With all eyes on players and contracts as Hot Stove Season begins, we consider Toronto Blue Jays moves on another front – Public Relations.
While I spend a lot of my time on my baseball-writing gig – I’ve still got a few other irons in the fire. In “another life” I’m a public relations professional. I’ve worked in the field for nearly 20 years, 13 of which I’ve spent as the owner and operator of my own boutique firm. And I even have the opportunity to shape and mold the next generation of PR professionals as an adjunct professor at a college near my home. So, it’s always a happy moment when my two worlds intersect and I get the opportunity to look at baseball trough a PR lens or vice versa.
As much as I would love to say that PR wins baseball games, it simply doesn’t. But what it does is bolsters goodwill, settles conflicts and can, when done well, unify many groups towards a common goal. And, on the heels of a lackluster season, there is no doubt that the Toronto Blue Jays need all of the above going into 2018.
So, without further ado:
Increase the Giveaways
I admit that the first few times I saw lines wrapping around the Rogers Centre I was impressed. Then I realized that the real reason people were waiting. It was just to GET a bobblehead, umbrella, t-shirt etc. because in a stadium that seats nearly 50,000, many of the most sought after promotional items were only offered to the first 20,000 fans gaining entrance to the game. That’s ridiculous. Get the sponsors to pony up more to double the number of giveaways, co-brand or something. It’s never a bad idea for people to walk out of your event with a logoed item they want to keep.
More Canadian Players
The current roster boasts two Canadians on the team, Russell Martin and Dalton Pompey. Yes, this sounds very nationalist of me, but get some more “home country” guys on the team that fans can cheer for. It also sounds very simplistic and I know that baseball doesn’t work that way – but also it does. I watched an entire country rejoice as Martin came “home.” There is not a doubt in my mind that his nationality had SOMETHING to do with the fact that he netted the second biggest contract in club history. I watched the fans of the Pirates lose their minds when the team traded away Pittsburgh hometown kid Neil Walker to the New York Mets. Having that connection matters. And not saying nothing about nothing, but Russ’ contract is up at the end of next season (2019).
Bring Back the SkyDome
Rumor has it naming rights for the Rogers Centre are up for grabs. The Toronto Blue Jays need to work with whomever wants those rights and bring The SkyDome name back. Maybe it’s the Boston Pizza SkyDome or the Acer SkyDome or WestJet SkyDome…whatever. Add SkyDome back into that name and suddenly people are kids again, filled with warm nostalgia of childhood. Don’t believe me? Here’s a tried and true PR tactic – Create a naming contest and let people vote. That generates buzz, give fans the impression that they are valued and keeps the Jays “trending” during the 140+ days their product is off the market.
And I bet they will overwhelmingly vote for SkyDome. Sure, naming rights equal big dollars. I understand why a company wouldn’t want to dilute their opportunity to brand on such a high level. But there’s a lot of goodwill any potential naming sponsor could gain by adding “SkyDome” back into the name as well.
Big Contract Signing/Extension
Unlike my fabulous colleague here at Jays From the Couch, Catherine Stem, I think the ship has sailed on Jose Bautista. The Jays have already taken the heat for not picking up his option for the 2018 season from fans, so to string that relationship along any further is just poking the bear. I mean the man no ill will – he follows me on Twitter after all (ha). I just believe his best opportunity to play next season – and regain some of his performance – is in another uniform. That said, the Toronto Blue Jays do need a blockbuster signing this offseason to generate excitement for 2018. That could easily mean extending Josh Donaldson. He’s quickly becoming the face of the franchise and bringing him back adds stability. And not to mention flair – and if we’ve learned anything from the 2017 Houston Astros, teams need flair.
Two Words – Fan Carnival
Every offseason, members of the team hop on planes and busses and head out to different cities across Canada to meet fans and promote the team. That’s fantastic and given the size of the country – a great way to bring the Jays to the fans. But man is this team (and the city of Toronto) missing an opportunity. Imagine this: A two-day Toronto Blue Jays Fan Carnival at Rogers Centre. Featuring player signings and meet and greets (for which it is perfectly acceptable to sell tickets benefiting JaysCare), free autographs for the kiddos, Q&A sessions with players and team officials, baseball-themed games, giveaways, etc. It’s GOLD.
Nothing says “you’re important to us” like an opportunity to experience the team on a more personal level. Sure, the players need their off-time, sure the front office needs to re-organize, sure there are a million reasons why it is a logistical nightmare. But ONE key reason to do it is to show appreciation. For all of those days the fans showed up for the team – devote one weekend where the team shows up for them.
PR Isn’t Rocket Science
But it is an art. Good PR practitioners must look at situations from a variety of angles to find the sweet spot where serving the public and company intersect. The idea is to ensure that those people with a vested interest in the Toronto Blue Jays – the fans – understand that the team sees their value. It is important coming off the best of seasons and vital after ones like 2017.
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Joy Frank-Collins is a Communications professional who got her start writing as a journalist at a daily newspaper in southeastern Ohio. She was born in Reds country, but “found” baseball watching the 1986 Mets win the World Series. A long-time Pittsburgh Pirates fan, she added the Blue Jays as her AL team the day they picked up Russell Martin. She lives in Marietta, Ohio, with her family, who all share her passion for baseball. She loves the suicide squeeze, a crisp 6-4-3 double play and catchers. When not obsessing over baseball, Joy likes to work out, travel and drink wine.