The Dodgers go Hollywood: The sequel
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Just when you thought Dodger Stadium couldn’t get more cluttered with ads and promotions and marketing hype, here comes the news that the William Morris Agency has been hired by Frank McCourt and Co. to exploit even more branding opportunities for the team. No stone will remain unturned--or more accurately, no public space will remain bare in the Dodgers constant search for new revenue streams. As Variety put it, the team ‘is exploring sponsors for everything from the bullpens, baselines and the team dugouts,’ along with sponsorship arrangements for the team’s new retail outlet project that will be under construction for the next several years.
As Big Picture loyalists may have noticed, I’m a Cubs fan, so I’m especially sensitive to ballparks being turned into giant billboards. Wrigley Field has largely remained a holdout from the current mania for commercial exploitation, although you could argue that the Cubs’ ballpark--built in 1914--was one of the first stadiums to endorse a commercial sponsor, since the park’s very name touts its former owner’s chewing gum brand. But do we really want to see a Dodger pitcher warming up in the ‘Shrek 4' bullpen? Or watch the home team take the field, scrambling out of a dugout emblazoned with a giant severed head logo for ‘Saw 5'? Where would it end? What would stop Disney from emblazoning ‘Bolt’ on all the Dodgers bats? Or Fox from doing giveaways for every ball that bounces on ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ warning track? Who knows--maybe Jeffrey Katzenberg will give away 50,000 3D glasses to fans on Opening Day so they can watch clips from ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ on the stadium’s jumbo video screen during the seventh-inning stretch.
It’s almost impossible to exaggerate what marketers will do if given ‘virtually limitless’ possibilities, to quote Dodgers COO Dennis Mannion’s breathless description of the team’s master marketing plan. Baseball purists will remember that in 2004 Sony launched a ‘Spider-Man’ promotion designed to put the movie’s logo on all the bases at ballparks during inter-league play that year. The studio was forced to scale back the promotion after a storm of protest from outraged fans. With the Dodgers playoff hopes hanging by a thread right now, I don’t want to do anything to jinx the team’s chances. But I’d like to hear from baseball fans: Are ballparks already filled with too much advertising clutter and showbiz marketing? Or are you OK with owners using whatever means necessary to generate revenue to stock the team with the most highly paid stars imaginable?
‘Shrek the Third’ photo from DreamWorks Animation