Winning builds bridges. The rest is razzle-dazzle.
For the first time in years, a member of the Phillies is the most popular athlete in the city. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are actually 1 and 1A. Donovan McNabb has too many detractors to topple icons this spotless. Sure. The excitement of spring training helps. A pair of comatose winter franchises helps. An annoying, self-righteous football team helps. But there’s more, and it can be illustrated this way: The Phillies have erased 85 wins, 77 losses, the Brett Myers' scandal, only two good months of baseball, another late-season choke and yet another playoff miss.
Bottom line: The marketing department is getting the job done.
Since Howard's arrival and Jim Thome's departure, the Phillies have shifted away from grassroots nostalgia, and have instead made a push for the college-age fan using modern players. And it's working. Anticipation is high, and player personality has been allowed to shine. Nights with a youth-oriented promotion, like dollar dog night, pushed attendance higher than expected, while prime-time players like Howard, Utley and Jimmy Rollins are generating gobs of exposure and becoming new fixtures in the Philadelphia scene.
On Friday, the Phillies announced their list of 2007 college promotions, separate from the "regular" promotions, including online discounts, dollar dog schedule, a T-shirt giveaway and the return of "Rooftop Thursdays."
As a fan only a few years removed from college, I never liked being lumped into "Gen X," and I’m sure today’s 20-somethings feel the same, but the Phils have managed to avoid the hard sell, despite the volume of college-age promotions.
Take a look at the new series of commercials on the Phillies Web site. Shot in a Cinema Verite style, they resemble scenes from NBC’s "The Office" or "30 Rock," and the humor is of the same vein. Subtle spots like these go a long way to create that approachable, affable reputation the team seems to be gaining. Even Charlie Manuel comes out on top.
We’ve heard it a thousand times: "The Phillies don’t connect with fans." But right now, the Phillies are having more success connecting than any team in town, and they haven't won a thing.