THINGS WON’T CHANGE UNTIL THERE’S CHANGE

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THINGS WON’T CHANGE UNTIL THERE’S CHANGE

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Working in Major League Baseball sounds like fun, right?

Unless you’re Catherine Aker, Vice President of Marketing, Communication and Community for the Oakland Athletics.

No disrespect to Aker. According to her LinkedIn bio she has been employed by the A’s for six years and four months. On paper, Aker is a rock star. Her profile in the Athletics 2022 media guide says:

In 2017, Aker became just the second female vice president for the Club and first in nearly 30 years. She began her career with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 and quickly rose to become Director of Corporate Communications. After nearly 10 seasons with the D-backs, she took a short hiatus from baseball to start a family before founding her own consulting firm and nonprofit organization.

Aker formed the Women of the A’s, which provides networking opportunities along with professional and leadership development for the team’s female staff. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Sports Foundation and Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. She was awarded the 2017 Oakland Digital’s Community Leader, the 2018 Emerging Leader for East Bay Women in Business, and was named as one of the 2019 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business by the San Francisco Business Times. Aker was also a member of the 2018 class of 40 Under 40 for the San Francisco Business Times and Diablo Magazine.

No question she loves baseball, and the business. Clearly, she is a determined leader, who in the face of adversity behaves like a firefighter by running into the flames instead of away from them. By no means is this an indictment of Aker, who is stuck in the middle of an ugly situation.

Define ugly.

Easy.

Consider this set of data points:

Home opener attendance typically reveal how the “home team” is being received by the fan base and community. After drawing 17,000 for their home Opening Day vs. Baltimore Orioles, attendance plummeted the next two games (3,748 and 2,703, respectively). The sparse crowd of 2,703 in the third game of the series marked the lowest single game attendance in 42 years (2,443 vs. Texas Rangers on September 9, 1980).

Team president Dave Kaval is “working overtime to alienate A’s fans,” wrote Craig Calcaterra in his newsletter today.

I am curious, Mrs. Aker, how do you market a product when the ownership group is openly taking shots at the fan base on social media? How do you overcome the challenge of public perception? How do you counter the annual fire sale of talented players that keep payroll at the bottom of MLB? How do you increase attendance, season ticket prospects, and single game attendance when the team is planning to leave Oakland? What is the value proposition? How do you encourage and build culture when your marketing team gets an earful from angry fans? What keeps you personally coming back to the ballpark day-after-day? Do you still jump out of bed in the morning, excited to go to work?

There is no winning streak, no discount ticket package, no in-game promotion, no visiting star that will – or can – solve the Athletics woes.

As a marketing and communication professional, I have experienced similar circumstances. My experience tells me, things won’t change until there is change. It may sound like a word puzzle but think about it. The only way to regenerate the franchise is through change, either by relocation, sale, or force.

Sadly, this storied franchise with a short, but wildly successful history, has come to the crossroads.

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Team Attendance Average Attend/Game Payroll Time
Arizona Diamondbacks 242,605 20,217 $78,860,000 3:05
Atlanta Braves 448,131 37,344 $136,700,000 3:11
Baltimore Orioles 155,293 25,882 $45,050,000 3:14
Boston Red Sox 233,414 33,345 $182,420,000 3:10
Chicago Cubs 303,339 30,334 $113,460,000 3:06
Chicago White Sox 150,944 18,868 $163,958,334 3:09
Cincinnati Reds 145,452 20,779 $110,682,381 3:05
Cleveland Guardians 73,817 12,303 $64,060,000 2:59
Colorado Rockies 336,993 33,699 $105,605,000 3:09
Detroit Tigers 255,388 21,282 $117,240,000 3:02
Houston Astros 214,273 35,712 $164,025,000 3:14
Kansas City Royals 154,547 15,455 $83,360,000 3:03
Los Angeles Angels 393,199 32,767 $177,063,095 3:11
Los Angeles Dodgers 339,941 48,563 $289,311,999 3:03
Miami Marlins 94,862 13,552 $58,750,000 3:11
Milwaukee Brewers 205,260 25,658 $136,291,627 3:08
Minnesota Twins 190,884 17,353 $121,417,857 3:05
New York Mets 192,570 27,510 $252,823,333 3:16
New York Yankees 430,740 35,895 $198,200,714 3:15
Oakland Athletics 55,598 7,943 $50,248,334 3:02
Philadelphia Phillies 347,542 28,962 $203,938,461 3:12
Pittsburgh Pirates 100,157 12,520 $37,925,000 3:09
San Diego Padres 383,104 38,310 $154,522,620 3:04
Seattle Mariners 224,458 24,940 $63,335,000 3:08
San Francisco Giants 258,018 32,252 $134,929,667 3:01
St. Louis Cardinals 274,198 39,171 $153,414,666 3:09
Tampa Bay Rays 162,287 13,524 $86,104,211 3:00
Texas Rangers 212,508 23,612 $120,176,667 3:13
Toronto Blue Jays 279,252 31,028 $165,705,857 3:06
Washington Nationals 259,957 19,997 $125,051,666 3:14
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About the author

John Strubel

Hi. My name is John Strubel. Thanks for visiting my website. I write primarily about my passion: baseball. In addition, I occasionally publish posts and podcasts related to sports media, journalism and technology impacting the industry. You can also connect with me on social media @johnstrubel.

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