Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baseball, Business, and Mixed Messages

Corporate support is very important to professional sports. Corporations provide partnerships, advertising, and group ticket sales that bring in a significant amount of revenue for teams. While individual fans are the face of fandom, corporations do the heavy lifting in regards to supporting a team.

I've often written that conflicting interests hurt Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay. This conflict is not only with football, hockey, the beach, or any amusement park. This conflict is also with other baseball teams.

With Spring Training in full effect, Tampa Bay area business organizations are reaching out to teams, scheduling the latest installment of their relationships. But these organizations are adding to the confusion of what baseball team the Tampa Bay business communities truly support.

On March 21, the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce is hosting a networking event at Steinbrenner Field before the Yankees vs Red Sox game. This event includes members of the South Tampa Chamber, the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Brandon Chamber. The event costs $65 and includes ticket and food.

On March 28th, the Tampa Bay Business Journal is also hosting a networking event at Steinbrenner Field. The entry level tickets for the event also costs $65 and includes food and drink.

Finally, on May 4th, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is hosting a networking luncheon with the Rays. Several Rays players and executives will be present for a meet and greet. This event only costs $50.

So the event with the lowest cost is for the local Major League team and the more costly events are for a team that only spends three months in the area. That makes about as much sense as a Wookie on Endor.

For the record, I have been to previous Tampa Chamber luncheons with the Rays. They are usually interesting and a great way to meet other business leaders, although the first question asked of team executives is usually "when are the Rays building a stadium in Tampa?". It has become so regular as to be expected.

But asking when the Rays are moving to Tampa is an act of support. For members of the South Tampa Chamber and the readers of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, what does this say about their loyalty and fandom? I understand the need to schedule networking events and baseball makes a great backdrop, but why encourage spending money on a team that is not the local squad?

Local media has reported for years that the Rays corporate support is not strong. The often cited claim is that the Rays receive far less corporate support than any other team in Major League Baseball.

Having business member networking events at Steinbrenner FIeld continues the acceptance that supporting the Yankees in Tampa is acceptable, instead of supporting the Rays 100%. Of course the Yankees don't mind. Just as they didn't mind when the Hillsborough County Commission extended the lease on Steinbrenner Field for another 20 years.

Events such as these further build bonds with local business leaders and the Yankees, while decreasing the incentive to do business with the Rays, a team struggling with corporate partnership.