The T Dog Media Blog Think Tank: White Sox sliding into oblivion

This story from Crain’s Chicago Business from the previous week has an item about the Chicago White Sox – the 2005 World Series Champions who are struggling on the field this year – and in the ratings and at the box office, too. As a result, the team has decided to put its ad agency account up for review.

Like the team this season, the ad campaigns have had numerous misses, including the inane Southside Board of Touirism ad campaign at the beginning of the season (to tout what, the nearest Harold’s Chicken Shack?)

A disappointing 2007 season has resulted in declining ratings and attendance numbers. Ratings for White Sox games on Comcast SportsNet are down 50 percent from a year ago and broadcast TV ratings are down 37 percent from that same time frame. While the broadcast ratings are somewhat competitive, they trail those of summertime prime-time fare on the broadcast networks, which consists of reruns and first-run reality shows – most of them declared rating disappointments.

A recent prime-time game on WGN averaged only a 1.9 rating, worse than the CW programming on the station.

Not helping the White Sox is that many televised sporting events are coming off a down year in the ratings. The NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals both recorded record lows this year, and ratings for NASCAR have slipped as viewers have abandoned sports programming for the Internet, video games, home video options, and other television programming.

Meanwhile, the Cubs surging success has resulted in a ratings increase for the team’s television broadcasts, with an intriguing storyline (whether or not the Cubs can hold on to first place) -hooking loyal fans and bringing in casual ones. When a team loses, casual fans are the first to go, usually to other entertainment options.

Sports marketing specialists note that there are no advantages to being a one-hit-wonder club.

In other words, the 2005 World champs will likely become more of a trivia question or a segment of a VH-1 special in the same vain as Sean Kingston’s singing career – the person solely responsible for Ben E. King turning over in his grave.

This scenario is similar to what happened to the New York Islanders after the team won four Stanley Cups in the early 1980s. The team slid into oblivion in the next decade after numerous losing seasons, in which attendance plummeted and television ratings were turned into hash marks, while watching the arch-rival New York Rangers (The Chicago Cubs of hockey -in popularity at least) win a Stanley Cup in 1994 and maintain a loyal fan base, despite eight consecutive losing seasons a few years afterward.

Not only that, the New Jersey Devils, another New York area team, won three Stanley Cups from 1995 to 2003.

The Islanders are still struggling at the box office and in TV ratings to this very day (Of course, it doesn’t help when the team’s logo was briefly changed into the Gorton’s Fisherman a few years back.)

Then again, so is the rest of the NHL – including the Blackhawks, which the White Sox are now trying to stay ahead of in fan popularity – yeah, that says a lot.

So the lesson learned here is, who ever lands the marketing account for the White Sox – don’t go into the frozen foods section of the grocery store looking for ideas.

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