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The cost of doing business Some examples of the price of sports TV spots and sponsorships (chart) STRIKE HAS '95 PLANS IN LIMBO MANY BASEBALL TEAMS HOLDING OFF ON EFFORTS TO WIN BACK THEIR FANS

By Published on .

If and when the dust settles from the baseball strike, the next big challenge might be filling the stands again.

But with the hoped-for Opening Day six months away, few Major League Baseball teams are giving much thought yet to just how to pack their parks, even though this is the time of year that most traditionally are developing ad plans, season ticket strategies and winter fan events.

Here's a sampling of what the clubs are-and aren't-doing:

Detroit

The Tigers are going the extra mile to stay in good stead with their season-ticket holders.

Owner Mike Ilitch has supplied complimentary passes to Tigers season-ticket holders for a pair of shows at his concert venue, the Fox Theatre. Tickets holders were invited to the opening night production of "Hello Dolly" this month and were also treated to the Boz Scaggs concert in September, said Marketing Director Mike Dietz.

The Tigers are softening the market as they ready for the November start of their season-ticket selling campaign, handled in-house.

In light of the strike, the team is redoubling its marketing efforts with a stadium tour this month, a fan festival in January and a revamped fantasy camp at the end of that month, Mr. Dietz said.

Cleveland

The Indians aren't waiting to map out marketing plans. There's a lot to build on, given the opening of Jacobs Field last season and the team's success before the strike.

"We're aware that there's a new variable of doubt instilled in all baseball fans," said VP-Marketing and Communications Jeffrey Overton. "But based on this gorgeous facility and the caliber of the team, we're hoping that people will forget about what happened in August and remember July, the energy we saw when the White Sox came to town" for an important series.

"We think people are going to want to be a part of those events in the coming season," he said.

The Indians are proceeding with plans to break their ad campaign from Marcus Advertising-which is in the final stages of planning-to sell season tickets in early 1995.

Denver

The Rockies open Coors Field this season with a capacity of 50,000, and VP-Sales and Marketing Dave Glazier expects the club to again sell out every game in its third season. Colorado is promising full season ticket refunds if replacement players are used and buyers end up unhappy.

Ads typically start in February or March, but no decision has been made on when to begin for next season. While Barnhart Advertising, Denver, remains the Rockies' agency, Mr. Glazier said more work is being done in-house this year.

"If there is no labor agreement, it is difficult to have an ad campaign," he said.

Miami

The Florida Marlins have in the past had their season ticket campaign, handled in-house, in place by now, but not this year.

Despite the uncertainty, VP-Corporate Sales Neal Bendesky said he doesn't expect interest in sponsorship and signage to flag: "Baseball has been a good experience for our sponsors, and those we talk to still plan to use it as a vehicle. There are some negative things we can't control. The players and owners do what they have to do."

Anaheim

The California Angels are offering to pay 5% interest on advance payments for season tickets if the season doesn't start April 4 as scheduled. The guarantee includes interest dating back to Aug. 12 for 1994 season-ticket holders who apply their refunds for the 21 home games canceled by the strike toward 1995 tickets.

As far as marketing, handled in-house, "next season won't be much different in what we do," said VP-Marketing Joe Schrier. "We might spend more money in media and advertise various promotional giveaways, specific games and stars. We will push a family experience. This is more than baseball. It is entertainment."

The 1995 season ticket brochure is in the works and will be out before Thanksgiving, he said.

Baltimore

The Orioles will proceed with ticket and marketing plans next month even if a settlement isn't reached, said Scott Nickle, director of marketing and advertising.

Mr. Nickle skirted the issue on how fans will feel if replacement players are used to start the season. "We are not counting on that happening," he said, "and that is why we are proceeding with business as usual."

The club is still formulating an ad campaign from Richardson, Myers & Donofrio. No break date yet.

Toronto

"Everything we do depends on a settlement," said Blue Jays Marketing Director Paul Markel. "Normally, everything is in place by this date. We will not be ready to go when there is a settlement. It will take us another three to four weeks. We can't even order promotional items."

Still, the team plans to open a season ticket campaign in early December via the Stanford Group and mail-order ads for single games the second week of January.

Atlanta

The way Braves VP-Marketing Wayne Long sees it, there are three types of fans: those the team has lost, and won't spend time or money to get back; the rabid ones who will come back regardless; and all the rest.

All marketing is handled in-house, and no ads will break until after the Super Bowl.

Milwaukee

Brewers VP-Corporate Affairs Laurel Prieb, team owner Bud Selig's son-in-law, met last week with agency Laughlin/Constable about a new ad theme for the club.

"We are talking to existing sponsors and advertisers, and dealing with what happened and the future," he said. "We are not behind."

Chicago

The White Sox canceled the annual February Sox Fest for players and fans. Their crosstown rivals, the Cubs, took a different approach. January's annual Cubs Convention is still on-but instead of current players, 25 former Cubs including Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins will attend.

Contributing to this story: Alan Salomon; Kimberly Harrison of Crain's Cleveland Business; Dave Barkholz of Crain's Detroit Business; and Jeff Borden of Crain's Chicago Business.

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