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Q&A: Angels Baseball Needs to Both Covet and Trust Fans
Tom Boyd
Baseball is more than a game to Tom Boyd, associate professor of marketing. The faculty member has delved into the various marketing issues within sports in general, from ways of generating interest in sporting events with future generations to the renaming of the Anaheim Angels.
A foul ball may be recovered in a big league name game

April 7, 2005

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to have heard about the strategic play of the season within Major League Baseball (along with the public’s spirited debate): the Anaheim Angels are now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Nostalgic bias, city politics and linguistic redundancies aside, says Tom Boyd, associate professor of marketing, both names are the result of marketing tactics to draw in the coveted fans and the dollars they spend to prove their allegiance to the franchise. At one time, the team was the California Angels, but “when Disney owned the team, they called it the Anaheim Angels as part of a marketing strategy to bring people to the city and Disneyland,” he says.

Boyd, a competitive swimmer and triathlete, came to Cal State Fullerton in 2001. His research emphasis is on the consumer behavior of sports fans, and he has been teaching sports marketing classes and writing editorials about fan conduct for more than 10 years. “Everyone involved in sports – including advertisers, the teams and sponsors – are trying to get the attention of the fans and their money,” he says. The Los Angeles metro area has about 15 million people versus Orange County’s 3 million, he adds, so the team wants to make sure everyone in the Southland considers it the home team.

“Actually, the timing for this change is pretty good. The Angels have been doing well for a while,” and the Dodgers’ recent record has been up and down, says Boyd, who delights in the fact that the O.C. club papered nearly 500 billboards that say simply, “City of Angels.”

“This is a good opportunity for the Angels to get out there and compete for fans, and it’s been fun watching the turf war take shape.”

Q: How could the Angel organization have handled the name change differently and avoided such an outcry from fans and litigation from the city of Anaheim?
   
A: I think that if they had gone to the public with more information about how much money the team lost last year and how they were working very hard to find solutions to the problem – without raising prices for the fans – people might have been a lot more receptive to the name change because it presented them with a solution to that problem. But the Angels didn’t do that; they just came out with the name change.

Q: What do you think the Angel’s leadership learned from the controversy?
   
A: I think it was a little insulting not to have treated their fans as intelligent enough to understand why this was necessary. The best lesson may be to treat your fans with respect and give them some credit for being able to recognize the reasons for having to do things. A lot of their problem came from a perception of real arrogance and a lack of communication with their constituencies: the city of Anaheim and the fan base in particular.

Q: The outcry from the fans seems to have subsided.
   
A: Very few of them were going to actually stop being Angels fans; they were just peeved about it. I make myself listen to sports-talk radio for “research,” and even they were saying “Gee, quit whining Anaheim, the reason for this is to keep from raising prices.”

Q: In fact, that’s one of your crusades: fans are being priced out of attending pro sports games.
   
A: After about a decade of prices going up, teams are now realizing that they have to get kids into the stadium so that they become the loyal fans of tomorrow. They may some day be the corporate decision makers who will buy luxury boxes to entertain clients, which is where teams make big money. If kids don’t learn to love live basketball, football or baseball by sitting in the cheap seats with their families, they’ll decide later that snowboarding is the appropriate way to entertain a client.

Q: You now have about 120 former students who are working in the sports marketing field, and it’s one of the hotter areas in marketing right now. Does that mean you get a lot of free tickets to games?
   
A: Sometimes I get free tickets, but I’m more likely to get free shoes because several of my former students have gone to work for Nike, Adidas and Reebok. For a while there I had more shoes than I knew what to do with.


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