Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Royals. I'm Not Lovin' It.

In Kansas City, as the Royals' season winds down (as it has been since May), the talk around town is how the franchise needs success not to hold onto current fans, but to insure that the younger generations grow up in baseball culture. I was born a few months after the Royals won the World Series - I have never seen good hometown baseball, and neither has anyone of my generation. I'm still a fan, as I was born into it, but many people my age just don't care. It's why every season in every sport matters so much. You need to be constantly hooking the younger fans.

It's why McDonald's advertises. Those commercials aren't for you and me, we know where to go for a burger, they're there so every kid in America will know McDonald's. You don't pay billions in advertising dollars unless it has an effect.

If the Yankees are the McDonald's of the baseball world, then the Royals are Jack in the Box. George Brett retired in 1993, the same year JINB had their E. coli epidemic. I was seven years old at the time. Since then, there has been no reason to care about the Royals, and JINB has been known for nothing other than killing people. However, in the past few years, the restaurant chain has made a comeback, equipped with a new mascot and a new look. And it's working.

Americans under twenty don't know about the E. coli breakout, they only know the fake Jack in the Box CEO with the Barry Bonds-sized head they see on television. The chain could have done the same thing in 1994, but more than likely it wouldn't have worked. The time was ripe for change, as it is now with the Royals. They too need a face lift, but of course, replacing Slugger and spending money on ads won't do the trick. Slugger has a big enough head as it is anyways.

But they are running out of time. The reason JITB has able to resurface was because not only did the young audience not remember the controversy, but they did remember the brand. They've always been around, so it wasn't a new name. The only difference was the appearance of success. If the Royals strike now, they can keep the younger fans who at least remember George Brett, or even Mike Sweeney. But if they wait, they will only be left with a future of kids who don't trust the organization and don't expect anything but failure. And those kids will not become fans.

2010 might be the most important season of the Royals franchise. Fail now, and future success may not even matter. At the very least, they can become the Hardees of the MLB; not very good for you, but addicting and it keeps you coming back for more. And at this point, I'm fine with that.


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