The following is a guest post from Scott Langdon, who will be joining our Jays From the Couch team shortly.
Scott Langdon has a master’s degree in organizational communication and teaches public affairs at a Toronto-area university. He spent 30 years working in the public relations industry.
Given recent comments about his contract extension, Jays From the Couch looks at Blue Jays’ slugger Jose Bautista and the marketing of himself.
Exhibition play in Florida begins March 1 when the Blue Jays visit the Phillies in Clearwater. The games, however, started this week.
Jose Bautista announced on Feb. 22 that he has provided his contract demands to team management, adding that he doesn’t think there should be any need for negotiations. On Feb. 23, TSN reported those demands were $150 million over five years according to “two sources familiar with the matter.” Later that day, Bautista proclaimed to Sportsnet that the report was “false” and said he wouldn’t negotiate through the media.
Bautista is educated, having attended Florida’s Chipola College and later earning his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of South Florida. His reported business interests include ownership of a Booster Juice franchise in Toronto’s west end and apparently he is a board member of Marucci Sports, a sports equipment company.
In an article on athletesquarterly.com, Bautista explained that he works on his business interests in the offseason. “It doesn’t have to be a start-up,” he says of the companies he will evaluate. “If it’s something that is a good idea and I can understand the concepts behind it and try to improve them to create something that gives back to the community, it’s something at which I will take a closer look.”
Preceding the contract negotiations brouhaha on Feb. 22 was an article about Bautista in the Globe and Mail that appeared a few hours before he met with the media. The Globe’s headline must have brought tears of joy to his business advisors and public relations team. “Body of Work: Jose Bautista is at the top of his game.” The “not-negotiating-through-the-media” strategy and contract demands delivered through the media later that day were set up perfectly.
It has been reported that Bautista is or was a client of Radegen Sports Management, a company in New York that describes itself as “a full service sports marketing and event management firm specializing in the representation of high profile athletes, managers and sports personalities.” Among other services, Radegen says it “recognizes the importance of public relations in the marketing process and works closely with our clients across various public relations platforms.”
As an aside, Radegen apparently also represents James van Riemsdyk who the company describes as “one of the key leaders of the resurgent Maple Leafs.” I’m wondering about the dictionary the company uses to define “resurgent.” Resurgent and basement aren’t synonyms.
Back to Bautista and the Blue Jays. Bautista is apparently currently represented by Epitome Sports Management. The company’s web site says it offers its clients a range of services from contract negotiations to public relations and marketing. Apparently Radegen is not the only Bautista associate who recognizes the importance of public relations in the marketing process.
On Feb. 25, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, himself a former public relations executive, reported about the not-through-the-media back and forth negotiating through the media between Bautista and Jays’ owner Rogers Communication Inc. Griffin wrote “Blue Jays ownership has now found a way to fight back in the court of public opinion…”. Not that it would matter to Mr. Griffin, but I agree.
We are watching a battle for public opinion between two business entities. But, does public opinion matter? Public opinion polls and surveys matter a lot in politics, but in sports marketing? It is more about winning and money in my view. Did I mention money?
Personally, for what it’s worth, I would like to see Bautista stay with the Blue Jays. He is a good player… and an astute businessman. I admire both.
But, when it comes down to it, I’m just a baseball fan who can’t wait for the real games to begin. In the meantime, enjoy the sideshow for what it is.