Back on the 22nd of February, the Indians issued a press release that went largely unnoticed. As is typically the case this time of year, most fans are more interested in dissecting Spring Training games and positional battles so it’s understandable they they would pay little to no attention to a simple press release.
In it, the Indians spelled out their new marketing campaign for the 2013 season and officially completed the transition from the tired and overly mocked “What if…” campaign. The whole thing was largely uneventful. There were no videos, no web banners, or no media to help display the Indians new campaign. Just a simple release that was slightly less than 600 words. No big deal, right? Wrong.
The first line of the release consisting of five simple words was perhaps one of the loudest statements the organization has made in years: “This is a Tribe town.”
I believe the expression to best describe what just happened there would be: “Boom goes the dynamite!” With that statement, the Indians officially waged a marketing war on the other two professional sports teams that call Cleveland home. Yes, all three teams may play for the same city and help contribute to a sense of civic pride, but make no mistake about it. The Indians, Cavs, and Browns are all in a battle against one another for the entertainment dollars of the citizens of Cleveland.
Now, it may seem ridiculous to think that three teams that are a part of three different professional leagues and whose seasons are played (or supposed to be played) at different times of the year are competitors, but they are. In today’s modern landscape where families are already stretched thin thanks to the ever increasing costs of living, choices need to be made in regards to how exactly they spend their excess cash. Combine that with the outlandish prices for tickets, concessions, and memorabilia and all of the sudden it is easy to see how a family may be limited to just a handful of professional sporting events even though there are upwards of 130 or more in Cleveland in a given year.
What makes the “Tribe Town” campaign so daring is the fact that Cleveland has for several years been thought of as a football city. The city of Cleveland is “Browns Town.” Attempting to take down arguably the city’s most beloved franchise is a bold move, especially at this current juncture. With a new owner and new front office regime calling the shots, there is reason to once again be excited about the Browns’ future despite the 14 years that preceded. The Indians don’t care about any of that. They see an opportunity in front of them to take this city by storm and aren’t about to pass it up.
Hiring Terry Francona signaled a change was coming. The offseason trade of Shin-Soo Choo that brought in Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs got the ball rolling. Following that up with the signings of Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher, and Brett Myers breathed new life into the franchise. Signing Michael Bourn seemingly out of nowhere was the icing on the cake.
All of those moves along with their other minor signings paved the way for them to make such a bold statement. The city of Cleveland may be Browns Town when all things are equal, but when the Indians are going good there’s nothing quite like it. There’s a passion and the 455-game sellout streak is proof of that. With the expectations for the Indians reaching new new heights every day, that passion is slowly building back up. If it’s able to get back to where it was in the mid-90′s, then look out.
The bottom line is that while it may seem ridiculous to some that the Indians could possibly usurp the Browns as the kings of Cleveland, the precedent is there. Yes, it’s a different time and the situation is nothing like it once was (Cleveland was without football for three years), but the Indians feel like this is their time and the future is theirs. It also helps that the Browns are stuck in perpetual rebuild and the Cavs are waiting for LeBron James to walk back through the door. It makes sense then that the Indians would shift away from a marketing campaign that focused on the past and shift to something the put an emphasis on the here and now.
So, when the new Tribe Town campaign hits the airwaves as we get closer to Opening Day, we’ll begin seeing the faces of Terry Francona, Nick Swisher, Sandy Alomar, Tom Hamilton and others displaying pride in the city they play for and what it means to each of them to be an Indian. Will you return the favor? Will you show up ready to cheer them on and to take pride in their performance and the effort they put forth for you? Are you prepared to make Cleveland a Tribe town?
The Indians are betting everything that you are, even if it means waging an all out marketing war against the Browns and Cavs to do it.