The Dodgers as a Global Brand
The United States has opened its lines of communication with Cuba, and the increasingly growing global marketplace for brands is creating a new business focus for American companies. While baseball is still America’s Pastime, we are venturing into a new era for the MLB along many other American companies. The Dodgers may sell a 20% share of the company to Korean investors, and it would take the franchise into a rewarding future with potential for further global growth. The Dodgers are not only loved by fans in Los Angeles, but fans bleed Blue all around the country and world.
The Dodger Blue color and iconic LA logo is recognized worldwide as is the Yankees and many other American sports teams. Hyun-jin
Oct 2, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) speaks to the media during workouts on the day before game one of the 2014 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodgers Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Ryu is a superstar in his home country, and South Korea has a big baseball fan base. The Dodgers should not only allow global investors to at least monetarily invest into the team, but they should also invest into the development of baseball in Korea in order to expand the Dodgers’ interest in future international prospects.
The 20% Korean ownership would have no control over the team as far as baseball decisions. Mark Walter has 100% control over baseball decisions among the ownership group, and it is unclear what percentage of shares do the other part-owners have in the team. Magic Johnson, Mark Walter, Peter Guber, Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton all are partners, but Johnson and Mandalay Entertainment Group have less shares than the other owners.
The Dodgers have had a long history with Korean baseball, and the team became very popular in Korea after Chan Ho Park became the first Korean-born player in the Majors when he debuted for the Dodgers in 1994. Park spent 17 seasons in the Majors with two stints with the Dodgers.
"“I watched Chan Ho pitch since I was young in a lot of Dodger games,” Ryu said through a translator. “My first goal is having double-digit wins and an ERA in the 2.00s. My final goal is breaking Chan Ho’s record of 124 wins (in his 17 major-league seasons).”"
Los Angeles has a significant Korean community.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Los Angeles area (combined statistical area) had the highest Korean American population in the United States (334,329) with 1,423,784 (0.5%) Koreans living in the entire United States.
Koreatown, Los Angeles has around 120,000 residents in 2.7 square miles, and Dodger Stadium is just 6 miles from Koreatown. Integrating the Korean community not only in Los Angeles but throughout the world with the Dodgers could expand baseball’s diversity both on the field and in the stands. Los Angeles is such a multi-faceted and multicultural city, and the Dodgers have always embraced the diversity of Los Angeles and the United States as a whole.
From the popularity of Fernando Valenzuela and Fernandomania to the influence of Sandy Koufax on Jewish Major Leaguers and fans, the Dodgers have welcomed players from all backgrounds in order to not only put out the best team on the field but also to give the fan base relatable players for them to root for. Jackie Robinson may have paved the way for African-Americans to make a mark on professional sports and within America’s civil rights history, but the global outreach of baseball is still in need of further promotion.
The Dodgers made history last season by opening the 2014 Major League Baseball season in Sydney, Australia. Not only did the Dodgers represent the MLB and the United States well by sweeping the D-backs in a two-game series from Australia, but they were ambassadors for the sport on a global scale. With their storied franchise, the Dodgers already have a strong platform in which to expand their brand globally. We may even see a MLB team create a minor league affiliate in Cuba eventually with the current thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Call to the Pen
Baseball transcends the boundaries of language or country borders. Interpreters are not needed to translate the love of the game to fans in Korea, Cuba, Japan, Australia or any other part of the world. As a representative of the City of Los Angeles, the Dodgers are the perfect professional sport franchise to further delve their brand into the global market.
The hard part will be getting baseball to the fans in Korea and beyond. With the stalemate at home surrounding the broadcast rights of SportsNet LA and the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, a majority of fans in Los Angeles cannot even see their Dodgers on television let alone fans in Korea and the rest of the world. Part of creating a global community is helping the fans have easy access to their followed sports team. Keeping the fans coming back year after year even after Hyun-jin Ryu’s career is over will be a goal for the new Korean investors to set.
Marketing the Dodgers globally can be done over the internet, but it also needs to be tailored to the specific locale the Dodgers will be marketing to. It will be interesting to see if the possibility of Korean investors will influence the way the team markets on a global scale. The MLB has made more of an effort in recent years to expand the MLB globally including the growth of the World Baseball Classic which saw large television viewership around the world including records being set by the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico and Taiwan.
With new Korean investors may come new Korean sponsors as well. Even before Ryu was signed, HITEJinro, a South Korean distillery was a sponsor of the Dodgers.
"“He’s a really popular figure with a huge following in Korea,” Dodgers executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen said. “When you sign a player of his stature, as we’ve seen before, we expect the Korean community and Korean sponsors will want to follow him.”"
Martin Kim is the Manager of Korean Relations for the Dodgers, and he talked about the increasing sales of Korean beer at Dodger Stadium since it was introduced.
"“Obviously, as a Korean-American, I take a lot of pride in that we are able to share something of my culture with our regular fans, and they have responded so well to it, and it’s a feel-good story, definitely. After the WBC finals at Dodger Stadium, they saw how crazy the Koreans got for baseball, and they wanted the Koreans to come and cheer for the Dodgers,” Kim said."
The Dodgers also already offer other Korean fare including cocktails with soju. Perhaps a Korean barbeque restaurant will come to Dodger Stadium in the near future?
The Dodgers already have a solid foundation with a rich history in order to build a global brand upon. With the prospect of a new Korean ownership stake, the franchise could grow its brand not only in Los Angeles but among the baseball fans of Korea and the rest of the baseball loving world. Dodger Blue can bring people together like the ocean which encompasses the Earth. It’s not called the Blue planet for no reason.