If there was any doubt that Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio wants to make good on not only a losing season but an unfortunate one for fans after leftfielder Ryan Braun accepted a 65-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s drug program, look no further than words and actions from the club’s front office during the last 24 hours. They created a sports public-relations victory during what has arguably been the most challenging period in the franchise’s history, besides the build-it-or-not stadium vote.
Today, registered users of Brewers.com received a letter from Attanasio that thanked fans for their patience and support during the team’s struggles, and stressed its demand for professionalism from everyone in the organization. It also spoke the obvious about what fans value most. “We know that these initiatives are not a substitute for success on the field, and our primary mission remains to have a perennially competitive team,” Attanasio expressed in the correspondence.
The initiatives to which Attanasio refers is the “Fans First” voucher program announced Monday. The club pledged to give each fan that attends an August 2013 game at Miller Park a $10 voucher that may be exchanged for food, merchandise or game tickets. Those vouchers may be combined if fans attend more than one game, or with friends’ vouchers to buy bigger sandwiches or more expensive trinkets without having to spend additional dollars.
The voucher program, which has garnered national attention, is projected to cost the club $3.6 million, a little more than the total it will save on the salary it doesn’t have to pay Braun for the remainder of the 2013 season. The schedule for which the Brewers invite fans is far from shabby and includes contenders from Cincinnati and St. Louis. The Brewers is also a club, that when compared with several others fares well at the turnstile, especially when you consider that the team currently occupies the bottom of the National League Central.
The Brewers may very well make money on the voucher program. After all, it’s not uncommon for businesses to provide monetary incentives that result in many more dollars spent. It may also, however provide an opportunity for families that may not otherwise be able to afford to attend a game to do so with this assist from the club.
Brewers did what’s necessary and more
The organization didn’t have to launch the voucher program to regain fans’ goodwill. I think most realize that Braun acted on his own, and that his all-but-admitted deceit was not a product of the Brewers organization. One only had to hear Attanasio’s comments to media after Braun’s suspension was levied to know this owner values fan interests above all else. You’d think that this would be obvious for any leader regardless of market, but I wonder how many other owners would go to such lengths to make up for a dreadful season for which he isn’t to blame.
Public relations case study for sports history
The public-relations value for the Brewers actions will be part of sports PR case studies as much as individual player actions and reactions. Injuries and poor conduct are ultimately athletes’ alone, but in these cases, they play for teams, and this one dusted itself off and it stands tall amidst the muck.