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On White Sox commercials and White Sox attendance

Will "Make an Impact" make an impact on attendance? If history is your guide, the answer is "no."

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I've got two tickets to the gun show!
I've got two tickets to the gun show!

The 2013 White Sox season now has a slogan: "Make an Impact." It now joins such illustrious slogans as "Appreciate the Game," "All In," and "Black and White."

Jim went in depth on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the newest Sox commercial earlier this week. You might think that analyzing a television commercial is something that only exists in the world of obsessive Sox bloggers (I'm OK with this!), but it is worth examining in the context of sliding attendance and the 2012 election.


The big story of the 2012 Presidential Election was the use of data and targeted advertising. Big Data (not to be confused with a comically oversized science fiction android) allowed the Obama campaign to better deploy its advertising. Instead of buying commercial time on local news broadcasts, the Obama camp ran commercials during sports and high-end cable TV dramas. The campaign ended up doing a better job of reaching its voters compared to the Romney campaign.

The disciples of advanced metrics in campaign advertising already have their version of "Moneyball." It's a book called "The Victory Lab," and it is required reading if you're a politics, advertising, or math junkie.

At first blush, "Make an Impact" does seem kind of pedestrian. The manager and the players vow to work hard. To hammer that point home, Alexei Ramirez lifts weights and then drops them. The nu-metal soundtrack screams "SPORTS INTENSITY!" Shots of home runs and clips of Hawk Harrelson are designed to trigger memories of what happens when White Sox players work hard and give 110 percent.

Advertising campaigns don't really affect ticket sales. "The Grinder Rules" didn't get 2.3 million people into U.S. Cellular Field in 2005, and "Even More Grinder Rules" didn't attract 2.9 million in 2006. The year-over-year attendance bump can be attributed to a little thing called "winning the World Series."

The White Sox should have gone with "8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Grinder" in 2007. Instead, they went with a bizarre ad campaign centered around the fictional "South Side Board of Tourism." A peevish guy in a short-sleeved dress shirt and tie gave smartass answers to people who wanted to like the White Sox but were too scared to do so. It was meant to be funny, but it ended up playing into every stereotype of Sox fans as angry mopes who spend their days and nights counting the chips on their shoulders.

Orlando Cabrera's signs:

Carlos Quentin's practice swings:

A.J. Pierzynski's hot tub:

And Hawk Harrelson at the grocery store:

Failed to stop the attendance decline that has happened every year since 2006.

The pre-season ad campaign is like Sox Fest. It exists to pump up enthusiasm among existing White Sox fans. I doubt a 30-second TV ad is going to get a Twins fan living in Chicago to see the error of his or her ways (only Kevin Spacey in "House of Cards" can do that). But, if you're a die hard Sox fan, a White Sox TV commercial is a nice thing to see during a snowstorm in early March.

30 seconds of Limp Bizkit-esque guitar riffs won't push the 2013 attendance total back over 2 million. The cheaper tickets will certainly help. All that is missing is a good product on the field.

That is how you "Make an Impact."