In addition, Levine employs what sounds like a lineup of corporate hit men: new venture start-up experts, facility turnaround specialists, focus group moderators, marketing strategists and organization analysts as well as plain old polling and pay-TV whizbangs. Developing "good numbers"—reliable research—is only the beginning of Pacific Select's services. Many teams have dabbled in market research, but their efforts are mainly what Levine calls "quick and dirties," sketchy or misleading studies done on the cheap. Even when certifiably "good," the numbers must add up to a positive answer to Levine's favorite question: So what? "There is lots of information around," he says, "but none of it tells a team what to do tomorrow."
Pacific Select does, integrating recommendations for everything from parking and ticket pricing to program design and budgeting into a detailed marketing plan. For the San Francisco Giants, who engaged the firm in 1976 to help resuscitate the franchise, Levine's directives, outlined in a report titled "Strategic Opportunities and Next Steps," conjure up visions of Knute Rockne rallying the boys in the boardroom: Recapture Short-term Defectors. Hammer Out Improved Transit Service. Fight Conversion to Grass. Sell the National League and Willie Mc-Covey Hard. Rejuvenate West Bay Fan Base. Galvanize Children's Support.
The latter proposal seemed less compelling in light of Levine's discovery that, contrary to time-honored belief, baseball is not the big family sport overrun by daddies and their kids. At Astro games, surprisingly enough, couples over 45 dominate, and in San Francisco 53% of the fans are from households with no children. "Ever since Veeck started giving free pickles to kids 25 years ago," says Le-vine, "baseball has been 90% oriented toward children. But now we find that attendance is more and more dominated by singles."
Mostly young adults from 18 to 35, the singles multiplied into the thousands at Candlestick Park when the Giants gave them postgame rock concerts and their own version of Bat Day. "Singles get off on T shirts," Levine says. Getting the homebodies off their duffs required "media blitzing." Levine explains, "The best time to sell people tickets is when they are watching a game on TV." Between-innings promos for the Giants' new telephone credit-card service resulted in the sale of 170,000 tickets the first year.
Levine has high regard for the promotional powers of TV. "Think the unthinkable—manage your press personnel," he advises in Sports Management Review, a "market development and problem solving quarterly" that Pacific Select circulates among some 600 sports executives. "Be alert to an outmoded orientation to print media at the expense of television and radio, especially the former." In directing the Giants to ration and refocus their media relations with an eye toward "profitable results" rather than "volume," he contends that "The guy who does the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. sportscasts has more impact than all the newspapers combined."
To prosper these days, says Levine, sports entrepreneurs have to develop the killer instincts of defensive tackle-. "Look at Steinbrenner in New York. He's succeeded in the free-agent market because he ignores the old gentlemen's-club approach." Going for the A's jugular, Levine recommended that the Giants send a "task force" across the Bay Bridge to open a ticket office in the shadow of the Oakland Coliseum. Result: 270,000 tickets sold, or more than half the A's 1978 attendance.
Noting that fans are turned off by the high turnover rate of players, Levine advocated special treatment for the two Bay Area players who scored highest in projecting stability, continuity and "top-of-mind awareness." The Giants signed Willie McCovey to a long-term contract and needed no prodding to pursue Levine's recommendation for the A's Vida Blue: get him. They did in 1978.
All told, with McCovey rivaling Coit Tower as a city monument, and Blue holding forth as of old, Giant attendance shot from 700,056 in 1977 to 1,740,477 the following season, a stirring gain of 150%. "People are looking for stability," says Levine. "If they don't get fun and entertainment out of a sport, they say the heck with it. There are too many problems with everything else in the world. They don't need it in sports, too."
The affections of fans are not only highly volatile but, left unattended, can sour with alarming rapidity. While the Giants held their own at the box office last season despite a slump on the field, the Warriors have fallen on hard times. Their new front-office team employs many of the policies instigated by Vertlieb and Levine, but, Levine says, "They fail to realize that it doesn't work forever. The team has lost the confidence of the fans because they didn't constantly monitor their behavior and attitudes, which is a molten mass of change. You have to keep in touch."
After the Oakland Raiders lost touch by attempting to defect to Los Angeles, Levine was called in to assist in the resulting "Super Bowl of litigation." His findings: "Losing the Raiders will have a detrimental effect on the community and the Oakland Coliseum far beyond the loss of revenues." In another study Levine concluded that Finley's Oakland A's qualify as the "worst-run business operation in sports."