A consistent marketing identity has seemingly always eluded the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles/Anaheim. It didn't have to be this way, but the inconstancy is what it is. The resulting disconnect between the Angels' on the field performance, especially in the Mike Scioscia era, its regional TV ratings (second worst in the majors), media market size, (Number 2 Designated Market Area), and MLB merchandising popularity, (abysmal given the media market they hail from), all combine to make the Angels a sleeping giant as far as mass or national popularity goes. the Angels seem to be stuck as a distinctly regional brand with no larger footprint outside of its home market.
The signing of Albert Pujols creates an opportunity to change the perception of the Angels from a marketing standpoint. The question is, how? More importantly, will the Angels do what it takes to become more popular? More thoughts on that after the jump.For 2010 here were your MLB merchandising leaders:
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Chicago Cubs
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Chicago White Sox
- Atlanta Braves
- Minnesota Twins
- Detroit Tigers
The Angels, though not actually in Los Angeles, are in that television market. Should they not be on this list somewhere in the neighborhood of the Dodgers, as the White Sox are to the Cubs? One would think so. But look at what other major market "second" team is missing from this list—the Mets.
One can say that by signing Albert Pujols, the Angels have started their way onto this list already. That would be because placement on this list is substantially boosted by authentic and replica jersey sales, which are far more lucrative than moving mere loads of authentic and replica ball caps. For instance, Joe Mauer single handedly puts the Twins in the top ten. Last year, Albert Pujols had the sixth best selling jersey and if his popularity holds, the Angels could be on this list next year. If his performance as an elite player holds for all or nearly all of his contract, and the team makes deep runs into the playoffs, the Angels will be multi-year entrants on this list.
But are the Angels more like the Mets, an afterthought in their own region, or can they strive to become more like the White Sox, who have managed to carve out their own distinct die hard fan base in the Windy City, and who sell merchandise no matter who is on the current team? The Angels shouldn't be relying merely upon star power from a once in a generation player to live up to their marketing potential.
Since 2003, the season following the Angels' sole World Series Championship, the club has averaged the fifth best attendance in Major League Baseball. In several of those years, the Angels were the second best American League home draw behind the Yankees.
However, the Angels were also the worst road draw in the American League for 2011. Given that they were in a divisional race for the best part of the season, this disparate home/road split is somewhat inexplicable except that all of the AL West teams were relatively poor road draws. Still, what could explain the Angels being the worst?
Look at last year's team. It lacked star power. While sporting an excellent pitching rotation, it's offense that sells tickets as a road draw in a division as spread out as is the AL West. What 2011 Angels offense there was, and there wasn't a great amount, was mostly provided by a who's who of has-beens and young guys who haven't yet made a name for themselves for the most part. With the imbalanced schedule and with the A's and Mariners not even drawing flies, being a bad road draw with no star power is totally explicable.
Why would it matter at all if the Angels are a decent road draw? It's all about national mind share—and the Pujols signing should help in that regard, Pujols can draw the casual fan to a road ball park. It's a chance for the American League circuit to see one of the all time greats in an Angels uniform, and face it, when were the Angels last fielding one of the all time greats? Albert Pujols could conceivably draw the casual out of town fan into being an Angels fan and increase the Halos national popularity or even recapture a presumed Angels fan diaspora and return them to watching the team, buying merchandise, and consequently boosting the national profile of the ball club.
Finally, the Angels front office needs to seize the opportunity they have afforded themselves to raise the national profile of the club over the next five to ten years, depending on what Pujols' on field performance makes possible. From getting his Fathead wall sticker into an Angels uniform, to helping him and MLB getting his likeness out there on the cover of video games as an Angel, to something as mundane as getting him cracking on promotions to the Spanish speaking regional market that Los Doyers think they have owned since Fernandomania, the Angels have to strike now, on as many media fronts as possible, and try their best to capture the hearts of a coming generation of fans.
As an aside to all of that, the Angels need to solidify their identity. If the franchise is hell bent on becoming the LA Angels, then buy out the "of Anaheim" from the city. Or buy the stadium, or even consider the pipe dream of a new purpose built one somewhere actually inside at least LA County, but get it solidified one way or the other. Personally, I think the LA branding is a mistake for a team not physically located in the actual city or county of Los Angeles, Then again, I am not the billionaire who made his fortune in outdoor advertising either.
As an adjunct point, as it looks as if after decades of both incremental and sweeping changes, the Angels have finally landed upon a consistent look for their uniforms and caps, they should look at folding in more navy blue into their look so as to expand their merchandise palette.
The current cap, and many of the casual shirts, are just too vibrantly red for many casual fans to want to buy, let alone wear. They may be minor points in a multimillion dollar merchandising effort, but red shirts bleed in the wash and many people simply look their worst in bright reds, especially headgear. At a minimum, the Angels should consider going to a road cap that has a blue body and red brim with the haloed A of the current style. Having at least an alternate cap would go some distance towards increasing the casual fan popularity of Angels' merchandise, rather like such an alternate blue over red cap is popular for the Phillies.
What are your thoughts on how the Angels could increase their overall MLB popularity during the Pujols Era?