If it's a winner, why switch?
The Tampa Bay Rays unveiled their 2015 advertising and marketing campaign Wednesday, opting to build upon the "Rays Up" message introduced last year. While the move offers continuity at the start of a season awash with new managers, coaches and players, it also signals how sharp and versatile "Rays Up" has proved to be.
The Rays traditionally like to surprise fans with a fresh ad campaign to kick off each new baseball season. Some ad pitches resonate more than others with fans, and Rays executives believe the "Rays Up" phrase — which can be interpreted so many ways to good effect — is worth investing in for another marketing cycle.
From a roundtable discussion Wednesday morning with Rays officials, here are some highlights of what to expect this season:
• Look for Evan Longoria, already a cornerstone of the Rays team and its marketing machine, to gain even more prominence. The latest Rays TV ad, which is about to air and already has been teased to Facebook viewers, features Longoria prominently talking about embracing change and a voice-over with this cool kicker: "We're not just getting ready for opening day. We're getting ready for October. Rays up." The ad's hip music, by the way, features Diplo's Revolution song that Tropicana Field fans will likely hear often this season.
"We're a small-market ball club," reminds Rays marketing vice president Darcy Raymond in a Tropicana Field conference room graced with the jerseys of David Price, Ben Zobrist, Carl Crawford and Fernando Rodney. All four represent strong players the budget-minded Rays shed as they became too expensive. Change — including the prominent departures of manager Joe Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman — is something the Rays know well.
"Evan has been one of our constants of success on the field and is doing some incredible things off the field, too," says Rays senior vice president Mark Fernandez, pointing to the nine-county success of Longoria's popular "Reading with the Rays." The program provides incentives to thousands of kids to read library books.
"We see Evan as our Derek Jeter," adds Raymond, "with that kind of commitment to lead the team."
• Watch for the Rays (sunshine) "burst" graphic that appears on player hats and shirts to gain an even higher profile. "It's kind of our Nike swoosh," says Brian Richeson, Rays vice president of sales and service. Also watch for more "Carolina blue" on Rays uniforms rather than the darker cobalt blue so commonly used by some other teams. And fans that purchase "flex pack" games (three, six or nine games, for example) receive their tickets on a Rays card, introduced in 2014, that this year will feature parking at the Trop at half price.
• More than two dozen promotional giveaways at games this year will range from a Rays cowboy hat (June 26) and fedora (Aug. 8), to a Rays camo tank top (May 24), an intense-looking Chris Archer bobblehead (April 25) and, for comic relief, a Longoria-styled rubber duck (April 19).
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• Noting the 10-year anniversary of the Rays under owner Stu Sternberg, Fernandez and Rays Foundation head Suzanne Luecke want to leverage the "Rays Up" message in the team's expanding community involvement, with projects ranging from Take Stock in Children education scholarships, Chris Archer's involvement in the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program and a Be Water Smart effort to help reduce child drownings, among other campaigns.
Luecke considers the "Rays Up" message a community call to action, as the Rays, in turn, ask people and businesses here how they want to get involved.
"What do you 'Rays Up' for?" asks Luecke.
As happens every spring, hopes are high for the Rays this season, despite recent spring training injuries and home attendance in 2014 of 1.45 million that once again placed the Rays 30th among 30 MLB teams. Perhaps this will be the year the team can "Rays Up" more fans in the seats.
Contact Robert Trigaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.