Despite Losses, Arizona Diamondbacks Profit From Australia Visit

By Megan Guthrie
March 27, 2014

(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stewart/Arizona Diamondbacks)
Diamondbacks officials who traveled to Australia included General Manager Kevin Towers, Owner Ken Kendrick, and President Derrick Hall.

The Arizona Diamondbacks opened their season Down Under last weekend, and by the looks of the scoreboard, they went down to defeat. Twice, in fact, to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But that's not the way senior team officials see the trip to Australia. They believe the Diamondbacks successfully found new fans in another part of the world. And, they think the global outreach will continue.

“We believe in being ambassadors for the game of baseball,” said Derrick Hall, president and CEO of the Diamondbacks. “To have an opportunity to expand our brand globally is a good thing for us and Major League Baseball.”
 
Josh Rawitch, the team's senior vice president of communications, said this has been an ongoing effort.

“This was a chance for us to extend our brand outside the United States, something that's very important to our organization and something that we've made a concerted effort to do over the past several years with trips to Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Brazil, among other places,” Rawitch said by email.

For Paul Archey, senior vice president of international business operations at Major League Baseball, the global outreach was a business decision.

“We are like any other business,” Archey said. “We want to grow the brand internationally and it’s something that we put a lot of time and resources into developing.”

The games took place last weekend at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground. The Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks, 3-1, on Saturday, and 7-5 on Sunday.

“It was clearly a success, other than the final scores of course, but you know, we’ll get over those,” Hall said.

The loss didn’t spoil the overall goal of expanding the team’s fan base.

“They felt like home games,” Hall said. “The majority of the fans in the stands were wearing Diamondbacks’ gear and cheering for us.”

That success may be a result of the Diamondbacks’ preparation.

“It’s because of the ground work we had done beforehand, spending time promoting the series and talking about who we are as an organization,” Hall said. “That did a lot to expand our fan base and introduce us to the country.”

“We know that we gained thousands of fans in Australia just based on those we encountered while we were there,” Rawitch said. “With nearly 100,000 fans seeing our three games, the exposure was invaluable.”

The regular season games drew more than 38,000 fans, while the exhibition game brought in more than 16,000. The promoter, Moore Sports, set the ticket prices.

“[Tickets] ranged from as little as $20 for the game against Team Australia to several hundred dollars for the best seats in the house,” Rawitch said.

The series meant the loss of two home games in Arizona.

“The most difficult thing was sacrificing home games. That’s a tough message to deliver to our fans who enjoy going to 81 home games and now they can only see 79 unless they came to Australia," Rawitch said.

Despite the distance, many Arizonans traveled to show their support.

“We had over 400 season ticket holders there,” Hall said. “We heard we had over 1,000 of our fans from here that traveled there, which shows the appetite for these types of games.”

MLB compensated the Diamondbacks for the lost games at Chase Field, although the figure was not disclosed.

“It was very worthwhile financially and we were not scarifying any revenue that we would have achieved before,” Hall said. “Major League Baseball takes an average of the last five years of what a game would look like between us and the Dodgers so that we can recover those revenues.”

Greg Boeck, a former USA Today sports writer who teaches journalism at Arizona State University, said the series was an opportunity for the Diamondbacks to gain exposure in the Australian market.

“Most people in Australia have heard of the Yankees before they’ve heard of the Diamondbacks, but it’s great for them to market themselves over there to get more visibility,” said Boeck.

Along with exposure and ticket sales, the opportunity to market overseas is enticing to many MLB teams.

“There is a lot of money made from selling jerseys and other memorabilia,” Boeck said.

Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College, agreed.

“The Australian series effectively raises the profile of MLB in Australia,” Zimbalist said. “This is what MLB sought to accomplish.”
 
That high profile equates to long-term profits.

“Going forward, they would like to be able to sell TV rights and memorabilia there,” Zimbalist said. “MLB currently nets over $100 million from Japan.  All this leads to media coverage of Australian players in the U.S. which feeds the MLB interest.”

Along with marketing, global expansion of MLB is a chance to gain new talent.

“We believe strongly in the growth of the game internationally and will continue to increase our interactions not only with those in Australia, but throughout the world,” Rawitch said. “There are huge opportunities, both on the business side of the game and in finding talent in other parts of the world.”

“It can only be good for baseball,” Boeck said. “The more players you can develop, the bigger the talent pool.”

The trip included both business and pleasure as more than 50 front office Diamondback employees traveled to Sydney for the series.

“We were able to do a lot from a hospitality standpoint,” Hall said. “We had a special dinner that required us to take a water taxi, we had tours of the city, and went on a harbor cruise one night, which was a lot of fun."

As the Diamondbacks and other MLB leagues expand its brands in Australia, the financial benefit may last for years to come.

“These are new fans following us throughout the season who wouldn’t have know as much about us before the series began,” Hall said. “All of that is good for baseball and good for business.”