New York Mets embark on branding effort to boost credibility and gain young fans

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It was a hot Tuesday night in August, and thousands of loyal New York Mets fans flocked to Citi Field to watch their team take on the top-ranked San Francisco Giants. The Queens stadium was bursting with hope, despite the team’s recent losing streak.

The Mets lost that night, 8-zip.

“He’s a repairman for sure,” said Mets new owner Steven Cohen in an interview near the end of the game.

Mr. Cohen, chairman and CEO of Point72 Asset Management LP hedge fund and longtime Mets fan, bought the team last year in a deal valued at some $ 2.4 billion . He set out to record more wins, not only on the scoreboard, but in the hearts and minds of casual and potential fans.

He and his wife Alexandra Cohen have prescribed a marketing overhaul that will include an update to the team’s branding design, including custom fonts in marketing materials like photography, signage and advertisements, as well as new experiences and features in its stadium intended to give the Mets more cultural credibility.

But the new owners face challenges beyond strikeouts, as baseball and other sports struggle to attract young people, a group increasingly apathetic to live games.

“All sports are challenged to know how to attract young fans,” said Jeff Deline, the team’s new revenue director. “How do I get them engaged again?” Their consumption habits are completely different.

Marketing and talent management firm Range Media Partners LLC is leading the effort. The initiative is under development, but ideas include offering live comedy throughout matches, updating existing spaces in the stadium where people can congregate, adding more screens in the baseball park and making other technology upgrades, said Natalie Bruss, managing partner of Range, which is minority-owned by Mr. Cohen’s venture capital fund, Point72 Ventures.

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen at Citi Field in February.


Photo:

Mary Altaffer / Associated press

The aim is to raise awareness of the Mets brand on social media, in film and music, as well as to associate the team more closely with their hometown, a city known worldwide as a cultural capital, said Ms Bruss. .

The team is also recruiting sponsors to help create new experiences for fans. It worked with sponsor Airbnb Inc.,

for example, to turn unused office space at Citi Field into an overnight stay in July hosted by former Mets player Bobby Bonilla.

Other plans include a podcast targeting Hispanic audiences and fashion industry collaborations, Ms. Bruss said, as the team looks for ways to attract a new and diverse audience.

Find the next generation

The audience for Major League Baseball is older than that of other professional sports, said David Campanelli, executive vice president and chief investment officer of ad buying agency Horizon Media Inc.

The National Basketball Association audience is the youngest, followed by the National Football League, college football and basketball, and the National Hockey League, he said.

Baseball executives know this.

“We are an older, whiter demographic,” Mr. Deline said. “I don’t think you’ll see a lot of kids sitting around and watching a baseball game from start to finish. They will watch the highlights on TikTok.

The median age of Major League Baseball viewers is 59.7 for the regular season in mid-September, compared to 56.9 for the full regular season in 2017, according to Nielsen data.

According to Nielsen, nine percent more households are watching baseball this season compared to last year’s pandemic shortened season. And MLB.TV’s streaming audiences have rejuvenated in recent years, according to the league.

But the nationwide television and cable TV baseball audience also declined, dropping 14% to an average of 289,000 homes per game this season in mid-September, from 336,000 homes for the entire season. regular in 2019, according to Nielsen data.

The change comes as people are turning away from traditional television to social media, video games and streaming television, a trend that has only grown during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The number of people aged 7 to 17 playing baseball in the United States has also fallen in recent decades. Last year it hit 4.9 million, up from 6.3 million in 2010 and 10 million in 1995, according to data from the National Sporting Goods Association.

Attracting young fans again and improving the cool factor of the team will play a role in attracting more lucrative and long-term sponsorship deals, Mr Deline said.

This year, the team is set to extend almost 90% of expiring sponsorship deals, but they would like that number to be even higher, Mr Deline said. Over the past three to four years, the team has been renewing an average of about 80 to 85 percent of their sponsorship contracts, Deline said.

To increase renewals, the team plans to remove a hefty commission-based model that incentivizes staff to sell branded partnerships based on year one performance-oriented goals, Deline said. Instead, it will encourage more cohesive collaboration with sponsors to support their business goals over time, he said.

In July, actress and rapper Awkwafina threw the first pitch during a Mets game.


Photo:

Food

The Mets brand is loved by sponsors, but it still has a long way to go to catch up with the New York Yankees, according to the ranking by sports sponsorship research firm IEG. The firm ranked the Mets six of the 30 teams in the MLB. The scores, which correspond to brand affinity and sponsor exposure value, took into account fan base size, social media tracking, winning legacy, and quality or perceived prestige.

“It is clear that the Mets have the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the Yankees both locally and nationally,” said Peter Laatz, global managing director of IEG, in an email. But attracting young people will not be easy, he said.

Other sports leagues and media companies are also facing the same erosion of their young audience and are exploring ways to retain fans.

In August, for example, the MLB hosted a clash between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees at an Iowa site from the 1989 baseball movie “Field of Dreams”. The game, sponsored by Geico , was the most-watched regular-season baseball game in 16 years, drawing nearly 6 million viewers, Fox Sports said last month. It was also the most broadcast regular season baseball game in Fox Sports history, he said.

The NFL, for its part, partnered with Nickelodeon in January for a wild card children’s TV show that became the network’s most-watched show among viewers in nearly four years, and cable television broadcast No. 1 of the week with children from 2 to 11 years old. years and children 6 to 11 years old, according to CBS Sports.

The NFL will be broadcasting another Wild Card game on Nickelodeon these playoffs, and in mid-September they began airing a new weekly half-hour series on Nickelodeon called “NFL Slimetime”.

The NFL is reaching an audience that Mr. Deline is trying to increase on behalf of the Mets.

“In fifth grade, that’s when your brand affinity is built,” Deline said. “Once they get past that age, they’re Mets fans for life.”

Write to Alexandra Bruell at [email protected]

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