Dog-friendly Chase Field

Author Shelley Alingas, University of San Francisco

Posted: March 25, 2016

Tagged: baseball / fans / motives / Pets / stadium

To be successful in sport marketing, marketers must understand the needs and motivations of their sport consumers and sport fans. The distinction between sport consumers and sport fans is important because they represent the two major groups marketers need to understand in order to tailor their product and communications (Pons, Giroux, Mourali, 2014, p. 26). There are many ways researchers have further delineated these two groups and their motives. The earliest is the Sport Fan Motivation Scale (SFMS) which looks at eight factors: group affiliation, aesthetics, eustress, self-esteem, entertainment, escape, family, and economic (Pons, Giroux, Mourali, 2014, p. 26). For the purpose of this paper, we will focus on group affiliation and family.

Major League Baseball (MLB) may be “the most popular sport in the U.S., with a total attendance of more than 73 million spectators in 2011,” but it is still subject to innovation and adaptability in order to meet the motives of their sport consumers (Pons, Giroux, Mourali, 2014, p. 22). The Arizona Diamondbacks are taking that ploy to the next level and implementing something unprecedented in MLB. Instead of continuing to host Bark in the Park days, well known throughout the league, the Diamondbacks have teamed up with PetSmart Inc. to “create a permanent dog-friendly area at Chase Field” and will extend dog-invites to games through the summer, fittingly calling it Dog Days of Summer (Fisher, 2016, para. 2).

Sport events are already unique in their own right: “intangible, short-lived, unpredictable, and subjective in nature” (Pons, Giroux, Mourali, 2014, p. 23). With this program, the Diamondbacks are serving their consumers another layer of uniqueness, something not seen anywhere else in the major leagues. This uniqueness—created based on qualitative data that their fans wanted more dog days at the park—caters to consumer motivations to want to be a part of a group (a community of dog lovers and owners) and to want to have more opportunity to enjoy a sporting event with their family (picnic at the park; dogs are family members). In addition, PetSmart’s sponsorship offers more unique products for consumers. The PetSmart Patio will “feature dog-friendly concessions such as canine ice cream topped with kibble” and “will run a pet adoption area and Doggie Bag fan giveaways” (Fisher, 2016, para. 4).

Increasing at an average rate of 5.3%, sponsorships is the second largest revenue generator in the sport market and has major potential to help leverage sport consumerism (Pons, Giroux, Mourali, 2014, p. 21). Because sponsorship is a major revenue stream, it’s not a surprise that the Diamondbacks had their targets set on PetSmart, a Fortune 500 company based in Phoenix, for a long time (Fisher, 2016, para. 7). But sponsorship is lackluster if it doesn’t fulfill a sport consumer need or motivation. In this case, the Diamondbacks assessed that their consumers wanted more dog days at the park and saw that PetSmart would be the player to meet that need. If successful, Dog Days of Summer will likely result in an increase in gate receipts, the number one revenue generator in sports (Pons, Giroux, Mourali, 2014, p. 21).

In the future, this partnership could shape sport identity—“integrating a sports team into his or her sense of self”—for fans and consumers (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 45). The article mentions that the club will “likely use its own inventory on TV, radio and online to promote Dog Days of Summer program” (Fisher, 2016, para. 8). This would synonymize PetSmart with the values and motivations (group affiliation and family) of Diamondback fans. The use of club owned media further confirms and affirms sport identity (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 47). Also, merchandise could be produced to provide furry family members with jerseys, accessories, leases, and much more. With merchandise and reinforced sport identity, you essentially produce walking advertisements and ambassadors for your organization (additional marketing). For the Diamondbacks, this is just the start of a potential domino effect of success that other sport marketers in the league and beyond will follow.

 

References

Fisher, E. (2016, February 29-March 6). D-Backs give dogs their day at ballpark. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(44), 3.

Funk, D. C., & Lock, D. (2014). Sport Consumer Attitudes: Formation, Function, and Effects on Information Processing. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds). Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 37-50). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pons, F., Giroux, M., & Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Behavior and Motivation: Why Are Sport Event Consumers So Special? In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds). Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge.

About Shelley Alingas, University of San Francisco

Shelley currently operates on the digital marketing team for Cal Athletics and is a graduate student in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco. Graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies and pursuing an environmental advocacy career therein after, her pivot into the sport industry is a long-awaited passion that started in childhood with her love of baseball. Using her background in fan engagement, multimedia, and storytelling, Shelley plans to further her skill set and experience in the digital and sport media space. You can connect with her on Twitter (@shelley_mae) or LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/shelleymae). This article is an edited version of a paper Shelley prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Sport Marketing class at the University of San Francisco.

IImage by Kevin Schraer, "Arizona Diamondbacks", www.flickr.com/photos/coyotecreek. Accessed via Creative Commons license.