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New York Mets Embark on Branding Effort to Build Cred and Win Young Fans

Mets owner Steven Cohen wants to raise the team’s profile to a young, diverse audience. Still in development, the effort could feature live comedy, new design and special events.

9/28/2021 2:30:00 AM

Mets owner Steven Cohen wants to raise the team’s profile to a young, diverse audience. Still in development, the effort could feature live comedy, new design and special events.

Mets owner Steven Cohen is entrusting Range Media Partners with raising the team’s profile to a young, diverse audience. Still in development, the effort could feature live comedy, new design and special events.

Sept. 27, 2021 4:41 pm ETIt was a hot Tuesday evening in August, and thousands of loyal New York Mets fans poured into Citi Field to watch their team take on the highly ranked San Francisco Giants. The stadium in Queens brimmed with hope, despite the team’s recent losing streak.

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The Mets lost that night, 8-zip.“It’s a fixer-upper, for sure,” the new Mets owner, Steven Cohen, said in an interview toward the end of the game.Mr. Cohen, chairman and chief executive officer of hedge fund Point72 Asset Management LP and lifelong Mets fan,

bought the team last yearin a deal valued at some $2.4 billion. He has set out to log more wins, not only on the scoreboard, but in the hearts and minds of casual and prospective fans.He and his wife Alexandra Cohen have prescribed a marketing overhaul that will include an update to the team’s brand design, including customized fonts in marketing materials like photography, signage and ads, as well as new experiences and features at its stadium meant to give the Mets more cultural credibility.

But the new owners face difficulties beyond player strikeouts, as baseball and other sports struggle to attract young people, a group increasingly apathetic to live games.“All sports are being challenged with how you attract young fans,” said Jeff Deline, the team’s new chief revenue officer. “How do we get them engaged again? Their consumer habits are completely different.”

Marketing and talent management firm Range Media Partners LLC is leading the effort. The initiative remains in development, but ideas include offering live comedy throughout games, updating existing spaces in the stadium where people can gather, adding more screens throughout the baseball park and making other technology upgrades, said Natalie Bruss, managing partner at Range, which is minority-owned by Mr. Cohen’s venture capital fund, Point72 Ventures.

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen at Citi Field in February.Photo:Mary Altaffer/Associated PressThe goal is to raise the Mets’ brand on social media, in film and in music, as well as to more closely associate the team with its hometown, a city globally known as a cultural capital, Ms. Bruss said.

The team is also enlisting sponsors to help create new experiences for fans. It worked with sponsorAirbnbInc.,for example, to turn an unused office space at Citi Field into a one-night stay in July hosted by former Mets player Bobby Bonilla.Other plans include a podcast targeting Hispanic audiences and collaborations in the fashion industry, said Ms. Bruss, as the team looks for ways to appeal to new and diverse audiences.

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Finding the next generationMajor League Baseball’s audience skews older than other professional sports, said David Campanelli, executive vice president and chief investment officer at ad-buying agency Horizon Media Inc.The National Basketball Association’s audience is the youngest, followed by the National Football League, college football and basketball, and the National Hockey League, he said.

Baseball executives are aware of that.“We’re an older, whiter demographic,” said Mr. Deline. “I don’t think you’ll see many kids sit down and watch a baseball game from start to finish. They will watch the highlights on TikTok.”The median age for Major League Baseball’s TV viewing audience is 59.7 years old for the regular season, as of mid-September, up from 56.9 for the full regular season in 2017, according to Nielsen data.

Newsletter Sign-upCMO Today delivers the most important news of the day for media and marketing professionals.PREVIEWSUBSCRIBENine percent more households are watching baseball this season compared with the pandemic-shortened season last year, according to Nielsen. And the MLB.TV streaming audience has skewed younger in recent years, according to the league.

But national baseball household viewership on broadcast and cable TV has also declined, falling 14% to 289,000 households on average per game this season as of mid-September, from 336,000 households for the full regular season in 2019, according to Nielsen data.

The change comes as people turn away from traditional TV viewing and toward social media, videogames and streaming TV, a trend that has only grown during the Covid-19 pandemic.The number of people ages 7 to 17 playing baseball in the U.S. has also plunged in recent decades. Last year, it hit 4.9 million, down from 6.3 million in 2010 and 10 million in 1995, according to data from the National Sporting Goods Association.

