When the clock struck 4:00 p.m. last Thursday, it marked the end to the active and chaotic trade deadline fire sale for the Boston Red Sox. The Sox shipped out six major leaguers, including fan favorites Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, and brought in current Home Run Derby Champion Yoenis Cespedes, among others. With a record of 48-60 at the time of the deadline, the Sox sat in the basement of the AL East and had been everything but eliminated from playoff contention, which was a complete 180 from the year before. With familiar faces now putting on opposing uniforms and new faces donning the Red Sox jerseys, the team and its marketing department are forced to find a new identity.
In a year that was capped with a World Series Championship, the Red Sox were very successful in using their team’s strengths to create a nearly unbreakable bond between their fans and team members–an ultimate goal within sports marketing. From the bearded brotherhood to Jonny Gomes emptying the quiver against the Rays in the divisional series of the playoffs, to that special game played after the Boston Marathon, that team was easy to love. Their on-field performance, up-beat off-field attitude and comradery was something fans couldn’t get enough of. Red Sox fans crave players that they can stand behind, not just players that perform well. They want players who want to win at all costs and that defined the 2013 Red Sox. The job of the marketing department was made easy.
Turn the clock forward nearly nine months, and many of the faces that made 2013 the year it was are now gone. What accompanies those departures is everything that the 2013 Red Sox stood for and the meaning attached to them. No longer are the days of growing insane beards or punting helmets after hitting a walk off homerun. And most importantly for a marketer, no longer does that same bond exist between fans and the team. Surely fans will still love and support the team, but the reason they do and/or how much they do are certain to change.
Throughout the 2013 season, fans felt connected to the team because the entire organization was able to express the personality of each individual player and the team as a whole. Now one of the Red Sox’s best players who bats in the middle of their lineup is a player who grew up far from Fenway Park in Cuba and who has a translator aid him during press conferences. This is not to say Yoneis Cespedes will never have a place in Red Sox fans’ hearts, but cultivating that will require a lot of hard work on the part of the marketing department and himself. The team sits in somewhat of a state of marketing limbo, where they really can’t be defined as anything while the adjusting to the new personalities and departed favorites. The situation the Red Sox face demonstrates just how tough the job of sports marketing can be. However, a decorated sports marketer is able to always adjust to new times and create a new bond. If the Red Sox have ever been consistently good at anything, it’s been their marketing–so there’s no reason to expect any differently now.