On the mantle in my parents’ living room there is a picture of me at a Mets game, five years old eating ice cream out of a plastic helmet and loving life. Without giving away my exact age, that means I have been a Mets fan for about 25 years.
As any Mets fan knows, the team has its fair share of great moments that are inevitably followed by soul-crushing disappointments. But lately, the Mets have had greater problems than anything that’s happened on the field. Starting with the revelations that Mets ownership had invested with Bernie Madoff the franchise has suffered one embarrassment after another over the past five years.
The Mets’ brand image is coming apart at the seams, with fans convinced that ownership is both unwilling to spend money for better plays and incapable of making sound decisions. That image took another body blow recently when someone in the organization accidentally and incredibly sent General Manager Sandy Alderson’s credit card information to media members. Simply put, the Mets have lost what many marketing experts now say is the most valuable business commodity—trust.
Just it would with any organization that loss of trust has translated to drastically reduced revenue. In 2008 the Mets drew more than 4 million fans to their ballpark for games, best in the National League. In 2013 they drew 2.1 million, finishing 13th in attendance among 15 National League clubs.
One of the biggest problems the team has is that fans don’t feel anybody is listening when they voice frustration. The team rarely lowers ticket prices even after a losing year and seems unwilling or unable to explain its lack of spending in recent years.
Management states repeatedly that any fallout from the Madoff scandal has passed, but also continues to field a team with a below-average payroll in the biggest market in the country. Left with no other options, fans are left to think the team is either lying or simply not committed to winning.
Whether it brings in outside help or creates a new plan internally to reshape its image one thing is certain; the Mets need a brand strategy overhaul—and they need it now. One day I hope to bring my own kids to Mets games and let them eat ice cream out of plastic helmets while they learn to love baseball. Hopefully, by that time, the team will have things turned out.
But I’m not counting on it.