In Vogue/In Vain

As of January 1st 2019, the Seattle Mariners will play their home games in the recently renamed T-Mobile Park. Forgoing the Safeco moniker as old as the park itself, constructed in 1999.

Cano, Paxton, Segura and AL Reliever of the Year Edwin Diaz were all traded away at the beginning of December, confirming a full rebuild was in effect. Nelson Cruz was also granted Free Agency.

2018 also marked the 17th straight year the club has missed the post-season; ending the season at 89-73 and 3rd in the A.L. West.

The Mariners are doubling-down on their rebranding strategy.  The team announced a total revamp of the exterior color scheme to coincide with the T-Mobile aesthetic.

Individuals who demonstrate strong identity towards the the team are threatened with the lack of distinction when a stadium undergoes a name change. Wann (1997) defined team identification as “the extent that a fan feels psychologically connected to a team.”

Engineering team identification is an important and delicate task, one of the few that is complete control of the organization. Team loyalty, civic pride, perception of the organization as a whole and measurable ‘“fanship” from these fans is directly related to team identification.

Organizations routinely trade players at the height of their value to receive long-term gains. This practice can (read: should) create future sustainable wins. What makes the Mariners’ situation unique is everything is happening at once.

Average attendance at Safeco was highest its been in 10 years in 2018, yet Seattle is still in the middle of pack league-wide at an average attendance of just over 28,000. Time will tell what these major team adjustments will have on attendance levels and fan engagement. While I don’t think anyone is predicting the Mariners to be October bound in 2019; the organization will need new ways to fill the seats. Draining the identity without a coherent replacement will result in less dollars spent and less fans at the park.

Source: Branscombe, Reysen, Snider. Corporate Renaming of Stadiums, Team Identification, and Threat to Distinctiveness. Journal of Sports Management. 2012.