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Pistol linked, in another thread, to an online article by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who spent some time in the Blue Jays’ training camp this spring and has written about it for SI. Better him than Garth Brooks, I say. Suiting up for a big-league team is the secret dream of virtually everyone who writes about baseball, and Verducci clearly had a blast doing that in Dunedin. The article is a lively read, and promises an equally lively feature piece in SI. But it also scores a very positive hit for the Blue Jays organization in other ways.

Basically, this is terrific free PR. Assuming that it was Verducci who dialed up the team and asked permission to suit up, whoever gave the OK deserves a free lunch at the Texas Armadillo Café. You quite literally couldn’t pay someone to write as many glowing things about your organization and your players as Verducci did here, yet all it took was a spare uniform, an extra pair of cleats and an all-access pass.

Verducci paints exactly the kind of picture that Ricciardi and Co. would have wanted him to paint: a last-place team, yes, but a “fresh” outfit that’s also “cool” and “finding its identity” — and did he mention the $210 million payroll infusion? Yes, he did. He calls the Jays a team of “empty stadium” players, and while I’m sure the folks in Ticket Sales wished he’d chosen another turn of phrase, it exemplifies the Fighting Jays of whom Ricciardi spoke glowingly just a couple of seasons ago. “Toronto has an outstanding staff,” he says, and while I’m sure most big-league ballclubs (that Verducci hasn’t suited up for) also have outstanding staffs, it’s still a real chin-up for the coaches. “I could not have picked a better team,” Verducci says, and smiles must be breaking out all up and down Blue Jay Way.

You might object: “How will this do anything for ticket sales? Sports Illustrated is directed at a US audience. Maybe if he’d written this for the Toronto Star, things would be different.” (Like the Star would have published this, even at gunpoint.) But marketing these days, especially among younger fans, is viral, and it’s through online promotional pieces like Verducci’s and posts like the one I’m creating here that buzz gets generated. Word gets around, especially when any American news outlet shows interest in a local product. I’ll bet Sportsnet ends up carrying a short feature on Verducci’s escapade, if it hasn’t already.

That leads into another facet of the article: it’s filled with the kinds of little touches that appeal to Canadians. As mentioned, there’s a sportswriter from the leading American sports magazine lauding the organization. There are also the references to the “professional,” “classy”, ego-free nature of the clubhouse — and Canadians love that. We cling passionately to our cherished myths about aw-shucks team-first athletes who are kind to strangers and rescue kittens from trees (aside to Bob Goodenow: you need to do more kitten-rescuing). Halladay and Wells are “quiet” and “hard-working” leaders? The Q-ratings are through the roof, baby.

Altogether, this is a real triumph for the marketing department. A springtime without any more Baseball North commercials will make it even better.

Aside from the promotional angle, there’s a lot to like in Verducci’s piece. Insights like the stuff about Halladay pitching to Wells are terrific, the kind you can’t get from daily media reports. Comparisons to Bruce Bochy are, I think, quite a compliment to John Gibbons, who could surprise a lot of people this year. I might even go and do something I haven’t done in years — buy an issue of Sports Illustrated. Verducci’s done a great job of promoting my favourite team, so I suppose the least I can do is reward him.

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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Named For Hank - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 01:49 PM EST (#105321) #
I haven't bought Sports Illustrated in almost a decade. I will be buying this issue.
jsut - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 01:56 PM EST (#105324) #
i don't think i've ever bought an SI. I too may buy this one.
Ron - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 02:11 PM EST (#105328) #
He just sold me a copy of SI. Sportsnet mentioned the issue was suppose to hit newstands today. I'll check in a few hrs to see if it's out or not. I'll also buy the MLB preview issue.

The cover/article provides a lot of "cheap" positive PR for the Jays. I don't see anything but positives coming out of this story.

