Life after Barry (cont.)
Posted: Friday August 3, 2007 12:55PM; Updated: Saturday August 4, 2007 11:57AM
With a history that spans two coasts and includes Willie Mays and The Catch, the Alou brothers filling all three outfield positions, and images of reliever Kelly Downs comforting his nephew after the 1989 earthquake, the Giants have seared themselves into the souls of many San Franciscans. Affection for the Giants, the strength of their brand, isn't in question neither because of nor despite their controversial left fielder. In 2006, before Bonds re-signed with the Giants, Bank of America renewed its corporate sponsorship through 2010, a clear indication that it saw life beyond Barry. "There are some franchises you wouldn't want to associate yourself," says Charles Greenstein, Bank of America's Baseball Platform Executive, "but this is a first-class organization from top to bottom. There's a tremendous amount of brand equity."
The Giants and the Yankees, with their storied franchises, are photo-finish close for the most corporate sponsorship revenue in the majors. No matter how storied a franchise, there are always a few chapters the club would like to rip out. Take, for example, the last two seasons when the Giants finished a combined 151-172. Competitiveness, the second of Baer's four factors to financial health, is in short supply. The team struggles to develop positional talent and has five players 34 or older atop their depth chart. They have, however, stocked their pitching staff with promising pitchers uch as 22-year-olds Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. But competition doesn't end at the outfield wall for the Giants. They must compete for time, attention, and dollars with Sunday afternoons in Napa, premier golf courses in Carmel, or Six Flags Great America in Santa Clara.
The stiffest competition for attracting fans to the ballpark, Baer's third factor, could come from the Oakland Athletics' new stadium, set to open in 2011 just 40 miles away in Fremont. Sports economists have identified a stadium honeymoon effect, where fans flock to see a new facility in its first few years followed by a sharp drop in attendance once novelty wears off. The Giants seem immune to this downward trend, topping 3 million fans for seven consecutive years. "We don't believe in honeymoons," Baer says, noting that the 96.7 percent of fans whose seven-year seat licenses expired after the 2006 season chose to renew even though the price of many of the licenses nearly doubled. Their season ticket base remains steady, fluctuating between 27,600 and 29,000, Baer says.
Those fans renewing their commitment to the team through seat licenses or season-ticket plans can't be sure there will be another big-name, bright-lights star in the immediate future. Marquee players, the fourth element, ranked sixth among seven factors most crucial to renewing their season tickets, a 2004 survey of Giants' season-ticket holders showed. "We like to think that Barry Bonds is unique but there are lots of those guys," say Dr. Rodney Fort, a University of Michigan sports economist. "The Seattle [Mariners], which in succession lost, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., and A-Rod, they saved money and were a much better team because of it."
The idea that a new star is ready to enter stage left when an aging star exits stage right, is just what Choi, the kayak store owner would need -- especially if the new phenom could hit for the Cove. The Giants, Choi says, have contacted him about devising activities to drive fans out onto water during games once Bonds is gone. SplashCam needs something to show. In the end, both Choi and the Giants want to keep their heads -- and wallets -- above water.
Here's a rundown of some of the most important dollar amounts in sports recently: $11,600 -- the amount of money the Fairfield (Conn.) United Soccer Association owes in back taxes. The IRS and the league reached an agreement in which the league shifts the employment status of its coaches as employees rather than independent contractors, according to a report in Thursday's New York Times. The agreement could alter the way many youth sports leagues categorize their coaches in the future... $340.5 million -- That's Kagan Media Research's estimate of revenue generated by the YES Network, the cable home to the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets, which, according to Fortune's Jon Birger and Tim Arango, is up for sale... $1,000 -- The amount the makers of EBOOST, a new performance drink, paid to fly a plane with a banner reading, Hey Barry, You Should Have EBOOSTED," around Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night... $0 -- The cost to Upper Deck to remove Michael Vick trading cards from future card collections. According to spokesperson, the company photo editors deleted Vick's image from their printing grids.
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