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A-Rod deals another blow to the MLB brand

By February 10, 2009January 10th, 20216 Comments

Few professional athletes have ever been bigger than George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

His achievements on the baseball field were epic, garnering him the nicknames “The Sultan of Swat,” “The Colossus of Clout,” “The Titan of Terror,” “The King of Crash,” and of course, “The Great Bambino.”

Arguably, the greatest player in the game today is Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod has a few nicknames, too:

  • After leaving Seattle for a “contender,” he signed the largest contract in baseball history to play with the Texas Rangers—a team that has never contended—he became “Pay-Rod”
  • He’s known as the “The Cooler,” since teams go cold when he joins them and hot when he leaves
  • Several nicknames I won’t repeat due to his philandering, most notably with Madonna
  • In light of the recent steroid revelations, he’ll forever be known as “A-Roid,” “A-Fraud” and “Alex Roidriguez”

Still, prior to the steroids news, baseball fans held out Rodriguez as the one person that might be able to remove the asterisk from Barry Bond’s home run record.

What does all this have to do with Responsible Marketing?

Baseball has a trust problem, and last April I asked the question, Can Responsible Marketing save baseball?

In it, I was hopeful that some of the things the MLB was doing might be able to help baseball regain its footing.

But as the highest paid player in the game, A-Rod’s irresponsible and fraudulent actions have a reverse halo effect (also known as the ‘devil effect’) on the MLB brand.

So, now I’m left asking the question again, do you believe Responsible Marketing can save baseball?

What’s your take?

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Clint says:

    I became disenchanted with MLB during the players’ strike of 1994. Before that time I had been an avid card collector and followed each season fairly closely – especially the Cardinals. But because of the strike and recent news of performance-enhancing drugs, I have grown cynical. To me (and I realize that this is a generalization), professional sports are less about the game, less about the team, and more about the individual, the salaries, the fame, and the endorsements. My knee-jerk response would be to release all substance-abusers from their contracts and fill their spots with eager and honest up-and-comers who still have a love for the game.

  • lvz says:

    True baseball fans didn’t hold out Rodriguez as the one person that might be able to “untarnish” the HR record. A-rod has been losing credibility with or without the roids issue. As a baseball fan, this has just put me in a frustrating position where I once again have to defend the sport. Will it change my love of the game? Absolutely not, because I also know that there are a great many players who are good and decent. Its still one of the only pro sports left for the the family and simply makes for a great summer evening event. I think it will be hard to tell if this affects the game this year because of the economy and if people will spend their disposable income on tickets. It might push more people to the minor league games, which in the the end, might really help the MLB since fans likely follow their fav players to the Bigs.

  • Tim says:

    Cal Ripken is one of the most respected players in the history of the game and has proved he values the game more than the Orioles. He saved it once let him do it again. Get rid of Selig he is the greediest of owners and causes every discussion to break down into and argument. Give Ripken the commissioners job and bring in the World Doping Agency. Then start talking 0 tolerance and announce that Bond’s record is invalid until such time as he is cleared of charges which he won’t be. Go after Maguire and Sosa and throw out their records as well.

  • jeff angus says:

    I’m not at all confident that Baseball *needs* saving, because I’m not sure that the brand is eroded IN THE MINDS & HEARTS OF ITS CUSTOMERS. While there’s a flood of arm-waving about supplements of all kinds, actual purchases were comparable last year even in an economic meltdown of Herbert Hooverian proportions.

    The actions you mention in your weblog:

    Increase connections with, “The die-hard fans that buy season tickets, go to Spring training, and post on blogs. The connectors that bring friends to the games, that spend money on concessions and buy the gear. And they should make sure they include loyal fans that don’t speak English.”

    …are things MLB has been pretty good with (ALWAYS room for improvement, every day).

    But I think there’s an asymmetry of concern — the uninvolved and the casual fans care less about the supplements issues than the people who go to 5+ games a year.


    2003 – 67.7 Million (MM)

    2004 – 73.0 MM

    2005 – 74.9 MM

    2006 – 76.1 MM

    2007 – 79.5 MM

    2008 – 78.6 MM (-1.1%, and how about that GDP?)

    And revenue set records.

    So your question raises some interesting follow-up questions. ¿How important is the tarnishing of a brand in the eyes/minds/hearts of non-consumers/dilettante consumers when the core consumers just don’t see it that way, don’t care or choose to overlook it for other reasons? I suggest college and pro football fans, as well as bicycling and track and field fans might fit in similar categories, since wide-spread *belief in those athletes using supplements* hasn’t seemed to affect attendance or attention.

    And I’m not sure even casual fans as a population have seen the brand tank — logo-wear sold at record dollar amounts last year (I can’t lay my hands on that number at the moment).

    It’s a tough conundrum. What do you do when the core consumer seems to perceive the issue as trying-harder-to-perform-in-ways-that-help-your-team-win?


  • Martin says:

    The steroid issue is a media driven “controversy”. It’s an overblown, overhyped non-issue.

    Yes the average fan is bothered and even angered by it, but despite ESPN and the like screeching on a daily basis about the “integrity of the game” the average fan shrugs and moves onto choosing their fantasy team and checking out their team’s prospects for the upcoming season.

    As the commenter above pointed out attendance continues to increase. The fans simply don’t care that much.

    It’s an issue for the sports media to fan the flames.

  • David says:

    The World Anti-Doping Agency has been in operation for almost ten years and steroids has been on its list of banned substances from the outset. Almost six hundred of the amateur and professional national and international sporting bodies around the world have signed up to the World Anti-Doping Code lists. But not MLB. When the best of the sporting world signs up to detect steroids with an international testing regime and drives out abusers through bans, you have to ask why MLB is nowhere in sight. What were they/are they frightened of?

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