Behind The Scenes at Fenway
Lastweek, the Red Sox invited me to visit the team’s offices on Yawkey Way.
"Why don’t you come by around noon on Wednesday and sit in on a bunch
of meetings?" And so I did. Between noon and 4pm, I attended four
1. A bi-weekly meeting of the team’s vice presidents and directors
(I counted 28 of them), led by team president, Larry Lucchino. Each
VP/director gave a brief update on his/her area of responsibility and
fielded a question or two from Lucchino. Even yours truly was asked to
say a few words. ("I don’t mean to put you on the spot, Rob," said Larry, "but what’s the state of the Nation?")
2. A meeting led by senior vice president sales/marketing, Sam
Kennedy, to discuss the status of the Red Sox Fellows Program’s
3. A meeting led by Sam Kennedy and director of client services,
Troup Parkinson, with executives from a company that currently spends
about a half-million dollars per year in advertising with the Red Sox.
The purpose of the meeting was to brainstorm ways to reconfigure the
deal going forward.
4. A meeting led by manager of community marketing, Mardi Fuller, on "Marketing to Women."
Rather than give you the blow by blow on these meetings, I thought
I’d share with you the most striking take-aways of my afternoon at
1. Larry Lucchino has the entire organization under his thumb, and
he seems to enjoy being president and getting involved in the details
of every aspect of the organization. He ran the VP/directors meeting
like an emcee, sprinkling in anecdotes from time to time, quizzing VPs
on facts about their area, and handing out praise generously. He is
clearly well-liked and highly respected by his charges.
2. Out of the 28 team VP/directors who spoke at that first meeting,
only two mentioned actual baseball players: Brian O’Halloran, director
of baseball operations (he attended in Theo Epstein’s stead), who gave
a brief update on minor transactions that had occurred in the last two
weeks, and **** Bresciani, the team’s historian and archivist, who gave
a spirited presentation about "this week in Red Sox history." As a fan,
it was striking to see that 95% of the meeting focused on issues that
would bore most fans to tears.
3. At lunch, following the VP/directors meeting, I had a chance to
talk with Ron Bumgarner, who runs the ticketing operation. "The Yankees
and every other pro sports organization laughs at us for the lengths we
go to to try to make tickets accessible to regular fans," he said. And
after 20 minutes of hearing about the thought process behind their
ticket operations, I believed him.
He confessed that sometimes the lengths to which the Sox go to make
things fair have a negative effect on their efforts to make the
experience easy. For example, when tickets are available online, some
people wait ten minutes to purchase tickets, while others who have
waited hours and hours and were "in line" first get nothing. He
explained that if the Sox did not pluck folks out of the "virtual
waiting room" randomly, the agencies/resellers would chew up all the
tickets ? because they have the manpower and, more importantly, the
programmer power to dominate the ?front of the line? and proactively
?mole? their computers to butt in the queue. He said that they could
sell out Fenway’s 81 games in one day if they wanted to, and that would
make their job easy, but they don’t do that because it would not be
fair to the "average fans."
4. I assumed that the Red Sox Fellows Program would cater to the
grandchildren of owners and nieces of senior vice presidents, but the
meeting on the Fellows Program made it clear to me that the Sox are
truly looking for a robust, diverse pool of applicants. Just as the
baseball operations people are looking for talented players, the
business operations people are looking for talented, capable "fellows"
to inject the organization with energy and to develop executives of the
future. (For more information on the Red Sox Fellows Program, click here. Applications for the 2008 season are due January 4, 2008.)
5. It was fascinating to me that 80% of the 90 minute-long meeting
with the corporate sponsor was spent "developing the relationship" —
talking about the 2007 season, catching up on how business is going,
talking about mutual friends and acquaintances. Only 20% of the time
was spent exploring the future of the company’s business relationship
with the Sox, and no actual financial terms of a deal were discussed.
6. The Red Sox have a gigantic "home field advantage" when meeting
with potential corporate sponsors at Fenway Park. Sam and Troup probably didn’t
notice the awe twinkling in the eyes of the three guest executives (two
of whom had flown in from D.C., and one from New York) as they walked
down the corridor to the conference room, gazing at the posters and
photos of Red Sox greats on the walls. What was perhaps ‘just another meeting’
for Sam and Troup was clearly one of the most exciting business
meetings of the year for their guests. When we sat down for the
meeting, a snow-covered Fenway Park loomed in the background through
the window wall. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you can’t help
sprouting goosebumps in that room.
One question that was raised at the "Marketing to Women" meeting was,
"With every game sold out and TV ratings high, and with a broader
female fan base than any other major league baseball team, why should
the Red Sox care about appealing to women more than they
already do?" The two big answers were: Because an organization that
appeals to women as well as men will thrive even when the team isn’t
winning, and because women represent half of the potential customer base/audience.
Other interesting points raised included: a) Women (and men) spend
more time directly experiencing the Red Sox through NESN (and their
team of Jerry Remy, Don Orsillo, and Tina Cervasio) than through
personal trips to Fenway Park. Therefore, any marketing efforts
targeting women need to examine the effectiveness of this channel. b)
Men (whom are the default targets of existing Red Sox marketing
efforts) have young daughters they want to bring to Fenway Park; they
have girlfriends and wives who sometimes accompany them when they
attend a game or watch on TV; and certainly "baseball" can compete with
all these women for "quality time" in the life of a male fan.
Therefore, the more broadly the team appeals to women, the more broadly
it will appeal to its default audience of men, as well.
8. In the end, the Red Sox offices are still offices where people go to work
every day (most are crammed into small cubicles), and the nature of
their work is not unlike the work done in other organizations: finance,
marketing, customer relations, sales, advertising, public relations,
etc. While all Red Sox employees have highly coveted jobs, they don’t
walk around exuding excitement and gratitude for their good luck; in
fact, I’d say they all looked pretty worn out after a long, strenuous
2007. (I assume the office atmosphere is slightly different in May,
during a Yankees homestand, the day after an Ortiz walk-off home run…)
want to thank the Red Sox organization for welcoming me into their
offices for a few hours. Their hospitality rates a ten out of ten, and
I appreciate their high hopes for the new roles of President and Vice
President of Red Sox Nation.