Attracting young fans again and improving the team’s cool factor will play a role in attracting more lucrative, long-term sponsorship deals, Mr. Deline said.This year the team is on pace to extend almost 90% of the sponsorship deals that are set to expire, but it would like that figure to be even higher, said Mr. Deline. In the last three to four years, the team was renewing on average about 80% to 85% of its sponsorship deals, said Mr. Deline.

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To raise renewals, the team plans to do away with a heavy commission-based model that incentivizes individual staff to sell brand partnerships based on goals that focus on the first year’s performance, Mr. Deline said. Instead, it will encourage more consistent collaboration with sponsors to support their business objectives over time, he said.

In July, actress and rapper Awkwafina threw the first pitch at a Mets game.Photo:MetsThe Mets brand is valued by sponsors, but it has a long way to go to catch up to the New York Yankees, according to ranking from sports sponsorship research firm IEG. The firm ranked the Mets six out of the 30 MLB teams. The scores, which tally brand affinity and exposure value for sponsors, factored in fan-base size, social media following, winning heritage and perceived quality or prestige.

“It’s clear that the Mets have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the Yankees both locally and nationally,” Peter Laatz, global managing director at IEG, said in an email. But getting young people won’t be easy, he said.Other sports leagues, and media companies, too, are facing the same erosion in their young viewership and exploring ways to drum up fans.

In August, for instance, the MLB held a matchup between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees at a site in Iowa from the 1989 baseball film “Field of Dreams.” The game, sponsored by Geico, was the most-watched regular season baseball game in 16 years, drawing nearly 6 million viewers, Fox Sports said last month. It was also the most-streamed regular-season baseball game in Fox Sports history, it said.

The NFL, for its part, partnered with Nickelodeon in January for a kids’ Wild Card playoff telecast that became the network’s most watched program among total viewers in nearly four years, and the No. 1 cable telecast of the week with kids 2-11 years old and kids 6-11, according to CBS Sports.

The NFL will air another Wild Card game on Nickelodeon this postseason, and in mid-September it started airing a new half-hour weekly series on Nickelodeon called “NFL Slimetime.”The NFL is reaching an audience Mr. Deline is trying to increase on the Mets’ behalf.

“By fifth grade, that’s when your affinity toward a brand is made,” said Mr. Deline. “Once they get past that age, they’re Mets fans for life.” Read more: The Wall Street Journal »

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No amount of marketing is a substitute for winning. Hint: WIN BASEBALL GAMES Pretty sure winning would accomplish this. this is terrible news You know what ALWAYS works? Playing better. Mets batter proves they can swing a bat and chew gum at the same time... Photo also contains a view of the MLB's newest addition, ROBOCATCHER....

The Mets already bring live comedy. BoycottNFL I guess that’s easier than building a winning team. 그리스도의 신부는 그리스도의 거룩하심이라는 정체성과 이미지를 갖고 있습니다 EternalRevival ...the Mets have already perfected live comedy on the field.

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but i've been told half to death the mets are comedy Bases Loaded, we're anxious to see who's up to bat. Ohh, ohh, Their bringing in 18 for the Home Run. 18 just asked 23 to hold her apple while she bats. Unbelievable!..and it's out out of the park. 18 has just clinched the win! The crowd is on their feet. What a...!what a GAME!!!

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Watching that team every year is pure comedy. Queue Colbert’s woke fresh dance routine 'live comedy'? You mean other than the poopshow that's on the field? Patriots need to get out and vote straight (D) ticket at every election until this fascist plague is ended. '...Bannon on Saturday evoked a dystopian future when he called for “shock troops” to quickly “deconstruct” the state as soon as a Republican takes the Oval Office again.'

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Winning will help Here's the blunt truth Most young adults I know of really don't care about baseball They're too busy working two jobs to pay off student loans & surviving to watch six hours of overpaid guys in uniform playing games Plus, they can't afford cable tv. I guess when it is tough to raise your team’s profile with actual baseball fans gotta try something.

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