Anaheim Pins PR Hopes on Angels’ Fame


Don’t let the banners, champagne and giddy behavior fool you. Anaheim may seem as if it’s reveling in the success of the upstart Angels, but behind the scenes, there’s some serious strategizing about how to raise the city’s profile.

City officials say the Anaheim Angels’ making the playoffs--and their first-round victory over the New York Yankees--is a gift from the PR gods, landing them on the front pages of the country’s largest newspapers.

Converting it into cash, however, could prove difficult.

“We want to avoid the perception that this is our 15 minutes of fame,” said John Nicoletti, a city spokesman, who has been fielding out-of-town media calls since the Angels made it to the playoffs.


“This is a city that is in the national spotlight for a positive reason ... and we need to capitalize on the name recognition of being a major league city and convert it into the long term.”

To that end, Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly, who is also a huge Angel fan, has been granting every media request. He even went on Minnesota radio live Monday afternoon with the mayor of Minneapolis to cement their friendly playoff wager.

His mantra doesn’t waver: Anaheim is the smallest city with a major league baseball team carrying its name, and this is the first year the team sports “Anaheim” on road uniforms.

Nicoletti is firing out news releases--datelined Anaheim--with a collection of facts about the city: that it’s California’s 10th most populous city, covers 50 square miles, and claims either headquarters or major branches of industries such as Carl Karcher Enterprises, the Walt Disney Co., and the Boeing Co., not to mention that it’s a “great place to live, work and play.”


Now that the Angels are a bona fide Cinderella story--not just a jinxed team that hadn’t won a playoff series in 42 years--Nicoletti said the city will start including baseball caps and jerseys in informational packets to lure prospective businesses into Anaheim.

If only people knew where it is. Daly winces when he reads quotes from New Yorkers asking: “Where is Anaheim? Who is Anaheim?” and, well, maybe, isn’t it “about 50 miles south of San Diego?”

“It’s about identity,” Daly said. “It’s a subject that requires constant attention. I wish there was a way to say Anaheim is a convenient drive between Los Angeles and San Diego.”

But those who study sports business and marketing said sporting events rarely translate into financial gain for cities because residents simply choose to attend a game rather than pick some other leisure activity--they won’t do both.


“Anaheim is simply a suburb of Los Angeles that happens to have a good baseball team,” said Smith College economics professor Andy Zimbalist, who is also an expert in sports business. “If they think somebody is going to watch the Angels beat the Yankees on TV in Georgia and say, ‘Anaheim, where is that? I’ve got to take my family there,’ they’re mistaken. I don’t think that happens.”

Angels Adopt Stronger Identity With City

Still, Anaheim is in a unique spot, said David Carter of the Redondo Beach-based Sports Business Group. While many teams use state names--Colorado instead of Denver Rockies and Arizona instead of Phoenix Diamondbacks--the Angels have done the opposite. Once known as the California Angels, they were renamed the Anaheim Angels in 1996, after Disney bought the team.

“For most cities, that would be the equivalent of being on national TV with a sandwich board walking around the stadium saying, ‘Here we are, come visit us,’ ” Carter said.


And they don’t even have to pay for it. “You can’t buy the front page,” Nicoletti said about the free publicity the team is generating for the city. A 30-second commercial on Fox during the American League Championship Series costs about $100,000 depending on the day of week. It jumps to about $300,000 for the World Series.

Rewards May Not Be That Great, Some Warn

But because Anaheim already is strongly linked to Disneyland and Southern California, the rewards may not be as great as they would be for a smaller, lesser-known city that lacks a tourist attraction.

“Either people don’t have any feeling for Anaheim or they generally think positively about the region and the city,” Carter said. “This is a significant opportunity for Anaheim to protect the great reputation it already has in sports and entertainment.”


Although the Angels’ success may not translate into economic riches and a tourism bonanza for Anaheim, one marketing consultant said city leaders are doing all the right things. “I really do think there’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted here,” said consultant Rolfe Shellenberger.

“That opportunity needs to be hyped. I would tell them to continue to get their name on everything. ... Send releases. This is an address you may have dimly remembered from your past and yes, it is in the middle of Orange County. Home of the Anaheim Angels, home of Disneyland.”