Viewpoint: Blue Jays would benefit from more than mediocre marketing

Say what you will about public relations and advertising, but they are integral to the success of anything that garners revenue.

For example, if those ads on television featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World” had never come out, I can guarantee I would never have bought Dos Equis beer.

Enter the Toronto Blue Jays, who, as Canada’s only Major League Baseball team, should have no trouble garnering fans from all across the country.

Yet their attendance figures have been below the league average every year since 1998.

Of course, a major reason that the team’s attendance suffered this season was due to the departure of beloved ace Roy “Doc” Halladay. The accompanying choice to raise ticket prices wasn’t too popular either.

However, I would argue that the issues pertain more to the fact that the Blue Jays brass has no idea how to market the team effectively.

This past spring, the Blue Jays released an ad campaign that begged the fans for patience after they traded the best pitcher in the game.

“Hustle and Heart” was the mantra, and the ads featured players on the team, in front of a cool, dimly lit and edgy backdrop, telling the fans how “it’s not the name on the back of the jersey that matters, but the one on the front”, and “My dad always told me to treat success and failure exactly the same.”

A novel idea, but you’re not going to draw fans by telling them that winning isn’t everything. This is not to say that giving the fans realistic expectations is a bad thing, but an ad should draw positive attention to the product.

Later, clearly under the impression that these ads were too depressing, they decided to go in a comedic direction.

Unfortunately, this involved a series of bone-headed ads featuring a bunch of suits at board meetings – dressed as giant birds.

This season was no exception, either. The Blue Jays ads have steadily gotten worse over the years. In a 2007 ad, slugger Frank Thomas is seen knocking his child out in a pillow fight. In 2009, random passers-by on the street cheer on Vernon Wells as he tries to break into a car.

For me, this poor marketing comes as no shock. Rogers owns the Blue Jays, and Rogers makes just about the worst advertising decisions I have ever seen for a company of its size and scope.

How many years now have their cell phone ads featured that guy looking so shocked that another guy has a better phone, as we hear the theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey?

However, ads are not the only problem.

Back before Rogers owned the team, the stadium was buzzing, and the fans were engaged. The simulated organ would encourage clapping and cheering after almost every break in between pitches, foul balls hit into the stands were accompanied by silly sound effects.

Today, parts of the games can be so silent that you can hear conversations from ten rows back.

A game I went to earlier this year featured a marketing campaign called “Tweeting Tuesdays”, which encouraged fans to text things to Twitter to try to win prizes.

Because we all know there’s no better way to take in a game and be a part of a public atmosphere than to be staring down at your cell phone.

Of course, since Rogers likely owns half of the cell phones in the stadium, one can be sure they make a profit off it.

If you ask me, Rogers needs to do something about this and fast. They need to hire a consultant who can give them some advice about winning fans back.

Bring back cheap ticket nights, air commercials that are edgy, but don’t look like they were written by seven-year-olds.

Most importantly, they need to market the Blue Jays as Canada’s team, and find a way to bring fans from all across the country together. Perhaps Twitter is the right idea – just not AT the stadium.

If they don’t, one only needs to gaze at the sad fate of the Montreal Expos as an example of what happens when fans completely lose interest in their team in a Canadian market.