The Marketing Strategy Of The Seattle Mariners Research Paper

Introduction

  1. SWOT Analysis
  2. Competitive Analysis
  3. Marketing Assessment of Seattle Mariners club
    • Marketing segment
    • Target Group
    • Marketing positioning
  4. Social Media Assessment
  5. Specific Recommendations for improvement

Executive Summary

References

 

Introduction

The present report is focused on the general analysis of the marketing strategy of the Seattle Mariners, an American professional baseball team from Seattle, which has been known since 1997. The team plays in the Western Division of Major League Baseball’s American League. It has to be noted that the Mariners were not a winning team until 1991 but their performance became more successful with time. In addition, the team is one of three Major League Baseball teams under corporate ownership, its owner is Nintendo.

According to the team’s website, the Mariners game experience is renowned throughout the sports industry: with exciting scoreboard games, great food, attractions, and creative promotions. Every game is its own event-at the park, on TV and over the radio. Its home filed is called Safeco and it is one of the most attractive ballparks in baseball. The Mariners are active community partners, with dozens of specific programs. Also, their website states that the team management has one of the most innovative marketing strategies in professional sports. That is what makes the research of the elements of the Mariners’ marketing strategy an extremely interesting task.

  1. SWOT Analysis

In the Mariners case, SWOT analysis allows to estimate the position of the club on the market, the ways to improve it, the possible challenges it could face, and based on the findings, to plan the future of the club. Overall the analysis process is used to provide a better product for existing customers, and a more attractive one for potential customers. (Watt, 2003, p. 176)

 

Strengths

  • Well-known brand name;
  • Most successful Seattle baseball club with strong brand loyalty;
  • Good financial position in the recent times (the clubs’ value keeps growing);
  • Club owner identified (team is owned by Nintendo);
  • Unique fan base (more than 2 out of 3 adults in the Seattle DMA attend, watch, or listen to a Mariners game each season;
  • Experience (Seattle Mariners is an experienced team by local standards)
  • Innovative club culture, strong brand presence, good quality merchandising
  • Strong partnerships (companies that have invested in the Mariners: Microsoft, AT&T Wireless, Pepsi, Anheuser Busch, Nikon, Washington Mutual and Virginia Mason Medical Center):
  • Capacity of home stadium Safeco Field of over 47,000.
Weaknesses

  • Saturated baseball market.
Opportunities

  • The developments of new designs and forms of merchandise range;
  • Intensive use of online marketing opportunities;
  • Increasing global fan bases (which means national and international expansion): people from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii and other countries come to Safeco Field to watch their favorite team);
  • More advertising and brand visibility would help build on brand equity.
Threats

  • Other top clubs buying out good players
  • The rise of new teams-competitors; Increased social and other costs (staff benefits).

 

  1. Competitive Analysis

Seattle is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country which is known for having devoted sports fans. Among the current major professional teams (indirect competitors to Seattle Mariners from other sport categories) presented in Seattle the following could be named: Seattle Seahawks (football), Seattle Sounders FC (soccer), and Seattle Storm (basketball).  For this market size, that is a lot of sports competition for the dollar in a marketplace that plays differently than any other. (“Can Seattle handle”, 2013)

But at the same time, in the case of professional sports, popular teams often hold unique competitive positions. Such situation refers to the Mariners as well, because it’s the major baseball club in Seattle with high levels of fan interest and trust.

According to Ramos (2012), with an estimated value of $585 million the Seattle Mariners were the 12th-most valuable team in Major League Baseball. Out of 30 franchises the M’s place was 14th in revenue at $210 million but a lowly 26th in operating income with a profit of just $2.2 million. (Ramos, 2012)

