Peanuts, Cracker Jacks and the Ultimate Competive Edge

Amy Armstrong Executive Connection, Issue 11 - May/June 2014, Operations Leave a Comment

Texas Rangers executive Joe Januszewski is honoring baseball’s past and protecting its future by creating a superior fan experience.

By Amy Armstrong

“Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. I don’t care if I never get back.”

These first four lines of the chorus section of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” written in 1908 by Jack Norworth with composer Albert Von Tilzer, have stood the entertainment test of time right alongside the game of baseball itself. It’s as if the two—entertainment and baseball—were a match made in a version of heaven featuring fresh hot peanuts, steaming hot dogs, ice cold soda and a win for the home team.

If you ask Joe Januszewski, the Executive Vice President for Business Partnership and Development with the Texas Rangers baseball club, those lyrics aren’t just tried and true lines from the famous tune commonly played during the seventh-inning stretch. It’s a philosophy. It’s a sentiment on a greeting card you’d post to your bulletin board rather than deposit in the round file. It’s a state of mind. It’s an environment he and his team strive to create for each and every fan that comes to Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.


Competitive Pricing Attracts the Uncommitted

With 81 home games a season and a venue featuring nearly 49,000 seats available each game, Januszewski knows his team has ample inventory and opportunity to market Major League as an affordable family outing.

“Baseball will always have a competitive edge in terms of ticket pricing over other top-tier sports leagues,” he said. It is simple supply and demand at work. Professional football teams, with their eight home games per season and stadiums holding more than 65,000, easily attract more than 500,000 fans per season. Most teams do sell out. Yet that still leaves their attendance significantly lower than baseball’s potential. “We do five to six times that many people coming to the ballpark over the course of a season that features 10 times the number of available dates.”

The large inventory does present a challenge: Januszewski said that while the National Football League pretty much sells out its ticket inventory on the first day of sales, baseball’s experience is much different.

“Owing to the sheer volume of tickets available, it is a constant challenge to fill up the ballpark,” Januszewski said “ Of course we sell as many tickets as possible on a season ticket basis, but baseball is often an impulse purchase decision for people’s time and entertainment dollars. It’s Friday night and folks say to each other, ‘Do you want to go to the movies, out to dinner or to the ballpark?’”


Keeping Up With The Corporate Times

It’s why baseball needs to remain relevant, he said. Although organized baseball is America’s oldest professional sport, with the National League dating back to 1876, it too must adapt to the times. This need is reflected in a recent change within the Texas Rangers ball club: the renaming of Rangers Ballpark in February 2014. The venue now dubbed Globe Life Park in Arlington, is based on the club’s new corporate partnership with Globe Life and Accident Insurance Co. The deal goes beyond putting the Globe Life name on the stadium and various advertising positions in and around the ballpark; it entitles Globe Life as the team’s official life insurance provider and a major sponsor of its Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, focusing resources on a regional community outreach program supporting youth baseball and softball.

The multimillion-dollar deal, exact investment unconfirmed by either side, represents the type of corporate and community outreach Januszewski spearheaded and mastered during his tenure with the Boston Red Sox. Januszewski’s career—since his internship with the Rangers in the late 1990s, through his stints with the San Diego Padres and with the Boston Red Sox and the Fenway Sports Group—has focused on creating greater interaction between fans and teams.


Make The Most Out of Unfolding Events

In 2004, the unfolding of history gave Januszewski another golden moment. It was the year the Red Sox broke the legendary 86-year-old “Curse of the Bambino” that had left the team winless in a World Series after Babe Ruth (the Bambino) was traded to the New York Yankees. Up until the trade, the Red Sox were the team to beat. With Ruth on their roster, the Yankees became the team to beat. It was bitter lore for Sox fans and flammable material fueling the rivalry between the two teams for decades.

The Sox came back from a 0-3 best-of-seven games deficit in 2004 to defeat their Eastern Seaboard rivals in the American League Championship Series. The Sox then swept the Saint Louis Cardinals to finally win another World Series. Januszewski knew the team needed to reach out to its fiercely loyal fan base spread across the six-state New England region. Fenway Park, professional baseball’s smallest stadium with 37,400 seats, was sold out. There had to be an alternative to give fans a touchpoint with the historic win.

Enter the Red Sox Nation. The term had been around Boston since 1986, when a Boston Globe reporter used it to describe the social phenomenon that is the Red Sox. Januszewski and his team capitalized on the club’s popularity by providing fans with the opportunity to become citizens in Red Sox Nation. The following year, a youth version was introduced.

“We wanted to show our fan base that we were constantly trying to think of new ways for them to interact with the team,” he said. “Not every fan could come to the park, but everyone could become a member of the Nation.”

It worked. By 2007, he was heading up the fan-voted election of Red Sox Nation President. The Nation has members in every state and 48 countries.

Joe_Januszewski_sidebar2Repeat Success

In 2011, upon his return to Texas, Januszewki introduced Rangers Republic and Rangers Destinations, a fan travel program featuring tours of the venue being visited and a player meeting. Both were takeoffs from Red Sox ideas, but as he puts it, “Why reinvent the wheel?” Both programs were bolstered by the Rangers’ on-the-field success, with winning seasons and World Series appearances in both 2010 and 2011.

While wins on the scoreboard certainly are welcome, Januszewski knows there is nothing he can do to control the in-game action on the field. What he can do is continue to build partnerships that enhance the fan experience, engage the business community and bolster a family-friendly atmosphere at the ballpark.

It’s The Experience That Counts

“The game unfolds very deliberately in a sometimes languid manner,” he said. “It lends itself to being a very social event and gives people a chance to take in the surroundings. Baseball is a sensory game. There is the crack of the bat, the smell of the fresh-cut grass, the sound of the organ. It gives people the chance to sit back and relax.”

Himself included—sometimes. At most games, Januszewski is working: entertaining clients, leading tours for dignitaries and monitoring the ballpark atmosphere. He tries to “be a fan” at one game per home stand. He and his wife bring their four children, all currently under the age of eight, to the ballpark on Sunday afternoons.

“They love coming to the ballpark with daddy,” he said with a beam in his voice. “But at this point, it might be more for the ice cream than it is for the action on the diamond.”

That’s OK with Januszewski, both the father and the sports executive.

Amy M. Armstrong is a freelance writer based in Alaska.

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