No Marketing Man Here …

Odell Beckham Jr. has reportedly signed a $25M shoe deal with Nike for the next 5 years; it is supposed to be the largest shoe deal for an NFL player ever.  There is something here that I do not understand.  Let me say very explicitly that I am not the target audience for athlete designed/endorsed shoes whether they come from Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Jordan, Lonzo Ball or Joe Flabeetz.  Let me also say very explicitly that I claim no expertise at all in the field of marketing.  So here is my confusion in a nutshell:

  • Basketball players wear shoes that can be used to play basketball – obviously.  Those shoes can also be worn around the house or to school or to the mall or … you get the idea.
  • Football players wear cleats.  Other than to play football – or some other sport on a grass field – cleats are not useful apparel.
  • I can understand this deal from Nike’s perspective if the objective is to market the shoes to high school football teams but I do not understand the “mass marketing appeal” of football cleats.

Now, here is a marketing initiative that I do understand.  The Arizona Diamondbacks are playing well so far in 2017 but they are nowhere near filling their home stadium.  The D-Backs have 25 home games scheduled in June and July; and according to this report, the team is offering up a “Summer Pass” for those 25 games in June/July.  A fan pays $50 and for that he can get a seat in the outfield to any game he wants in June or July.  The seats will vary from game to game and all the logistics are handled over a mobile phone via an app.

The Braves tried something similar a year ago on a month by month basis and reported some fan interest in the concept.  Despite the D-Backs strong start this year – 30-19 and only 1 game out of first place in the NL West – average home attendance is only 22,649 per game and that figure is surprisingly down 3,410 fans per game from last year over the same number of home games.

For an upfront cost of $50, any fan who might be interested in going to a half-dozen games ought to consider this “Summer Pass” idea and then perhaps go to 10 games instead of 6 because the marginal cost for going an additional 4 times is zero.  From the perspective here in Curmudgeon Central, I would be much more likely to pay $100 for a pair of D-Backs Summer Passes than I would to pay $100 or more for a pair of football cleats.

Speaking obliquely about MLB, Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“I was surprised to recently learn that African Americans now account for less than 7% of big-leaguers.  Not since 1957 have fewer MLB players been black.”

I too am surprised that the percentage is that low but I am not surprised that young African-American boys gravitate to sports other than baseball.  No, I do not believe it has anything to do with sociological factors surrounding the origins of baseball or anything like that.  I believe there are pragmatic and logistical reasons for this.

For kids to play a pick-up game of baseball, they need to get 15-20 kids to be at one place at one time with the right equipment and desire to play a game.  When I was a kid, it was not all that difficult to make that happen just by showing up at the playground and counting heads and asking if folks wanted to play a game.  Look at playgrounds in the cities and suburbs now and you will only rarely see kids playing pick-up baseball games because there are not hordes of kids on the playground.

Therefore, to get kids started in baseball requires adult intervention in terms of organizing and scheduling and the like.  This brings two factors into play:

  1. Adult intervention – from the kids’ perspective – comes with a price.  With that intervention, the games are not merely fun; the games become more cutthroat and there is emphasis on winning as opposed to just playing the game because one likes to play the game.
  2. Adult intervention requires interested adults and that usually means parents who have spare time to contribute to the organizational activities involved here.  From an economic perspective, it is more likely for “suburban parents” to have more spare time to devote here than for “inner-city parents”.

The economic factor also contributes to African-American kids gravitating to basketball.  Not only is it easier for kids to be able to find a pick-up game of basketball due to the small number of kids needed to play, but it is also more economically feasible.  Basically, all you need is a basketball, a pair of sneakers – not necessarily ones that cost $150 a pair – and a hoop in a playground.

Finally, here is a comment from Steve Rosenbloom in the Chicago Tribune regarding the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory last year:

“Each World Series ring the Cubs handed out Wednesday night contained 108 diamonds on the face to mark the number of years between titles. So, if the Cubs repeat, will next year’s rings contain zero diamonds?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “No Marketing Man Here …”

  1. Maybe the Beckham shoes will look like the ones he wears on the gridiron but without the cleats — perfectly acceptable for any junior high school gym or classroom.

    1. Gil:

      Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of wearing shoes that are also worn by famous athletes?

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