Also lost in yesterday's SoSG billboard hysteria was a more critical and rational perspective of the Dodgers' second-half outdoor advertising campaign. So let me begin.
I like the "This Is My Town" campaign. But I hate what it has become in the last month.
First, I've got to go back a couple of seasons to set context. In 2007, the Angels blanketed Los Angeles in a sea of red starting in March. With their simple "A" halo logo on a red background, they tried to stake a loud claim to Los Angeles proper, within our city limits. Bold. Interesting. I hoped the Dodgers would take notes.
The following year, in 2008, the Angels once again beat the Dodgers to the punch. Now comfortable to use some of the other 25 letters on the keyboard, the Angels posted billboards that heralded "VLAD" and announced the change of the Angels' radio station affiliate. When the Dodgers' outdoor advertising program finally limped out of the starting blocks weeks later, the graphics were so embarrassingly bad that it was obvious this was a rush job whose hackery rivaled SoSG's own photoshop skills.
This year, the Dodgers seemed to finally get it right, which I thought was a critical step to both maintain the goodwill momentum from our 2008 playoff run, as well as take a first-mover advantage at a time when economic prospects were bleak and the fight for the fans' wallets would need extra support. With billboards that hit in early March, Dodgers players loudly pronounced "THIS IS MY TOWN" in both English and Spanish. And while Manny Ramirez' protracted contract negotiations left him off the initial campaign (though Ramirez did get a large building wrap here), seeing Chad Billingsley, Russell Martin, and Rafael Furcal larger than life and asserting their claim to the city was really awe-inspiring. It made me psyched to be a Dodger fan, pumped for the 2009 season, and ready to go.
By the time the Angels billboards hit, including one at Hollywood and Highland that simply said "Fan Strong" with the "A" in "Fan" using the Angels' logo (I've got a picture of this somewhere that I'll try and add to the post later), it wasn't close to the Dodgers' impact. And given the horrific tragedy of Nick Adenhart that beset the Angels early this season, the slogan unfortunately and sadly began to ring more like a support group mantra rather than a fanatic's rallying cry.
I have nothing against the Angels, as I've written here as well as in numerous other posts. But I did think that it was incumbent upon Frank McCourt and the Dodgers to show some pride and get the Dodgers fans rolling early on this season, as Los Angeles' geographically and historically true team. And it was cool to see that, in 2009, we finally did it. Los Angeles is a Dodger fan's town. It's all of Dodgers fans' town.
Except now, with the whole celebrity marketing twist to the "This Is My Town" campaign, what started as a cool rallying cry has become diluted by C-list celebrities and unrecognizable people altogether. Oscar De La Hoya and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Okay, they're Los Angeles sporting legends. Alyssa Milano? She has made no secret of her love of the Dodgers (figuratively and literally), and blogs about them when not designing her mlb-licensed imprint line of apparel. Got it.
But Kim Kardashian, "celebrity" only in her own (and her publicist's) mind? No way. Tara Lipinski? Yeah, she was relevant 11 years ago when she won Olympic gold, but why do I care now? Bret Michaels and Nickelback? Why? And we can't even figure out who the hell this guy is.
Besides Oscar and Kareem, the only "celebrity" that seemed to get universal validation was Yoda. And he's not even real (and it was a Clone Wars Yoda, to boot).
It's not just that seeing random uninteresting and/or washed-up people, none of whom have been long-time Dodger fans in any sort of setting, makes no sense to the common Dodger fan. I mean, sure, it makes the Dodgers look pathetic in comparison to the Lakers' star-wattage fan following of Jack Nicholson. (And furthermore, it's not like any real celebrity of any import is going to be motivated to align with the Dodgers, now that he or she sees the low-level of talent that the team attracts.) Do the Dodgers really need to scrape the dregs of low-rated reality television for celebrity endorsements? Isn't this franchise better than this?
(And by the way, this is not a knock on Drew Merle, Assistant Director, Business and Entertainment Public Relations with the Dodgers, who does a great job at getting people from all walks of life (fame and infamy) to be involved in pre-game festivities like the first pitch. Merle is a very nice guy and I know he works hard at building the association with Hollywood (which hopefully becomes easier as the Dodgers start to become a more consistent winner). And I'm actually fine with all 27 Kardashians showing up pre-game, large-hipped jeans notwithstanding, even though I'm not a fan of theirs. I can live with the fact that I'm not in the target demo. But seeing Kim on a billboard each day is a different story.)
Underlying this whole campaign is an insulting premise that people will feel more excited about building or retaining their association with the Dodgers by looking at these ephemeral people who don't bleed Dodger blue in the first place. Let's even say that Tara Lipinski is a huge Dodger fan, comes to 12 games a year, has the Dodgers tattoo. As a Dodger fan, do I feel better about myself now that I see Lipinski on a Dodgers billboard? As a non-Dodger fan, would I now come to a game and/or buy a ticket? And if the answer to both questions is "no", why are we doing this campaign at all?
If the point of the campaign is to show that Los Angeles is the Dodgers' town and attracts people from all walks of life, then show the everyman. Show the random people who have bought season tickets for years. Show the peanut guy who hauls his wares up and down the aisles each game. Show Irene the usher who greets every guest with a smile. Show the teenager who has just inked a Dodgers tat on his arm. Show the person who painted his own car as a mobile billboard for the club.
Show us the Dodger fans. Don't show us the Dodger poseurs. If "This Is My Town," then I want to be associated with people who care about the Dodgers, not just people who care about their own publicity.