On March 1st of this year, every baseball fan’s worst nightmare came true: The MLB and MLBPA failed to reach a Collective Bargaining Agreement. Negotiations have dragged on and despite another meeting between the two sides today, no significant progress has been made. As a result, the MLB season is in a state of jeopardy and the league has decided to cancel the teams’ first four series of the season. So, the city’s beloved baseball team, the San Diego Padres, will miss their first few games of the year. More specifically, they will miss games against the likes of the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Colorado Rockies.
Major League Baseball plans to cancel two more series, bringing the total to the first two weeks of the regular season, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 9, 2022
Opening Day of the MLB season was originally slated for March 31st. Twelve days before then, the San Diego Wave will play their inaugural game of the NWSL’s Challenge Cup. They’ll take on Angel City FC for their first-ever game as a franchise. With this in mind, the lack of baseball for the foreseeable future, along with the Wave playing their first few games of the year, leads to the question of whether they can benefit from this temporary void in the local sports landscape.
The answer to that question is a simple one, and it’s both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
The reasons for this are several. The first of which is that the Wave will find themselves in a situation that is unique from the other NWSL teams. Unlike most of the other clubs in the league, the team won’t be playing in a city that has a crowded sports market.
San Diego doesn’t have an NHL, NBA, NFL, or MLS team to compete with for fan attention. The city has other sports teams, such as the Loyal, the Gulls, and the San Diego State Aztecs. However, these teams are either in the second division leagues of their sports or are college teams. Therefore, the Wave will be the only other professional team in a top-flight league in town, besides the Padres.
And with SDSU’s athletics being on hiatus during the summer, then that means the Wave might potentially have a larger share of the city’s media spotlight.
The fact of which has other, added benefits, including making them an attractive prospect for sponsors. The city has many companies that have originated there, including Qualcomm, Jack in The Box, Petco, Scripps, and Sharp HealthCare. San Diego also has a few international companies that have chosen to make it their base of operations in the United States, including, most notably, the Sony Corporation. The corporate sponsors and local businesses might, therefore, find the prospect of supporting the Wave an inviting one, as they’ll want the good PR of supporting the city’s main women’s team.
San Diego is also a city that is starved of sports heroes. At one point in time, it did actually have both an NBA and an NFL franchise. However, those teams were eventually lured away to other cities, with the Clippers heading to Los Angeles and the Rockets speeding off to Houston. The loss of the city’s once-beloved NFL team, the Chargers, was the most acrimonious exit of them all. Perhaps San Diegans will take to the Wave to fill the void these teams have left behind and the team can become the heroes that they truly need. They have the chance to cement themselves into the hearts of the local inhabitants, especially if they can do that can do the one thing that no other San Diego sports team has done: bring a major title to this city.
There’s also the fact that while sports stoppages might harm the businesses of strike-affected cities, both big and small, they don’t seem to affect the pocketbooks of the average consumer. As CNN once noted, an academic study of the economic impact of professional sports strikes and lockouts found no impact on average incomes or spending in the cities where teams stopped playing.
“There is no evidence of [a] detectable effect on the local economies,” said Brad Humphreys, professor of economics at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and one of the authors of the study.
This means that the fans of these baseball teams might have some extra money in their pockets. As a result, these same fans might look for a source of amusement elsewhere. Time will tell if this will be the case in San Diego, especially considering how the ticket prices for the Wave’s Challenge Cup games seem to be higher than the league average (at around $35 a pop plus service fees).
One of the things that might be a hindrance to the team, however, is the local media landscape. The NWSL doesn’t have the same reach and pull that Major League Baseball does, so one has to wonder if the local media will give the team the proper attention that they deserve. The San Diego Union-Tribune doesn’t even have a dedicated ‘soccer’ writer, despite the presence of the Loyal, the Sockers, and the prevalence of youth soccer teams in the city.
Without the Padres, the Wave will also miss out on cross-marketing with them. Soccer Night for the Friars will be on August 23rd. That day would be perfect for the Wave players to go to Petco Park and for one of them to throw out the first pitch. However, it remains yet to be seen if the MLB season will even start.
There’s also the question of whether the city’s baseball fans will even take to the soccer team. There are a lot of fans of the former sport who tend to look down on the latter. Baseball fans tend to be older and stuck in their ways, so it remains to be seen if they’ll become a fan of the more nuanced and individualized style of soccer.
Add to this the fact that many people in the city aren’t even aware of the team’s existence. The club needs to step up its marketing efforts in the city. One way for them to do this is for them to play off the marketing potential of their Golden Girl, Alex Morgan. Morgan is one of the most recognizable faces of soccer in America, and the team could capitalize off of that by involving her in more marketing campaigns (e.g. placing her on billboards, having her attend events across the city, etc.).
Another way for them to do this would be for them to acknowledge San Diego’s diversity and to market themselves to those diverse demographics. According to CNBC, San Diego is the third most diverse city in America, with just about 55% of its population being ethnic minorities. Truly diverse and inclusive content – the kind that resonates consciously and subconsciously with your audience – requires far more than an image. It requires thinking more deeply, and it stems from researching your audience and your team structure and creating a more inclusive experience. Even something as simple as posting tweets in a language other than English might win over fans of different demographics. This might be the best way to engender themselves to the hearts of San Diegans and to win over more fans.
The club, however, is in its infancy. They are just starting and have yet to grow. And like most things that are young, it needs time to be fully developed. There are also signs that the team is actually willing to listen to feedback. We’ve seen that already with how they’ve stepped up their social media presence after remaining quiet for so many months. Time will tell, however, if they will take the necessary steps to facilitate that growth and whether the city will take to them.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.