The Angels’ latest billboard campaign isn’t selling anything. There is no pitch to buy tickets, no phone number to call, not even the name of the team.
There is a portrait of a player in action, next to the team logo, against a backdrop of Angel red. That’s it. If you don’t know what the logo represents, or you don’t recognize Vladimir Guerrero, the ads make no sense.
“It actually kind of violates what you’re supposed to do,” said John Carpino, the Angels’ senior vice president of sales and advertising. “But if some people see it and don’t know what it’s about, they’re probably not my target.”
In the month after the Angels won the American League West championship and set a franchise attendance record, the billboards are designed to keep the team on the minds of Southern California sports fans as season tickets go on sale and Christmas approaches.
The ads do not appear in Orange County but do appear throughout Los Angeles County -- the most recent evidence of owner Arte Moreno’s strategy to sell the Angels as a Southland team, even if he decides not to risk the legal battle that might be necessary to rename his team the Los Angeles Angels.
The Dodgers have had internal discussions about how they might respond, and club officials are so convinced Moreno might make the change that last week’s release of the Angels’ 2005 schedule prompted one curious Dodger executive to ask, “Does it say Los Angeles Angels?”
No, but it does not say Anaheim Angels either, just Angels. According to a high-ranking baseball official, Commissioner Bud Selig has given Moreno his blessing to rename the team.
“That can’t hurt the Dodgers,” the official said.
However, the official added, Selig wants Moreno to work with Anaheim rather than engage the city in a bitter public fight. The Angel Stadium lease, which Moreno inherited from the Walt Disney Co. when he bought the franchise last year, requires the team to be called the Anaheim Angels.
The Angels have not discussed the subject with city officials since July, City Manager Dave Morgan said. The City Council has pledged to veto such a name change, and Morgan said the city attorney was prepared to seek an injunction should Moreno implement a change without council approval.
“We love Arte Moreno. We love the Angels. We want to work with them,” Morgan said.
“In the unfortunate situation that they would try to move ahead anyway, we would take legal action. We hope it doesn’t come to that, but we’re prepared to do that if we need to.”
The city would like -- but would not need -- Moreno’s support in its pursuit of an NFL franchise, Morgan said. The city would not violate the Angels’ lease by building a football stadium in the Angel Stadium parking lot, Morgan said, because repainting would provide the 12,500 surface-level parking spaces required in the lease.
In the Angels’ first public acknowledgment of the possible name change, vice president of communications Tim Mead said the idea remained under consideration, with no decision about whether to implement the change and no timetable for a decision.
“It’s a concept that has been discussed,” Mead said.
Moreno does not plan to move the team to Los Angeles or change the team logo or uniforms. He believes he can generate additional revenue by selling the team to all of Southern California, not only Orange County, then persuading broadcasters and advertisers to pay more because the Angels are a regional attraction rather than a local one.
The Angels’ ratings last season rose 29% on Channel 9 and 62% on Fox Sports Net, Carpino said.
The team’s contract with Channel 9 is up for renewal after the 2005 season. The Angels will receive $5.2 million from Channel 9 next year; the Dodgers will get $8 million from Channel 13.
Moreno removed the word “Anaheim” from uniforms, schedules and ads last season. The Angels sell 65% of their season tickets in Orange County, 24% in Los Angeles County and 10% in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to Carpino.
Carpino said billboards in the current campaign do not appear in Orange County because he could not secure space in prime locations, but it is not accidental that the series of player ads includes one featuring new closer Francisco Rodriguez that looms above Ventura Boulevard.
“If we can generate interest in Encino, Tarzana, Pasadena or wherever, the likelihood of people there attending an Angel game becomes higher,” he said. “If they just watch games, that benefits us too, because that benefits our media partners.”
If Guerrero wins the AL most-valuable-player award -- the announcement is Nov. 16 -- the Angels might slap “MVP” atop his billboards. With Guerrero leading the charge to the playoffs and the Angels selling a record 3.4 million tickets, sports business consultant David Carter said the team has the credibility to run an ad campaign without selling anything, one that evokes the excitement of the summer.
“It’s a bold statement, that they can use an image to communicate their brand,” Carter said. “It would work for the Angels. It would not work for the Clippers. It’s not just a short-term thing. It’s the overall momentum this franchise has in the community and their belief this is not just a one-time spike.”
By using bold color and what he called “bigger than life” player images, Carpino said the Angels hoped fans would relive the joy of last season and start anticipating the next one -- cash in hand, of course.
“From November through February, when we’re not playing, that’s a real important time for season ticket renewals and sponsorships, and baseball isn’t at the top of people’s minds,” he said. “We’re trying to create awareness throughout the whole region and trying to make the Angels more than just March through October.”