The Sports Business Journal analyzed the television ratings of each Major League Baseball teams. Surprising upstarts like the Houston Astros increased its ratings six-fold while the television mess in Los Angeles led to bottom five finishes for the Dodgers and Angels. But the main focus of the article was about the boom in Kansas City for the Royals’ television rating. The team averaged a 12.33 rating as of last week, which is a 90 percent increase from 2014. The most newsworthy aspect of this is that, if the ratings keep rising, the Royals would be the highest rated baseball team since 2002 (baseball’s dying, remember?) when the Mariners pulled in a 13.2.
This, I think, is largely due to marketing, management and finance. The 2014 Royals were surprisingly good with young talent and likeable superstars and seemingly parlayed talent into good performance to fan enjoyment at the game to fan identification with the team to a higher, more active fan base. It all started with the management to bring stability to one of baseball’s worst clubs in the early 2000’s to commit to excellence and rebuild over the long haul, investing in large quantities of cheap, high-potential young players. With a stable, level-headed manager he led the management’s assets to success and marketing took it from there. Finance is just, as per usual, reaping the rewards and assuring that monetary gain today is invested wisely. But the crux is marketing and turning success into profit. Without the marketing, there’d be no rise in TV ratings and no more money in the bank.
The implication of the poll’s release is a positive one for baseball. Yes, Kansas City’s increase is great for baseball there, but it doesn’t indicate an industry-wide trend. St. Louis also rose 31 percent even though the team didn’t improve that much. (The Cardinals owned baseball’s best record, but are consistently good, so it’s not an unbelievable increase.) However, the Houston Astros rose nearly 500 percent, the Chicago Cubs more than doubled and six other teams rose by more than 50 percent. On the flip side, the bottom four teams only fell by about 30 percent, which shows that baseball is gaining ratings in the 2015 faster than they’re losing them.
While Sports Business Journal doesn’t directly discuss any strategy or approach taken by a single organization, I think it’s interesting that I am seeing the results of a hard-working organization, mostly the marketing department. I would say that Kansas City’s approach is obviously working. From watching MLB.tv a lot this season (and consistently tuning to Kansas City games) the team heavily markets players, which, normally is a no-no. Theoretically, marketing departments should shy away from marketing players, but the Royals are in a unique position. The team’s star players (Moustakas, Hosmer, Ventura, Finnegan, Santana) are all young and under club control for at least two season after this one. Barring a trade (which no is inconceivable), the Royals will have the same stars, the same core, heading into 2017, which will be more than long enough for the marketing team to have run its course. So while the Royals are in a unique place, its decision to buck convention and market its young stars is clearly paying dividends.