postgame concert - Steve Aoki
  • Other events: Oddball Comedy Festival - Amphitheater

No other local games scheduled.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Tampa Bay Baseball Attendance Report - October 2, 2015

Tampa Bay baseball attendance for Friday, October 2, 2015:

Total Attendance: 13,668

Tampa Bay Rays:
  • Team Home Game #: 79
  • Attendance: 13,668
  • Starting Pitcher: Erasmo Ramirez
  • Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
  • Opponent Starting Pitcher: Mark Buerhle
  • Avg Attendance to Date: 15,315
  • Avg Attendance vs Opponent: 15,244
  • Avg Attendance per Day of the Week: 14,887
  • Avg Attendance for Starting Pitcher: 14,725
  • Promotions (if any): None
  • Other events: USF Football - Raymond James stadium (attendance 22,546)

No other local games scheduled.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tampa Bay Baseball Attendance Report - October 1, 2015

Tampa Bay baseball attendance for Thursday, October 1, 2015:

Total Attendance: 9,657

Tampa Bay Rays:
  • Team Home Game #: 78
  • Attendance: 9,657
  • Starting Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi
  • Opponent: Miami Marlins
  • Opponent Starting Pitcher: Jose Fernandez
  • Avg Attendance to Date: 15,336
  • Avg Attendance vs Opponent: 9,413
  • Avg Attendance per Day of the Week: 11,211
  • Avg Attendance for Starting Pitcher: 16,370
  • Promotions (if any): None
  • Other events: None

No other local games scheduled.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Is Stu Sternberg the most tone deaf owner in sports?

In 2005, the Tampa Bay Times profiled new Devil Rays owner Stu Sternberg. He was young, he was hip, and he was a baseball fan. According to the Times,
Sternberg's love of the game goes back to his childhood in Brooklyn. The youngest of three children, he was born and raised in the borough's Canarsie section, becoming an avid fan of the Dodgers and later the Mets.
At the time, Sternberg's Mets fandom was excusable. He was from New York and at least he wasn't a Yankees fan. And the message was that he was intent on changing the Devil Rays to winners.

In 2008, the New York Times wrote a piece on Sternberg. They talked about his Wall Street background and the job he did turning the Rays into winners. They also pointed out his continuing New York baseball fandom.
Sternberg, who still lives in Harrison, N.Y., in Westchester County, and retains his Mets season tickets, was so knowledgeable about baseball after leaving Goldman in 2002 that his first reaction to perhaps buying the then-Devil Rays was, he said, “Ewwww.”

The Rays were increasing in popularity in 2008, so no one made a big deal over the team's owner attending Mets games. The message was that as long as the Rays won and folks kept coming to Tropicana Field, the team and the fanbase would be fine.

In late 2011, Sternberg emailed Rays season ticket holders to tell them "the future of the Rays and Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay is precarious". Shortly thereafter, he issued an apology to the fanbase. Meanwhile, Sternberg still lived in New York and still rooted for the Mets.

In 2011, I wrote a public "letter" to Stu Sternberg on and requested that he keep the fanbase in mind when he speaks.
How about telling the media that the Rays have “the greatest fans in the world”, even if you don’t think it’s true? ... we respond well to compliments. Hearing from you that not enough of us go to games and that you might eventually move the team if we don’t get our collective butts to the ballpark is like telling your wife her dress actually does makes her look fat. It might be true, but you shouldn’t say it.
Four years later, Stu Sternberg's product is struggling in the public eye. The Rays have seen attendance decrease nearly 30% since 2010, they've traded key personnel and popular players, negotiations for a new ballpark have barely progressed, and the team remains second fiddle in its own market to teams that only play in the area in February and March. After seizing momentum as the area's darling, the Rays have also slid far behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. According to ESPN's 2014 Ultimate Franchise Rating, Lightning ownership were rated the 6th best ownership group in sports. Stu Sternberg and his staff were 89th on a measure based on "Honesty; loyalty to core players and the community".

Despite these downward trends, Major League Baseball continues to say the Tampa Bay market is viable and other teams have attempted to encroach on the spending power of the area.

Yet Stu Sternberg remains in New York. And according to media reports yesterday, remains a strong Mets fan.
“As a Met fan growing up and all, it’s wonderful to be here in September when things really do matter, and it’s a very exciting time to be a Met fan. And I am still, as well, even though I’ve got the Tampa Bay Rays,’’

Worse yet, these comments were said while introducing MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, only a week after MLB defended the Rays by swatting down a proposal by the Braves to train in the Rays backyard.

Stu Sternberg is a public relations nightmare. Ten years into his ownership, he still has not learned how to not offend Rays fans. Publicly advocating for another team when the team you own is struggling to expand its fanbase does not provide the best example. What message does rooting for another franchise send to his employees and his customers?

If owners are public, they should be front and center for their team. They should live and breathe the brand they want their customers to buy. If rooting for the Rays and living in Tampa Bay isn't good enough for the Rays owner, why should it be good enough for the residents of Tampa Bay?

Why should the fanbase buy a product when the owner prefers another product? That's like seeing the owner of a McDonalds eat at Burger King every day.

Would Mark Cuban ever root for another team besides the Dallas Mavericks? Cuban bought the Mavericks after the team went 19-31 in 1999-2000. According to Wikipedia,
In the 20 years before Cuban bought the team, the Mavericks won only 40 percent of their games, and a playoff record of 21–32. In the 10 years following, the team won 69 percent of their regular season games and reached the playoffs in each of those seasons except for one.
Like Sternberg, Mark Cuban made the Mavericks successful. But unlike Sternberg, Cuban is often front and center at his team's games. He, along with all-star Dirk Nowitzki, is a face of the franchise.

Not every owner has to be on Shark Tank or draw the ire of the league as often as Cuban, but he provides an excellent example of an owner as fan.

Owners can also be like Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and invest billions in developments and be a strong advocate for the area.

Or owners can root for another team but never mention it in public.

Stu Sternberg is what happens when people become successful for their financial skills, but then try to sell products and have no idea how to relate to customers. Sternberg has no clue how to reach the people he is supposed to be selling to. Keep in mind, in finance, there is no "customer", not like a restaurant or a car dealership. Wall Street investors are not known for their customer service. They don't have to be. They just have to make money.

And that's exactly what Stu Sternberg has done through his investment in the Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, he continues to root for the Mets.

Stu Sternberg is an absentee owner. One who openly roots for another team. That's the worst kind of owner.

Tampa Bay Baseball Attendance Report - September 30, 2015

Tampa Bay baseball attendance for Wednesday, September 30, 2015:

Total Attendance: 9,431

Tampa Bay Rays:
  • Team Home Game #: 77
  • Attendance: 9,431
  • Starting Pitcher: Drew Smyly
  • Opponent: Miami Marlins
  • Opponent Starting Pitcher: Jared Cosart
  • Avg Attendance to Date: 15,410
  • Avg Attendance vs Opponent: 9,291
  • Avg Attendance per Day of the Week: 13,739
  • Avg Attendance for Starting Pitcher: 11,360
  • Promotions (if any): None
  • Other events: None

No other local games scheduled.