NASHVILLE—Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner spent a good part of his stay in Nashville explaining the sport’s new marketing plan to his constituents during league meetings. Next up on his to-do list is finding someone to run the program.
O’Conner said Minor League Baseball has hired New York executive search company to recruit an experienced person who will lead a new marketing program designed to sell minor league baseball as a whole to major companies. The chief marketer will likely come from outside baseball, O’Conner said.
“Who we hire will be impressive, but also where we hire the person from will be impressive,” said O’Conner on Wednesday afternoon on the Trade Show floor at the Opryland Hotel. He said the first round of interviews is complete and he expects a hire to be made by early February. “This is not an easy job. I’m not opposed to it coming from within the (minor league baseball) family, but I also realize that person may not exist.”
O’Conner said the response to the new program has been positive, and discussions with various league and team executives over the course of the Winter Meetings has backed that up. The consensus seems to be that the time had come to promote the minor leagues as a whole, and not just the individual teams, and to take advantage of the minor leagues' reach into a variety of markets. O’Conner pointed out that minor league baseball, with 160 teams, plays in more midsize and smaller markets than any other professional sport and would provide access to people major advertisers have a tough time reaching.
“We have great penetration into the B, C and D markets,” O’Conner said.
The program officially began with O’Conner’s presentation at the opening session on Monday, and leaders said the effort likely won’t start generating money for two years. “We have planned for a two-year gestation period before we go to market,” O’Conner said. “We need to be sure we are prepared to go the marketplace . . . We have a great product and we want to make sure we are promoting it properly.”
Every minor league franchise will be included in the national marketing campaign, but teams are not required to pay the $15,000 investment fee. The teams that do are promised a three-to-one return on their investment as well as an annual residual return for as long as it is profitable, O’Conner said.
NASHVILLE—Just four years ago, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner kicked off the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas by urging his constituents to come together as a group and approve the plan to bring every team’s Web properties under the umbrella of Major League Baseball Advanced Media.
The Baseball Internet Rights Co, which was approved that week and launched before the start of the 2009 season, appears to have validated O’Conner’s theory that the minor leagues could attract bigger and better advertisers working as one. With all but a handful of teams on board, BIRCO announced its first profitable year following the 2011 season.
O’Conner is again asking the minors to come together, this time to create an industry-wide marketing program that he predicts will attract the major corporate sponsors that MiLB has failed to land under its 20-year-old group marketing program. O’Conner announced the new marketing program—which he called Project Brand: 160 teams, one brand—and the committee of minor league executives that spent the past seven months crafting it, during the Winter Meetings opening session yesterday at the Opryland Hotel.
“As we celebrate 20 years of our national marketing program, we realize the program has served us well and accomplished things no one thought would ever be accomplished,” O’Conner said to a ballroom full of minor league owners and executives. “But we also realize we have built a brand over the last 20 years worthy of much more. The current program is effective, but lacks the resources and organizational commitment to efficiently serve this powerful brand. We owe the brand more. We owe ourselves more. It is time for a change.”
NASHVILLE–At the Winter Meetings, minor league teams typically fill out their front offices with fresh-faced job seekers eager to break into baseball. However, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina) arrived at this year’s event at the Opryland Hotel with more serious business to tackle, like finding a new general manager.
Scott Brown left his post in Myrtle Beach last week after three seasons to take over as general manager of baseball operations for the Charlotte Knights (International), who are adding depth to their front office while preparing for life in a new ballpark. Brown takes over for veteran GM Dan Rajkowski, who was promoted to vice president/chief operating officer and will oversee the team’s transition from Knights Stadium—their home for the past 19 years, about 20 minutes south of town in Fort Mill, S.C.—to a new $54 million downtown Charlotte ballpark set to debut on Opening Day 2014.
“It’s certainly bittersweet; I love the beach. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brown told the Myrtle Beach Sun News. “I think it’s the most exciting stadium project in our industry. I had a chance to walk the site and I think it’s going to be phenomenal. I don’t think there’s a better combination of stadium and city in Triple-A baseball.”
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