The current financial situation of the club, as one of the important competitive characteristics, seems to be quite stable, according to the information presented in media. (“Mariners Financials”, 2014) The Mariners has “eroded amid slashed payrolls and losing seasons,” yet despite those struggles, the franchise finds itself in the best financial shape of their 37-year history.  This clubs’ value “keeps growing, while revenue skyrockets” from new local and national TV deals. (“Mariners Financials”, 2014) Even with long-term commitments of $240M to 2B Robinson Cano and $175M to P Felix Hernandez, the team’s “moneymaking shows no signs of slowing.” But it is “fair to ask whether the Mariners can afford a payroll much higher” than their current $92M. (“Mariners Financials”, 2014)The Mariners enjoy ballpark and TV infrastructures “similar to big-payroll division rivals” like the Angels’ $155M payroll and the $136M payroll of the Rangers. Despite prolonged losing, the Mariners “likely doubled their franchise value the past five years and might already have joined baseball’s billion-dollar clubs.” Forbes last month valued the franchise at $710M. The Mariners likely are “worth even more” as Forbes did not include the team’s new controlling stake in Root Sports Northwest. (“Mariners Financials”, 2014) The Mariners have enough juice in 2014 to post their first winning record in five years and win back a fan base. (“Mariners Financials”, 2014)

  1. Marketing Assessment of Seattle Mariners club

The aim of marketing strategy of the Mariners club is  the delivery of a quality product in a form that is attractive to everyone involved, even to the team players, sports must be well presented and offered in an attractive way.

  • Marketing segment: Millions of people across the US who love to play or watch baseball.
  • Target group

Key target group of the Mariners club is: Men in the age group 15 and above (both state and national levels).

It is needful to mention the unique characteristic of target audience: partly due to the unpredictability of the sport game, and partly due to strong personal identification, consumers often consider themselves “experts”. (Shilbury, Quick, & Westerbeek, 2003, p. 6)

Also, in accordance with opinion expressed by Shilbury, Quick, & Westerbeek (2003, p. 7), the consumer’s enjoyment of the sport are open to considerable subjectivity.  Thus, its more complicated for the sport marketer to ensure a high probability of satisfaction and repeat-attendance. Unlike consumer products, sport cannot and does not display consistency, as a key feature of marketing strategies. (Shilbury, Quick, & Westerbeek, 2003, p. 7) That is why it can be recommended for the Mariners’ management to avoid marketing strategies based solely on winning, and focus on developing product extensions rather than on the core product (i.e. the game itself). The Mariners’ product extensions should include the facility, parking, merchandise, souvenirs, food and beverages, basically anything that affects spectators’ enjoyment of the event. (Shilbury, Quick, & Westerbeek, 2003, p. 7)

Specific target group for the Mariners business is the potential and existing sponsors of the team. Sponsorship of sport is also a unique feature of the sports economy.

  • Marketing positioning: Seattle’s most popular baseball team.
  1. Social Media Assessment

Taking into account the significant increase of the digital media and the popularity of the online communication, professional sport clubs aim to gain the leading positions in exploiting such marketing opportunities. The online media opportunities should be used extensively but also wisely, depending on the specific characteristics of the team, the goals of the marketing campaign and the target audience preferences.

Social media strategy development is important factor of marketing effectiveness, because the target audience nowadays is mobile, active and enjoys exploring new things. The social media provide the excellent opportunity of direct communication with the customer and this is their major difference from the traditional media what are able to build the coverage of the target audience but provide a little of interaction and involvement opportunities. The social media space may be used much more creatively an experimentally than any other media and it also very cost effective (this kind of communication costs nothing for the company).

The sport industry firstly in the recent period realized the opportunities of interactivity and personalization provided by the brand’s digital presence and the advantages of digital platforms for the sport teams’ brands. Therefore, teams began to introduce their digital marketing innovations aiming to build a powerful digital presence and use them as an opportunity of market expansion. Seattle Mariners is not an exception, the team it well presented in various online media including its own website www.seattle.mariners.mlb.com, official Facebook and Twitter pages.

It is known that the Web is a more natural home for advertisers who sell directly through the Internet, therefore the good brand website is critical for sport clubs whose merchandise and ticker sales often happen online. It should be indicated that Seattle Mariners suggest its users quite efficient website that is easy to use, with the modern pleasant design in bright colours and nice user interface. The Mariners’ website includes the following main sections: news, video, scores, statistics, schedule, roster, community, fans, information about Safeco field, teams, fantasy, mlb.tv, shop, mobile and tickets. There is no serious need to make the redesign of the club’s website. It has to be said that website’s functionally doesn’t require substantial improvements.

