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Early Look A's Advertising 04

I know many of you are at FanFest today. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it. Please do me the favor of sharing any experiences in the comments. I want to hear what the day was like. For all of you, I bet it was a different experience in many ways, shapes and forms.

Luckily, I was able to experience something like it yesterday thanks to the fact that one of my clients is an A's sponsor.

The A's had their annual sponsors luncheon at the Blackhawk Automobile Museum in Danville. Ken Hofmann owns the Museum, explaining why it was held there.

The Athletics brass, including Steve Schott and David Alioto, unveiled their 2004 advertising.

The bottom line: I love it. It ignores the egregious mistakes of 2003 with the Baseball Country campaign and it gets back to what the A's do best: humor. The general theme is to showcase the A's as the unique "brand" it is. The running theme is, A Different BRAND of Baseball. Much like Coke or UPS. People associate a feeling with our team.

As an executive from McCann Erickson (the ad firm that produced the campaign) said:

  1. This franchise approaches the game unlike any other. No matter what, the bottom line is victories. It has a different perspective because of its unique circumstances.
  2. The relationships between the players are amazing. To spend any time around them you realize they truly are "a band of brothers."
On the first point, he was right to some extent, albeit that has changed a little bit lately. Other franchises like the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Padres have taken the A's model and are runnning with it. But Sandy Alderson and Billy Beane were the originators in implementing Bill James radical ideas into the sport. So while New Coke may have the marketing dollars behind it, there isn't anything like the Classic Coke.

So the ads were chosen to reflect the unique aspects of the A's. The Zito curveball. The Bradford submarine.

Without further ado, here is the Mark Mulder print ad:

Mulder print ad.jpg
The ad reflects older ads for medicine and whatnot. "Packed with Vitamin K." Nice.

Mark is a tough A to capture mainly because he isn't known for one pitch or a quirky personality like Zito or a bulldog mentality like Huddy. But I think they captured him well in this one.

The Zito billboard is simple and states what we all know. No one on the planet has a hammer like Barry.

Zito Billboard.jpg
I like the determined look on Barry's face and the detailed shot of his pitch grip. Trademarked indeed.

The television ads though made the day. Two were true winners, the third was good, but not as classic as the others. *DISCLAIMER: This will summarize the A's TV ads for 2004. If you'd rather be surprised by them, do not read on.*

The first ad was likely the most average, but still amusing. It featured Barry and Huddy in the bullpen. Huddy was warming up while Barry sat idly by watching. Zito being Zito, he asks, "Do you ever think about the space-time continuum?" Huddy being Huddy says, "No." Barry explains it to him and how an object moving beyond the speed of light can actually beat time. All of a sudden after a Huddy pitch, time rewinds to find Barry asking the same question.

The second had Bobby Crosby in a black leotard with little light bulbs all over it. He is fielding balls in the infield and throwing to first, acting out double plays, etc. Chavy and Huddy are standing by the machine that is shooting balls at him when Hatteberg walks up and says, "The rookie fell for the 'going to be a video game trick, eh?'"

Crosby then says, "Did you get that one guys?"

Huddy and Chavy then tell him to keep going. Gold, Jerry, comedy gold.

The last is probably the funniest. A throng of reporters is situated around Ken Macha by the A's dugout. One reporter asks, "So, who is going to be the opening day starter this year?"

Macha goes into a flashback. Suddenly Mulder approaches Mach in the tunnel and says, "Skip, I think you dropped your wallet?" Naturally the wallet is stuffed with dough.

Zito approaches him in the dugout and says, "Mach, I think I found your ticket to Maui."

Huddy then says, "Skip, aren't these your keys to a brand new Hummer?"

Cut back to Macha with the reporters and he says, "HUDSON. Hudson is my opening day starter." The screen then talks about opening day and says we should be there. Then to cap it off they show Macha in a yellow Hummer giving the thumbs up sign.

Now that's comedy platinum. It's about time they got back to that.

They did show us a couple of more print ads, one referring to Barry as curv-a-licious (his pitch, not body) and the other saying Chavez featured RBI-O-Flavin. But the real advertising impact, as usual with the A's, comes from the television spots.

The day also gave me the opportunity to meet several A's in person. Mulder, Dye, Crosby, Grabowski, Mike Wood and Justin Duchscherer.

