Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Take me out to the ball game...

One particular highlight of my recent holiday to the good ol’ US of A was my first encounter with US sports – a trip to the ball game. The Boston Red Sox against the Kansas City Royals at the iconic Fenway Park
The famous Fenway Park
The Wife and I enjoying the action

I was excited about enjoying the big and unashamedly brash all American ‘fan experience’ which I had heard so much about…and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Americans are certainly leading the way when it comes to sports marketing. The over laden sporting calendar demands a flexible and innovative strategy to keep the fans interested.

With Baseball, for example, there are games almost everyday, so keeping and maintaining fan interest must be incredibly difficult. The game we watched was a mid week, daytime game between the equivalent of Man U and Wigan…and yet it was a sell out.

I was particularly surprised by the diversity in the crowd. A congenial mix of men women and children effervesced with excitement as they approached the ground – and it was easy to see why once the game started. A dizzying blur of visual interaction, fan engagement, interesting loyalty reward schemes and crowd sing-a-longs created a family friendly atmosphere.

I was pulled in by the almost incessant consumerism on display. Any self-respecting fan has a cap and most had t-shirts or players shirts as well. Now, the notion of buying a replica kit is tried and tested in most sports, but a cap is not only cheaper but easier to wear and appeals to a wider audience than a football shirt…and yes I did fall for the spell and bought one! And I have to mention the tireless army of burger vendors, hotdog sellers, drinks wielders and ice cream men charging up and down the aisles!

I had a basic knowledge of baseball from my Gameboy days and from late night Channel 5 viewing whilst at Uni – everything else I picked up from the slightly pungent regular who was sat behind us. The game was not a classic but the tension grew towards the end as the crowd tried to inspire the home team to victory. Unfortunately, Jacoby Ellsbury’s monster Home Run was not enough to counter Jeff Francouer’s earlier three run Homer and the Red Sox lost 4-3.

It was still a fantastic experieince and I am now a fully-fledged Sox fan! I was particularly impressed with the atmosphere and sense of history in the stadium, despite a recent renovation – something I hope John Henry can recreate at Anfield.

One thing that stood out to me was the physical condition of some players. For professional athletes who play most days of the week, they didn’t look particularly athletic! “If they can hit, they don’t need to run,” commented one fan – which I suppose is fair enough.

But, I would have thought this apparent lethargy from these extremely well-paid players (each player’s salary is clearly documented in the programme) would annoy the fans and lead to a sense of disenchanted resentment – much like the Premiership backlash that is currently bubbling.

But there was no sense of this in the stands. Not even the total over saturation of games everyday is enough to quench America’s thirst for Baseball. And as long as the marketers keep innovating (just look at for an example of how a sports website should look) then the fans will keep going in their droves.

“…root, root, root for the home team…’ 

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