The LA Dodgers Are Using Streetwear-Inspired Merchandise to Attract New Fans
Baseball is a weird sport. It's not for everyone. The people that love it could talk for hours about a pitching battle that ended 1-0, or how there's nothing better than spending four-and-a-half hours at the ballpark.
The ones who don't like baseball would tell you how boring it is to watch a pitcher retire batter after batter, seeing nothing more than a few grounders yielding a 1-0 finish, or how they wasted their entire day at a game.
The bottom line is that if you don't already like baseball, you're probably not going to magically decide to change your mind. The Dodgers, however, are hoping that a new line of streetwear-inspired merchandise might get that (base)ball rolling for some potential new fans.
The Dodgers benefit from being one of those teams whose logo and identity have transcended the team itself, becoming a visual representation of the city as a whole. The Yankees have also done this. So, to get from there to streetwear-inspired merchandise is hardly a huge leap.
The Dodgers unveiled a collaboration with Union Los Angeles and New Era at ComplexCon this month in Long Beach, Calif. The six-piece collection uses "Los Angeles and Dodgers iconography" on merchandise, according to Front Office Sport.
The Union Frontman logo gets teamed with LA emblems. https://t.co/0bMASLbDiw
— HYPEBEAST (@HYPEBEAST) November 4, 2019
"It's a huge focus for us now," Dodgers vice president of merchandising Allister Annear told FOS. "We have an ownership group that's focused on the fundamental things in how to develop a brand. We have been focused on re-establishing the brand in a positive way to fan-centric focus."
Since Annear joined the Dodgers, the team has quintupled its merchandise business and greatly increased its retail presence at Dodger Stadium.
"When I joined, I didn't have a sports understanding," he added. "So I approached the stadium as a mall, starting branded stores. It worked well from a partnership model. No one else was doing it, but now it's commonplace."
The ballpark is much more than just a place to watch baseball. Stadiums have all kinds of bells and whistles like bars, games, restaurants, areas to destroy TVs, etc. So, making it a place to shop before, during and after a game makes sense.
If you can find a way to incorporate baseball's tradition with the aesthetic younger generations are looking for in merchandise, you've hit a home run, at least in Annear's eyes.
"Other sports are sexier, but baseball is a cool sport if treated right and understood," he said. "We're trying to take our brand, that we've cleaned up and grown well, and you're seeing growth. It's not about doing more and selling more now, it's about sustaining it and having a more intelligent conversation."
By working with collaborators that usually have been distant from the sports world and creating a non-traditional vibe for the merchandise (taking a page out of the San Antonio Spurs' book), the Dodgers could integrate things like sneaker culture and L.A. fashion into their marketing strategy.
"Maybe they have more of an inclination to do it because of Los Angeles," Matt Powell, a senior industry advisor with the NPD Group, told FOS. "Maybe it's how the management views it. But every team could be doing something to extend the brand into other categories and communities that aren't baseball fans."
When a team, or any business really, steps back and looks outside the (batter's) box, it can find new ways to appeal to new group of potential fans. Appealing to your established fan base or customer base is crucial, but without developing ways to attract more business, you become stagnant. Promotional products distributors can use this Dodgers story as inspiration for other clients who want to grow their businesses and try new things.
If that doesn't work for the Dodgers or other MLB teams, they can always use the slogan for the MLB store in Taipei.