By Jason Menard
Apparently, I missed out on the day they defined “success” at school. Because if David Martin is using this word to describe the launch of the London Rippers baseball club, then I clearly have no idea what the word means any more.
“It was one of the most successful launches in minor baseball history,” Martin is quoted as saying. This is just a few paragraphs after his VP Alison Stier is quoted as saying, “We couldn’t have asked for a (better) marketing campaign… We knew it would stir controversy. Never did we think it would be like this.”
First off, does anyone else find it odd that Stier was anticipating controversy?
After all, according to Martin this logo has nothing to do with Jack the Ripper. In fact, it’s all about some heartwarming tale of a Canadian lad who had such a powerful shot pucks would explode. Then there was some vague reference to ripping the covers off of baseballs en route to getting his own team inLondon. A family friendly tome if ever there was one!
So what exactly was controversial about that? For what part of that made-for-Disney story was Stier anticipating controversy? After all, just days ago Martin was blindsided by the comparison between Diamond Jack the Ripper and the murdering-prostitutes variety. In fact, he claims he saw no correlation.
Let’s just say management needs to do a better job of getting their story straight before they meet the media. After all, the whole “we’re going to intentionally create a provocative mascot, play on the Jack the Ripper image, yet deny any correlation whatsoever” loses a lot of plausible deniability when you have someone else saying, “Oh, we totally knew this was going to be controversial!”
Instead, we have more evidence that this management team has little respect for its potential paying customers. It’s bad enough lying to cover your butt – but to use lying as part of your marketing strategy? That’s horrendous.
It seems that the Rippers marketing team is a firm believer in the no publicity is bad publicity concept. And there certainly are arguments both in favour and that run counter to that statement. A 2010 study suggests that negative publicity impacts established brands more greatly than it does new brands. In fact, for new brands, the negative publicity can help them stand out in a crowded marketplace – and the boost in name recognition outweighs (and outlasts) the negative stigma attached.
I can see that – and it’s safe to say that the launch of the London Rippers has extended well beyond the norm for a Frontier League team. It’s become international news – albeit a move that’s been almost universally panned.
So, yes, the Rippers organization is an unqualified success when it comes to getting one’s name out.
But the problem with holding absolute beliefs is that this world is full of exceptions. Instead of clutching to some tired adage, a savvy business owner or marketer would understand that the only success that matters is the long-term viability of the franchise. And it’s hard to see how the franchise’s current behaviour and attitude are harbingers of future success.
Is the Rippers organization content with being a flash in the pan, or does it want to spark the flames of passion amongstLondon’s baseball fans so that it continues to burn for years? By their actions, everything points to a short-sighted focus on the former.
What matters now is how the true fans will react. The problem with the type of publicity that the Rippers has garnered is that it’s polarizing – and those who are against the brand will stay vigilant in their opposition far longer than those who have taken up support of the Rippers as a cause célèbre.
Sure, people who have seen this as a fight against political correctness or censorship may come to a game or two; but potential fans who have been offended will stay away far longer. (As an aside, that’s exactly why the City should avoid invoking any sort of morals clause in its Labatt Park lease. Kick them out, you open up the censorship can of worms. Do that and certain people will support the team just on principle.)
As the Monarchs, Werewolves, and Tigers before have shown us,London’s a fickle baseball market. And while the Majors have survived since 1925, there’s not a lot of room for error when it comes to attracting – and maintaining – fan support. Sure, it’s fairly easy to get a great opening-night crowd; the challenge comes from attracting that long-term fan base, the corporate support, and city-wide appeal.
Treating your potential customers with contempt is an odd way to solicit that support. Outright lying to them about your intentions is also not in the list of marketing best practices.
Personally, I’m done with this team. I was intrigued by the return of the league at first, then offended by the logo. I was amused by the initial “there’s no relation, it’s Diamond Jack…” lie, but the fact that this was a planned stunt has turned me off the team for good.
What Martin and Stier fail to realize is that I’m a fan of the game; they’ve chosen to pander to fans of the logo. But ask yourself, who buys tickets? Who stays through the late innings? Who comes back for a second game? Fans of the game or those who like a logo? The club should have courted the Fans of the Game, but instead Martin and Stier have sacrificed some true fans at the Altar of Bad Publicity.
So, yes, count yourself lucky to have manufactured the most successful Frontier League franchise launch ever. But given your outright lies, disrespect for the community, and offensive behaviour, while I re-evaluate my definition, you may want to look up the mean of another word that’s likely to be attached to your version of success.
Here’s what an old friend just e-mailed to me regarding the London Rippers: “This is a disgusting way to introduce themselves to London and London to North America, but what is an even more disgusting about their presentation of themselves and London is that they should continue to lie to everyone about what they were really up to in choosing this name for the team in the first place. It is their persistence in this lie that makes their insult to London unforgivable.”
I couldn’t agree more.