Thursday, March 20, 2008

Joba Chamberlain: Minor League Marketing Gold?

The Trenton Thunder, since locating to New Jersey's capital city in 1994, has become one of the most successful and popular minor league franchises in the region.

According to their Wikipedia page, in 2006, "the Thunder became the first team in Minor League Baseball history to draw over 400,000 fans for twelve consecutive seasons at the Double-A level or below. Through 13 seasons, over 5.4 million people had attended a Thunder game."

Since 1994 it has also been affiliated with 3 teams - the Tigers, the Red Sox and currently the Yankees, which is most relevant due to a large number of Yankee fans in the area.

Thunder alumni includes back-to-back AL rookies of the year Tony Clark and Nomar Garciaparra, as well as Trot Nixon, Shea Hillenbrand, David Eckstein, Carl Pavano, Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes and one Joba Chamberlain.

That last name jumps out at me. Chamberlain is widely heralded as a future MLB superstar, like a handful of young Yankee hurlers, despite wonder whether he'll start or remain in the bullpen in the immediate future.

Besides Chamberlain (ranked 3), who is a lock to make the Yankees big league roster this year, only 3 Yankees appear in Baseball America's top 100 prospects:
  • Jose Tabata (OF, 37)
  • Austin Jackson (OF, 41)
  • Ian Kennedy (RHP, 45)
Kennedy will likely end up in the Yankees rotation this year, obviously enough that the Thunder are polling on their main page the following:

Also on their main page is the headline:


Obviously, Tabata and Jackson will be the top draws for the Thunder this year.

Yet, the Thunder want to hype their past instead of their current and future. Take for example their electronic marquee which encourages you to call a number for information on getting a limited edition Joba bobblehead. Obviously, I haven't called, but it piqued my curiosity. I assumed they had some left over from a promotion last season. Then, at a bar with Willard last night, I noticed the free Thunder pocket schedules, adorned on front and back with Joba Chamberlain.

Now I see the ONLY way to get a Joba limited edition bobblehead is by purchasing a "Joba Rules" 10-game ticket plan. A plan with which in all likelihood you will never see Joba pitch.

I understand the marketing strategy to capitalize on a young star's success and popularity. But, for a franchise that continues to set attendance records, is such a push really necessary in lieu of promoting your current roster and team?

For the Thunder, this strategy isn't new. Their 2006 schedule featured Melky Cabrera, a year in which he played in 130 games with the big league club.


Again, we get it the idea, but not the justification. You're going to draw fans, so why not develop and market your own new stars instead of that of your big league counterpart?

In the meantime, I like this McCain-esq idea and am going to try to win me partial season tickets.

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