The Tampa Bay Rays' new advertising campaign for the 2010 baseball season kicks off Tuesday with a high-energy, toe-tappin' drum line beat showcasing such team icons as Carl Crawford stealing bases, of course, and Evan Longoria swatting home runs, naturally.
The ads are fun and snappy, and there's a local high school drum line story here I'll get to in a moment. But the ads are just part of a larger marketing message for a hopefully broader and larger audience.
Come to Tropicana Field, the pitch goes, and the Rays promise an afternoon or evening of fresh giveaways, creative T-shirts, teenager specific hangouts, local entertainment, post-game fireworks and some well known Saturday night concerts with bands that range from ZZ Top to The Go-Go's.
(Don't be surprised to see a Rays ad this spring rocking to ZZ Tops' song Legs showing Crawford burning up the base path: "He's got legs and he knows how to use them.")
There's even a signature Rays drink under development — a rum based, frozen, tropical drink served in a customized yard glass. Inside the Rays, it's nicknamed a "Raystini" but will most likely debut under a different name.
Oh yeah, there will be Rays baseball games tucked in there, too. And judging by how the Rays are playing in spring training, there are reasons for optimism.
If the Trop experience is starting to sound more like a theme park with a baseball field in the middle of it, so be it. The whole push is to keep building attendance, which remains below average for Major League Baseball.
Even last year, with the Rays coming off a 2008 American League championship and a trip to the World Series, attendance increased only 3 percent. But put that in context. Almost three quarters of the MLB teams last year saw their attendance drop, so a modest uptick by the Rays is more significant than it may first appear.
Rays marketing senior vice president Mark Fernandez points out that Rays' attendance in 2009 hit 1.9 million, while the average for major league baseball is about 2.5 million.
"We want to be consistent with average Major League Baseball in an average-sized market," he says.
This year, Fernandez and marketing vice president Tom Hoof are hyperfocused on building attendance on Friday night games. They like the numbers the Rays can attract on Saturdays and Sundays, and see end-of-the-week Fridays holding the greatest potential for fan growth. Hence the emphasis on extra "Friday Fest" entertainment.
Which brings us back to the drum line. The Rays new ad campaign, created by Tampa's Pyper Paul + Kenney ad firm, features a drum line sound track. The Rays want area high school band drum lines to compete and submit recorded music to be featured in Rays TV and radio ads.
Hoof says the best of the drum lines may end up performing on Friday night Rays games, perhaps atop the dugouts. It's all part of that broader marketing effort, the outreach to a community the Rays say stretches from Charlotte to Hernando to Polk counties.
Here's another Friday giveaway (April 23) sure to be a hot collectible among women. It's a T-shirt, probably pink and cut for a woman, that expresses admiration for Evan Longoria. Longo, it seems, has the makings of both a Hall of Famer and a Heartthrob. And that is a marketer's grand slam.
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com.