by Vince Rogers
The Atlanta Braves are one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball. They rank #10 on the list of most World Series appearances with a total of 9. Nine, you might ask? Why I’m a loyal, lifelong, die-hard Braves fan and I only remember 5 appearances by Atlanta, you might say.
Well the fact of the matter is that the Braves are also the most mobile franchise in American professional baseball history. Despite the uproar over the recent announcement that the Atlanta Braves are moving to a new Cobb County, Georgia location by the start of the 2017 season, in the past the Braves have also called Boston and Milwaukee home. Yet this move within the same Metropolitan area is somewhat unprecedented. The shift in location is seemingly based solely on matters of branding, positioning and responsiveness to their target audience.
On November 11th, John Schuerholz the General Manager of the club announced that “We are extremely excited that our address will still be Atlanta and so will the name across our jersey.” Despite this assurance that the team was not abandoning their allegiance to the name “Atlanta”, residents of the city proper – Atlanta, they regarded the team’s announced move as an alienation of affections. The team’s diverse fan-base of Black and White, affluent and working class and urban and suburban devotees had supported the team through more years of thin than thick. Now it seems that the only loyalty the team is being responsive to is the opportunity to move to "greener pastures".
Schuerholz would go on to say in his video statement that "We wanted to find a location that is great for our fans, makes getting to and from the stadium much easier, and provides a first-rate game day experience in and around the stadium." These words left many people who felt that they were Braves fans scratching their heads. Well the fact of the matter is that what Mr. Schuerholz really meant was Target Audience – not fans. Yet in the GM’s short statement, he captured all of the elements that should go into the hard realities of understanding your Target Audience.
As evidenced by the above map of the Braves' 2012 season ticket purchasers, the heaviest concentration of paying fans live much closer to the proposed new stadium location than to the current one. The team further elucidates the question of access and location on their transition website http://homeofthebraves.com/overview They state that “The reason for moving is simple…. our fans, access to Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates”. Simply put, a business should try their best to be easily accessible to their target customer.
Ability to Pay
The aforementioned statement by the team mentions providing a first-rate game day experience as another reason for the move. The alternative translation is not based on what the audience demands, but based on what else can the team supply to a wealthier customer. According to Wikipedia, as of 2007, the median income was $70,472 in Cobb County compared to $45,171 in the City of Atlanta in 2010. By having better access to a more affluent fan-base, the team will be able to open up new profitable revenue streams, such as dining, merchandising and other ancillary income opportunities.
Psychographic Targeting is a fancy way of saying that you need to know what your customers like. One essential but touchy aspect of the Braves decision to move is that the game of baseball is not as attractive to non-White inner city residents as it used to be. In recent years initiatives have been taken to revive Black youths interest in the game. Nevertheless, interest in "America's Favorite Pastime" and the target audience’s connection to the team better reflects the demographics of Cobb County.
As emotionally and economically disruptive as the Atlanta Braves decision to move the team to Cobb County may be for the City of Atlanta, as a business decision it is pretty sound. In your efforts to determine, understand and respond to the needs of your target audience, it would be wise to regard the same criteria as this beloved successful franchise. Access to your target customer, their ability to pay and their psychographic characteristics are inescapable considerations. Hopefully, the City of Atlanta will create new opportunities out of this situation, the Braves will find success in Cobb County and you will master the process of understanding your target audience as a means to building a major league brand.