ON N.J. SPORTS MARKETING
Minor league baseball across the Garden State is firmly entrenched in the fabric of New Jersey sports. From the inner cities of Newark and Camden to suburban Sussex County and the Shore, the ritual of packing up the kids for an inexpensive and fun night at the ballpark is not unlike what families used to be able to do with the Mets, Yanks or Phillies, whose prices and experience are now more the exception for family entertainment, not the rule, due to the high price of the Major League Baseball experience.
All the teams across the state offer their own customized experience of mascots, food, and in game fun that provides a great day or night for kids of all ages. The difference in between the state’s two MLB-affiliated franchises, the Trenton Thunder (Yankees) and the Lakewood Blue Claws (Phillies) showed again this week, with Derek Jeter making an injury rehab stop in Trenton for a few days before returning to the majors.
That type of brand recognition and affiliation as a chance to really see the next stars of the game gives Trenton and Lakewood just a slightly added edge for the casual fan who may want to get that first glimpse at the future of the game. The financial offset (the parent clubs pay salaries an expenses for players and baseball staff) is also a boost for Trenton and Lakewood, but those intangibles of future stars are what can make or break in pulling dollars for attendance and concession, which leads to more money to invest back into the fan experience.
Now that is not to say that the Newark Bears or New Jersey Jackels or even the new Rockland Boulders just to the north don't provide quality product. In many cases the play on the field for those teams, who have former MLB players in some cases and guys fighting to get recognized, is a bit higher than with the affiliated teams.
But the cache of being associated and being able to use the marks and name of the parent club, especially ones that do as well as the Phillies and the Yankees, gives the other two franchises just that much more of an edge when selling their product to the casual fan. We live in a world where brand value and association is tantamount to success, and although we love to root for the undersog, we love even more being associated with best in class.
By being close enough to their parent club that a Jeter or a Cole Hamels can make a stop and play a day or two on their field, Trenton or Lakewood get street cred that is hard to beat, and that spillover effect lasts long past the few days those stars are in uniform. It serves as a reminder to the fan that the players they see every day could be the next Jeter or Hamels as well. Does that make all the difference in the world for minor league entertainment? No. But it makes a slight difference, and when every dollar goes to the bottom line in the business of minor league baseball, those differences add up.
Joe Favorito has over 24 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. Visit him at JoeFavorito.com.