Two groups play integral role
Synergy between marketing and business propelled champs
BOSTON -- Fans gazing on Tuesday's Rolling Rally risked overlooking a significant element of what got the Red Sox there. If they didn't catch it as the Duck Boats rolled by, then they missed a noteworthy demonstration of where baseball is headed.
"We all rode on the float today with the baseball ops guys," said Sam Kennedy, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
Kennedy, part of the business operations braintrust of the Red Sox, is just one member of a small but aggressive group that has turned New England's favorite baseball team into a juggernaut of global branding.
For three miles, Kennedy and Troup Parkinson, director of client services, Jonathan Gilula, vice president of business operations, and chief operating officer Mike Dee joined baseball operations savants Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, Jed Hoyer, Mike Hazen, Jason McLeod, and Bill James, among others, in welcoming Boston's parade-going faithful.
It was a triumph of synergy, a very visible expression of business and baseball working together to promote the Boston banner.
"You kind of live with each other all season long," said Kennedy, a high school classmate and baseball teammate of Epstein's at Brookline High. "You go through the ups and downs. It's nice to celebrate with one another."
"It's extremely gratifying," said Dee, who doubles his COO duties as president of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), in which six other Red Sox executives, including Kennedy, play an active role. "I think our organization, I suspect, like some others in baseball, considers it to be all for one and not one for all."
The Red Sox's successes in driving up revenue and sponsorships -- not only from the team, but from 95-year-old Fenway Park -- are well-documented. As recently as early Monday morning, Kennedy, Dee and a small, call-making contingent shifted into overdrive, scrambling to sell the space on the Duck Boats' prominent broadsides to prospective advertisers.
Not helping their concentration was the team's "epic" twilight after-party in Denver, which kept personnel and front-office staff celebrating as late as 4 a.m.
"I got a call from [Red Sox president/CEO] Larry Lucchino at 8:30 a.m.," recalled Kennedy, "saying, 'Hey let's make sure we coordinate with the city on sponsors.'"
"We had an all-hands-on-deck effort," Kennedy said.
From 8:30 a.m. to their arrival in Boston on Monday, nine front-office employees worked their office Blackberries, e-mailing and calling as many as 100 sponsors to alert them about opportunities to sponsor the parade, an effort undertaken by the city of Boston.
They were assisted by callers at home and at FSG. All revenues from the sponsorships worked to offset costs -- route-planning, cleaning, police -- to the city. And yet it was the kind of undertaking that has made the Red Sox one of the highest-grossing Major League franchises.
This one was doubly difficult, because it depended on advance planning of a Red Sox triumph. "And Larry Lucchino," Kennedy laughed, "is so superstitious that he doesn't participate in much of our postseason planning."
"You never want to plan for a World Series parade," Kennedy said. "But it is a business and you have to take care of all measures."
Such efforts tend to go unnoticed by casual observers. Kennedy joked that during the parade, as he waved from a boat full of front office members, fans probably assumed he was "one of the Excel spreadsheet guys" in the front office.
"Our entire three-mile route was a constant chant of, 'Theo! Theo!'" he laughed, adding that the only louder refrain he heard was that of "Re-sign Lowell!"
Afterward, before the litter had even been scrubbed away from the parade route and before the Dropkick Murphys' ballads had finished echoing across Copley Square, the Red Sox's business operations were chugging back into gear. Typically, teams devote their October resources to planning for the following season.
And playoff success, Dee said with some exasperation, "makes for a short offseason."
This week, the Red Sox will be working out the kinks in the planning of their dozens of civic engagements: "a lot of issues relating to public relations," Dee said, "and making sure we're reaching the constituencies that we need to reach.
"There's a tremendous amount of dialogue," he said. "We kind of have to deal with everything that comes along with winning the World Series -- which is easier after 2004. We have a better sense of what to expect and what to be ready for."
Is the Red Sox's money-making machine becoming even better prepared? If success breeds more success, then the American League will have its hands full if it intends to dethrone the champs in 2008.
"We kind of joke with our comrades in baseball ops," Kennedy said. "We make all the money so they can spend it."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.