Grand Funk RR - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 02:20 PM EST (#105332) #
Actually, gentlemen, you're wrong on a few counts.
I work for TIME magazine, the parent company of Sports Illustrated. While SI may be 'directed' at a US audience, there are a significant amount of Canadian readers. SI's average Canadian circulation currently stands at 89,721 copies, which equals a total Canadian readership of over 900,000 readers. This places SI as one of the highest read magazines in Canada by male readers, American or Canadian. And 53% of the Canadian readers are in Ontario, or approximately 477,000 readers. So, hopefully it WILL translate into some more ticket sales.
rtcaino - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 02:23 PM EST (#105333) #
"I might even go and do something I haven’t done in years — buy an issue of Sports Illustrated."

Ya, me too... swimsuit issues notwithstanding.
Jordan - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 02:29 PM EST (#105335) #
So, hopefully it WILL translate into some more ticket sales


joemayo - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 03:07 PM EST (#105339) #
i checked for it about an hour ago and they only had the NCAA and swimsuit issues available...
James W - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 03:16 PM EST (#105340) #
Mine usually arrive in the mailbox on Thursday or Friday each week, and this is an issue I'm eagerly anticipating, even though I've already read the article, and the subsequent Verducci interview.
H Winfield Teut - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 04:04 PM EST (#105347) #
i contacted a guy at a local bookstore, they exepect theirs Friday.
Donkit R.K. - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 05:13 PM EST (#105351) #
Being in Nova Scotia I won't get this issue until ... Tuesday :-(. Better late than never, however.
HollywoodHartman - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 05:20 PM EST (#105353) #
I belive there is another article in the magazine, availble on the website for subscribers only (It doesn't recognize my subscription AHHH!). So I'm looking forward to reading that
Ducey - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 05:39 PM EST (#105355) #
If this is Jays virial marketing, does that mean the those at the Star have the avian flu?
Craig B - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 06:19 PM EST (#105362) #
My favourite part of the online article:

"While on the bases, if an infielder asks you to step off the bag so he can clean the base, don't. He's trying to pull the hidden-ball trick."

Methinks that Verducci got to experience this lesson live and in person. :)
Jobu - Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 06:48 PM EST (#105364) #
I just saw the cover preview in the Star today. Is it wrong to say that seeing Sparky on the cover of Sports Illustrated made me happier than it probably made him?

That's one more first purchased copy of SI to the list.
King Ryan - Thursday, March 10 2005 @ 02:01 AM EST (#105381) #
This is probably a dumb question, but, uh, is the online article identical to what's inside the magazine? Because I really don't like Sports Illustrated, so unless there's new Jays-Verducci stuff inside, I probably won't pick it up as I already read it. :-\
Magpie - Thursday, March 10 2005 @ 08:11 AM EST (#105387) #
Grand Funk RR said: SI's average Canadian circulation currently stands at 89,721 copies

Would you know how much of that is news stand as opposed to subscription?

I would imagine if this issue does extra business in Canada it would mostly be at the stand. Does SI release sales data on individual issues?

Grand Funk RR - Thursday, March 10 2005 @ 09:54 AM EST (#105393) #
Only 4% of total sales are newsstand.
However, issues with relevant cover stories often see spikes in circulation in the 30-40% range.
If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the majority of newsstand copies will sellout this week, at least in thhe GTA area.
I don't have any information on whether we're printing an overrun in case there is increased demand.
Jordan - Thursday, March 10 2005 @ 10:02 AM EST (#105395) #
KR, it seems to me that Verducci's online piece is a different animal from his printed SI piece. It's much too short for a cover story, for one thing, and Verducci is conducting a kind of mock "interview with the author" in the online article, which indicates they're two separate items.

If you're not sure, of course, you can always thumb through the newsstand copy before you buy it -- assuming the newsstand proprieter isn't one of those "This is not a library" types.
Keith Talent - Saturday, March 12 2005 @ 09:52 PM EST (#105956) #
Hey, I've been looking for this issue in stores; all I've seen around is the one with the Daytona cover, and one with a March Madness cover, and - of course - the swimsuit issue. When's this one coming out?
VBF - Saturday, March 12 2005 @ 11:06 PM EST (#105961) #
Yea, I posted this in the Twins Jays game thread, but anyways, Chapters said they're getting the magazine by Wednesday.
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