The great thing about sports is that there is always a new beginning. Dont like whats happening? Wait till next year, goes the famous rallying cry. And that new year for the Toronto Blue Jays begins today, along with a new marketing campaign built around the tagline You belong at the game.
Its the fourth tagline created in four years by Toronto agency Publicis Canada for the Jays, a tactic rarely seen outside of the sports and entertainment world. Many of the best companies use the same motto for years before retiring it. Think GE with We bring good things to lifewhich stood the test of time for almost a quarter-centuryTim Hortons Youve always got time for Tim Hortons and Always fresh, or Gillettes The best a man can get.
So why cant the Jays pick a tagline and stick to it? Because thats not the way sports marketing works, according to Duncan Bruce, Publicis managing partner, executive vice-president and creative director. Sports teams, in general, see the season as a chunk of time, he explains. That one season is one event and they have to see it as new and fresh, be thinking differently and defining the team differently, and have their communications feel fresh and new.
From that point of view, ever-changing campaigns makes sense. After all, building a tagline that actually ends up in the social psyche can take five to 10 years and a lot of investment in maintaining the same message. Generally, a professional sports team is anything but consistent. Every year brings new players, sometimes new management, and, at least at the start of the season, new hope
Sports teams need to have that point of view and they need to be able to motivate their whole organization around that idea, says Bruce. Because of that, its a lot harder to bring anything forward from the last year, especially if theyve lost or been injury-ridden. Every year is a chance for glory, every year is a fresh start.
And if any team needs a fresh start, its the Jays, who have not lived up to the promises general manager J.P. Ricciardi made when he took over the team in 2001. Last year has to be especially irksome to the teams fans, who saw the lowly Tampa Bay Rays make it all the way to the World Series before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.
But while the Jays were painful to watch on the field, the Publicis campaigns were excellent TV watching. The partnership started with an award-winning series built on the You gotta believe premise (also the catchphrase of the 1973 New York Mets) and continued a very amusing series of ads two years ago using the tag Its always game time. Those ads featured various Jays in domestic scenes using their athletic skills at someone elses expense.
One ad, which featured now-retired slugger Frank Thomas engaging in a pillow fight between two boys, was even banned because it showed Thomas swatting the boy off the bed. You cant buy that kind of publicity. The Jays followed that up with a Frank Thomas pillow giveaway day.
This years campaign is designed to show the multiple experiences you can enjoy at a baseball game. The first three ads feature a drive-through hamburger jockey yelling at Jays third baseman Scott Rolen, outfielder Vernon Wells trying to get into his locked car while an ever-increasing line of people chant his name, and a bank heist where the robbers will only talk to pitcher Roy Halladay. The message? Watching a game sort of galvanizes everybody, brings the family together, brings everybody together, and you can have a great time, says Bruce.
Ill post a link to the new ads if it becomes available. Meanwhile, you can hit Publiciss website and, with a bit of navigating, see the older ones.