Mulder was really nice, especially having to deal with all the random strangers (such as myself) who kept approaching him. I figured I had to introduce myself and get a photo since my wife thinks he is the hottest A and that it would make her jealous. I also informed him that my wife refers to him as "a tall drink of water." He got a good kick out of it, as did Jermaine Dye who happened to be standing nearby. Mulder did tell me that his hip was feeling great, he had a good offseason and he was ready to go. Good news for A's fans.

Actually, you don't realize how tall someone is until you stand next to them and you feel like a dwarf.

Tyler Mulder.jpg
The "tall drink of water" standing next to the "small mug of milk."

Since several people had vacated the area we were in, I had to ask Eminem to take the photo of myself with Jermaine. Awkward, but I wouldn't have had the photo taken otherwise. Jermaine told me that he was feeling great and healthy and good to go. I told him a lot of people think he was really going to return to form this year. He said, "I certainly hope so."

Tyler Dye.jpg
It's strange standing next to someone that has more money than several small countries. He could buy everything I own about 3,000 times over.

I was lucky enough though to sit next to Jason Grabowski during lunch. He's an outstanding guy and we talked quite a bit. Not as much about baseball per se, but a lot of different pop culture things. Since Mike Wood and Duchscherer were also at my table, they talked to each other too. The boys had an obvious bond from playing in Sacto last year. I had a hometown advantage because I'd seen them play with the River Cats a few times.

Oh, and as an aside, I actually wound up moving Ray Fosse from his designated lunch table. Yep, someone forgot to put me on a list (no big surprise there-I'm kind of like Bob Uecker in that way) and so they move Fosse, crossing out his name and writing mine over it. HA! OK, so it isn't exactly Clemens replacing Zito at the All-Star Game, but hey, when else will I ever be able to say I replaced an A's legend anywhere?

Well, Grabber just got back from the Mexican league, so we talked a little about that, how he enjoys it (a lot), whether he speaks Spanish (enough to get by) and what position he likes the best (first base as he claims it's the easiest-but he did say he'd play any positoin to get a shot this year). We also discussed his favorite movies. He likes Rounders a lot and Can't Buy Me Love (the Patrick Dempsey-vehicle classic) is one of the ones he watched over and over in college for some reason. Now that's an exclusive you'll only find here in A's Nation!

Grabowski and I also shared the "ski" thing and I had to ask him if the clubhouse teasing consisted of the title, "The Big Grabowski." I then put on my best nihilist German accent and asked, "Where's the money, Grabowski? I want the money Grabowski!" He laughed and actually admitted to not having seen it yet. He did mention that the Edmonton Trappers played a clip from the movie last year when he was there to tease him. I told him he had to see "The Big Lebowski" soon. It's a classic, especially with his name.

I didn't really get a chance to chat with The Duke or Mike Wood that much, but The Duke was thoroughly impressed with Dennis Eckersley's 1990 season. One of the giveaways was an Eck A's card. Duke was awed, saying, "Can you believe he only walked four guys in 73 innings one year?"

As the lunch wrapped up, I got to take this photo with Mike and Grabber.

Wood Tyler Grabber.jpg
Grabber is on my left. I may be biased being another "ski" but Jason is a class act and one hell of a guy. I hope he makes the team.

Bobby Crosby then walked over to Jason and the two started talking. Jason told me that Crosby is probably his best buddy. He also thinks that Bobby is more than ready for the challenge that is ahead of him. I hope he is, because Crosby is one great kid. He seems genuinely confident in what his abilities are and he knows how to talk with fans to make them feel engaged. He's wise beyond his years. I truly hope it translates on the field. Featuring Bobby in a prominent ad probably indicates just how well Billy thinks the kid will perform this year. I hope so because despite meeting Dye and Mulder, Grabber and Crosby came across as guys you couldn't help but be rooting for.

Tyler Crosby.jpg
The kid has charisma and charm. He learned the game the right way from his father. I'll certainly be in his corner this year.

All in all, it was a great experience. I got to meet a few of the A's I hadn't met yet. I also realized just how great some of the people are in our minor league system. It was also interesting to hear Steve Schott reiterate what he said he has stated for the 100th time, "Billy Beane is not going anywhere."

That's good because that's a very enormous part of the A's BRAND.