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Don't be a level 7 susceptible
The other day I was at the Mariners game with my friend Mack. He and I were discussing the various things, good and (mostly) bad, that have changed in baseball since Rob Manfred took over as Commissioner of Baseball and eventually we got to advertising. The Manfred era has brought more ads to the baseball consumer, including ads on the field of play at some venues (on the back of the pitcher's mound for the TV cameras and on the grass in foul ground along the baselines) and even ads on the players' uniforms.
Thankfully, not even half of the teams have instituted the uniform ads (yet). But there doesn't seem to be enough of an outcry among fans of those teams that have; I suppose our culture has just become so conditioned to accept being inundated with branding and commercialism in every moment of existence that we're kind of numb to it.
Which brings up the meat of my conversation with Mack: What's the point of it all?
Obviously, the point to Manfred and company is revenue; advertisers pay for the opportunity to plaster their logos on spaces that will get exposed to our eyeballs and MLB and the teams rake in some dough. But what's the point to the advertisers? Do they get any benefit out of this, really?
A prominent software company based in the area has an ad on the outfield wall of the ballpark (and on the rotating billboards on the wall behind home plate). Everyone knows what that company is, we see it and register "that's an ad for the software giant we're all familiar with," but does that translate somehow into more money for the company?
Mack listed off all the ads visible from our seats. We know all of the brand names. We may even associate those brands with memorable marketing, e.g. the Bob Uecker ads for a certain beer brand back in the day. We may do business with those companies, we may not. But the fact that they advertise at the ballpark means nothing to us.
If I get on an flight offered by Airline X it's because their schedules and pricing were more advantageous than those of competing airlines, not because they put their logo on the outfield wall or sponsor the Mariners' pregame show on the radio. I suppose if I had never heard of Airline X I might go "hm, they sponsor the Mariners, I will add them to the list of options I look at when booking flights." Maybe. But what percentage of the audience is going to fit into that scenario? Does this bank or that gasoline brand get more business from people that go to baseball games because they put their logos on the stadium wall? Do San Diego Padres fans all now flock to buy the sponsored brand of phones because the Padres wear that company logo on their sleeves? I rather doubt it.
Sometimes marketing has a clear purpose. Like the scenario of never having heard of Airline X, getting the name recognition out there so your company will be thought of and considered, that makes some sense. Big well-known outfits can do well with great commercials; the prominent software company's principal competitor has had some genius ads over the years that have undeniably been very successful. But those tend to be funny commercials or ads that make an impact through the accompanying message, not just a wordmark or a bit of iconography. Don't get me wrong, I love good iconography, and I guess if all else were equal and I was choosing between two brands I may well go with the one with the better design sense. But generally a great logo isn't enough to make me choose Brand X over Brand Y, and the fact that Brand X is in my face every time I watch a ballgame is not necessarily going to help their cause.
I was at another game more recently with another friend, one who still works tangentially in the advertising world, and brought this up. She was of another mind about it altogether, citing various psychological/sociological theories about what are effectively subliminal connections people can make with brands because of the repetition of seeing the names and iconography in circumstances they associate with good times. That sounded a bit too "big brother" to me for comfort, but she's probably right. People are, indeed, sheep in may ways.
I then recalled an episode of the late great sitcom Community, wherein the character of Craig is targeted by a guerrilla marketer because Craig is discovered to be "a level seven susceptible." It's pretty funny as over the course of the half hour we see Craig surrounded by more and more products from the guerrilla marketer's employer corporation. (Also a very creative way to get some product placement bucks while mocking things like product placement. Community was awesome.)
So I guess ballpark ads are like junk mail. There's a relatively tiny rate of return on them, individual consumer-wise, but of those few perhaps enough of them are level seven susceptibles to make it profitable. Kind of like the MAGA problem.
So...humanity is probably screwed.