Assessment: Sport Event Audit

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Sports Audit

Sports Event Audit: A Baseball Game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA

Attendance of a sporting event carries with it certain expectations. The attendees recognize that they cannot be guaranteed the victory for the team which they support, but a host of compensatory guarantees are expected with regard to the experience. As the discussion here proceeds, it will do so from the perspective of one managing this experience. Therefore, emphasis will be placed on finding a balance between the need for the organization itself to remain profitable both in the long and short-term and the need for the organization to ensure that the attendee feels he or she has 'gotten their money's worth.' These are the considerations that will enter into my audit of the a Philadelphia Phillies game which I had the opportunity to witness while on my travels in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

Event:

On Sunday, September 19th, 2010, I attended a baseball game at Citizens Bank Part in South Philadelphia. The game featured a match-up between to division rivals from the National League East. The defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies would square off for the 15th time that season against the perennial last place Washington Nationals.

The Washington Nationals opened their first season in the nation's capital in 2005, and had been known previously as the Montreal Expos. This team was established in 1969. The Nationals have finished in last place every year since their arrival in Washington, D.C. with the exception of 2007. That year, they finished in 4th place but still finished 16 games below .500%. Going into the event in question, the season record between the two teams competing was 9 to 5 in favor of the Phillies.

Brief Description of Event/Organization:

By contrast to their visiting opponent, the home team Philadelphia Phillies came into this game in the midst of a hot streak and one of the most successful periods in franchise history. Though the Philadelphia Phillies organization has historically struggled with futility at many points through its 127-year history, winning only one World Series championship in its first century and a quarter, the team was coming off of its second consecutive appearance in baseball's October classic. After winning the championship over the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, the Phillies returned to the World Series in 2009 and were felled by the mighty New York Yankees, winners of 27 championships overall.

At the approach of this matchup against the Nationals, the Phillies had won several games in a row and now held a three game leading over the Atlanta Braves with just a few weeks of play until the postseason. If the Phillies were going to gain a berth, they had to keep the pressure applied to the Braves, then in the midst of a losing spell. Therefore, the Phillies came into this game with high expectations. So did the fans. The atmosphere at the park was loud, rowdy and enthusiastic. These features enter into an assessment of the experience that accompanies such a game.

SWOT

Organization

The greatest strength of the Philadelphia Phillies at present is the relationship which it has established with its fans. The city's fanbase is enamored with the team, as is noted by the permeation of merchandise, the long lines at the various retail locations at the stadium and the more than 100 consecutive home game sell-outs that led into the game in question.

A weakness for the organization is its history of bad decision-making, both in player development and player signings. Though its recent successes have erased these memories, the fan base can be very fickle. Today's smart investment can be tomorrow's albatross. An example is the teams $125 million investment in first-baseman Ryan Howard, a popular but flawed player upon whom the organization has staked much of its future.

An opportunity is presented to the organization at this moment in history, where it is rife with marquis talent. Thus, it remains incumbent upon management to continue to make acquisitions that attract fans and demonstrate the team's commitment to continued success.

A threat which the Phillies have begun to face this year is the aging of its core players. Players around which the franchise has hung future hopes include Howard, 2nd baseman Chase Ultey, center-fielder Shane Victorino and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, all of whom are over the age of 30. In the coming years, the team will have to make difficult decisions about whom to retain and whom to replace.

Event

A primary strength of the event itself is the consumer experience. The product on the field is of a high value, as demonstrated by its continued success and the continued excitement which this generates amongst fans. Indeed, the team would be playing at a particularly high level upon the approach of this event.

A weakness of the event would be the appeal to fans of the opponent. The Washington Nationals are a mediocre team with very little true 'star power.' Their arrival generates neither excitement nor competitive zeal as might the arrival of closer division rivals like the Braves or the New York Mets.

This would be secondary though to the anticipation of a fourth consecutive playoff berth for the Phillies. This points to the opportunity facilitated by each event to accommodate fans' consumption, merchandising, recreation and entertainment needs. The cornucopia of concessions appeals to this opportunity.

Threats to the event largely on two common features of sports event attendance: the possibility that the home team loses and the likelihood that some fans may become intoxicated and behave in an unruly fashion. This latter possibility has some historical precedent particular to the city of Philadelphia.

Stakeholders:

The major stakeholders in the event in question begin at the top with the ownership of the Philadelphia Phillies, the ownership of the Washington Nationals, the management core of each team, and the players and employees affiliated with each team. Based on Major League Baseball's revenue sharing policies, all of these groups as well as the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Commissioner's office of Major League baseball have a vested interest in each official event.

Additional stakeholders in this case include the city of Philadelphia, the cable company and network broadcasters which carry the rights for the game, and the fans both watching at home and in attendance. These constitute a large network of participants of the event at multiple levels. From the perspective of Phillies' management, the primary stakeholder is the fan in attendance.

Most of the decisions made regarding the food served, the items sold, the accommodations provided and the various tiers of accessibility made possible are done with the desire and expectation of the event attendee in mind.

Short-Term Benefits/Long-term Legacies:

The short-term benefits of the event in question to the organization are numerous. As noted here above, the game in question comes in the midst of a playoff run. As also noted, the team's current popularity and economic success are directly tied to its continually high level of annual success. This game would have significant implications to this equation.

Beyond this, each individual game represents an opportunity for the organization to capitalize on revenue streams. The stadium is an outlet for an extensive array of dining options representing both national and local food purveyors. Additionally, it features wide beer selections ranging from domestic to premium craft brands and host a number of full-bar areas where fans can watch the game by telecast. Merchandising outlets bring the team and the league large sums of revenue with every game. Citizens Bank Park's Majestic Clubhouse features many premium, collectible and unique items that cannot be purchased outside of the stadium. And activities such as pitching and batting simulators, playgrounds and Build-A-Bear workshops attract families with young children.

The long-term legacies of such an event are ingrained in the ever-stronger bond between the city and its team. Each game and each event -- particularly during this unique period of historical success -- helps to tighten the sense of emotional and cultural identification that the city feels for its team.

Event Sponsors:

Event sponsors are a combination of local and national brands. Most notable amongst sponsors is Citizens Bank, which is based on Providence, Rhode Island. The financial group invested in the stadium's construction in exchange for the naming rights. This reflects a common practice in modern stadium construction and denotes the perception of such sponsors that the high level of positive association and visibility produces a positive public impression of the company itself.

Local sponsors such as the Tastycake snack brand denote the longstanding connection between the team and area food producers. The visibility of Comcast Cable in a sponsorship role demonstrates the entangled relationship between sports franchises and cable companies. The stadium issued rally towels to fans as they entered the stadium. These bore the logo of both the team and the Comcast Cable company. Other sponsors such as Geico and Blue Cross Insurance would be featured on a light-screen… [END OF PREVIEW]

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