March 18, 2007

City based branding

I can't speak for Nate's silence -- I think work has him swept up -- and I know Watson is focused like a laser on March Madness and won't emerge until someone comes out of that particular cage victorious, but my own lack of attention to most things Nats for the past two weeks has entirely been travel related. Three cities in two weeks, with only a few days at home. I'm really not sure what time zone my body thinks it is. I do enjoy those Nats text alerts from MLB -- I at least feel part of the continuous losing even when I'm not home to enjoy it.

I'm back from LA, and have decided I actively dislike that city. I also understand why.

Remember that friend of yours who didn't bathe often? The one who gets somewhat "crusty"? They likely had dreadlocks or bad sideburns or grew a nasty, matted beard. That person?

Imagine a city like that -- the city itself, not just the people. (Although the people are also a lot like that). The city feels like it lets itself go -- just growing hair in odd places, not bothering to bathe itself. I was not particularly impressed. (Don't get me wrong -- sections of our fine 'burg have much the same problem. I just couldn't find sections I really liked in LA -- so everywhere had a bad shave.)

I was very much struck by one thing, however. Just about everywhere I looked, I ended up seeing LA/Anaheim Angels ads. And these ads were not for season tickets, players, or even games. They were just "branding" ads, where the team logo is just placed around town. I took a (admittedly bad) picture to show what I mean.

These things were all over town -- bus stops, billboards, all the way from Anaheim into Hollywood. Every few minutes, I saw one of these.

I recognize that the Angels have a branding problem, and desperately want to be associated with LA rather than Anaheim. This is likely driving the branding campaign around town.

This does parallel our situation in DC, however. Don't the Nats desperately want to be associated much more closely with the city than they are? Aren't they building brand awareness in the city, and considering the state of player development, should be focused on the "Nationals" brand rather than specific player (besides, perhaps, Zim)? If your ad campaign is focused around "buy season tickets so you get good seats at the new ballpark", focus on team + city.

As Nats bloggers, we're focused on the team on a pretty consistent basis. We're thus not your regular DC citizen. Is there any branding in the city to any serious extent? The radio ads are back, but so far I haven't seen that much else. My quick research tells me that White and Partners are doing this year's campaigns, and they may have some of the right ideas in doing marketing, but this seems to me to be something that needs to be much more ongoing.

If the Nats aren't going to spend money on players this year (which seems to be the implementation of "The Plan"), how about they spend some money on connecting with the city? Make the fan experience fantastic, and spend some real effort to connect with the city. If that works, you'll start to get momentum with the campaign just about the time they are worth watching on the field.


Geoff_Livingston said...

I think the guerrilla campaign they had a couple of weeks ago was pretty cool. It takes time to build a brand, and all of it is not just ads. I think they are trying to focus on word of mouth. And in the long run, that will build a better brand.

Anonymous said...

"just growing hair in odd places"

If hair is growing their naturally, how is it odd? Is it perhaps your perceptions of oddness that are odd? Isn't it more odd to cut off this naturally-growing hair?

I guess you prefer people who are slaves to style-magazines, looking how they think others want them to, rather than how they naturally do. Which, ironically, is how I always thought the stereotype of LA went. Odd.

Dave said...


I agree with you it was cool -- just one step in what I hope is a larger compaign, as I think it's a good time to strike on that.

Dave said...


Yup, I like people all as little cookie cutter versions of one another... ripe to be squashed by my corporate machine. Bring on the conformity!

I do believe you need to trim your beard on occasion, and wash your hair. Taking a bath never hurts. You know, wash away the crust.

But then again, I say everyone look identical!

Matt S. said...

Hey Dave, I'm glad you enjoyed looking at the Nationals stuff. I happen to work for White + Partners--not for the Nats account though--and we're always updating the website with some of the latest Nationals work, along with others. Let your readers know that if they're interested, to check us out:

Perhaps, you could even place us on your blogroll for interested fans.