An important additional option that improves productivity of the club’s online presence, is the use of the microsites as an extension of company’s major brand website. The management of the team uses various opportunities to attract the international online audience and build up the knowledge and loyalty; that is why it provides the links to the website versions in a few languages of the most important markets for the club including Spanish.

As for recommendations, another interesting and promising option for the interaction with the target audience may be the use of the microsites for the different fans’ competitions held by the Mariners’ owners to support fans.

The official participation of the brand on the Facebook allows incorporating there the brand design elements and thus the brand visuals of the company will be the same for all of its digital media platforms. (Hensel and Deis, 2010, p.78) It has to be indicated that the Mariners’ official Facebook page is a popular source of information for is fans too; it has more than 982 000 followers at the moment.

  1. Specific recommendations for improvement

The research presented above helps to make a number of recommendations for improvement of the Mariners’ marketing efforts and secure its strong current position on the professional sports market.

  • Based on the marketing assessment, the Mariners’ product extensions should include the facility, parking, merchandise, souvenirs, food and beverages, basically anything that affects spectators’ enjoyment of the event, and it will allow gaining maximum level of profit for the club.
  • The analysis of the Mariners’ club target groups points at important narrow target group for the Mariners business: potential and existing sponsors of the team. The special focus of marketing strategy on this target group can lead to increase in the club profits from sponsorship deals.
  • Another recommendation based on the social media assessment, suggests making a focus of marketing activities on Seattle Mariners’ digital activities on social media and brand’s website. The Mariners need to use the outstanding opportunities provided by interactive communication with the target audiences of the club and personalization of the club’s messages. An interesting additional option for the interaction with the target audience may be the use of microsites for the different fans’ competitions held by the Mariners’ owners to stimulate customers’ loyalty.
  • Mobile marketing is an innovative tool that may help to promote the club more effectively. The Mariners already use mobile applications, but these applications need to be high quality and the correspondence to the target audience. It’s considered especially innovative approach because specialists of the digital advertising market indicate that smartphone interaction will be soon enhanced and optimized to match to the behavioral characteristics of the target audience.

 

Executive Summary

The present report includes the overview of the marketing strategy of the Seattle Mariners, an American professional baseball team from Seattle. The following elements of the marketing strategy were researched in it: SWOT analysis, competitive analysis, marketing assessment, and social media assessment. As a result, the specific recommendations for improvement for the Seattle Mariners marketing efforts were made. The SWOT analysis demonstrated the strong position of the team, which appeared to have more strong than weak sides. Competitive analysis helped to estimate the number of club’s indirect competitors and emphasized the unique position of the Mariners as major and the most popular baseball team in its state. Social media analysis also pointed at the success of the Seattle Mariners marketing team which includes a well designed website and effective use of the opportunities presented by social media. The research resulted in suggesting specific recommendations for the marketing strategy the Seattle Mariners, to make it even more effective.

 

References

Hensel, K. and Deis, M. (2010) Using Social Media to Increase Advertising and Improve Marketing. The Entrepreneurial Executive, 15 (1): 78-79

Ramos, V. (2012, April 24), Financial Profitability of the Seattle Mariners and Their Competitors, Sports on a Schtick, Retrieved from
http://sportsonaschtick.blogspot.com/2012/04/financial-profitability-of-seattle.html

Shilbury, D., Quick, S. and Westerbeek, H. (2003) Strategic Sport Marketing. Edition: 2nd. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin: 6-7

Watt, D.C. (2003) Sports Management and Administration. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge: 167-169

Can Seattle handle six professional sports teams? (2013, January 22), Komo news, Retrieved from  http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Can-Seattle-handle-six-professional-sports-teams-187986531.html

Mariners Financials, Team Value In Best Shape Ever Despite Years Of Poor Play (2014, April 16), Sport Business Daily, Retrieved from
http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2014/04/16/Franchises/Mariners.aspx

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 2, 2020]

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