By Gregg Hoffmann
MILWAUKEE — As the Milwaukee Brewers have won on the field, they also have become big winners in the marketing field.
This past weekend, leftfielder Ryan Braun and The Original Maple Bat Corporation, the maker of Braun’s favorite “Sam Bat,” launched RB8, a new Sam Bat professional-quality maple bat. The bat, designed by Braun, will feature a RB8 logo, a combination of his initials and uniform number.
Braun and the bat company also announced support of the Good Sports organization, a non-profit group striving to increase the physical activity of disadvantaged youth.
Last year, Braun launched his own sports clothing line, called Remetee. He’s represented by CAA sports, a division of the Creative Artists Agency.
While Braun might be the hottest individual Brewer from a marketing standpoint, he’s not alone. The Brewers as a franchise were selected Major League Baseball’s top “Retailer of the Year” for 2008.
Since 2005, retail sales at Miller Park have nearly tripled. The Brewers were the top in-stadium seller of name and number tee shirts for 2007 and ‘08. Sales for Brewers items on MLB.com have climbed 30 percent — some of which may have to do with a re-energized fan base that is finally seeing a winning team again.
Debbie Attanasio, wife of team owner Mark Attanasio, and Jill Aronoff, senior director of merchandise branding, are given some of the credit for the increase in retail sales. In part through their work, the Brewers’ team store in the ballpark now has a special area for women, called “Brewed For Her.”
The Turnkey Team Brand Index recently rated the Brewers 26th among 122 professional sports teams in branding. That was up from 37th a year ago. The club was ranked eighth among the 30 MLB teams.
Other accolades in the last two years include a second place rating in Sports Illustrated’s “Fan Ballpark Ranking” for Miller Park and a 13th place of 122 pro franchises in ESPN The Magazine’s “Ultimate Franchise Rankings.”
Miller Park also was selected this past weekend as one of the top 10 stadiums for vegetarian concessions fare.
“It’s all part of the evolution of what we are doing here,” said Mark Attanasio in a recent Game Day program story. Attanasio said at the start of the season that baseball might be “recession resistant. I has been affected, but not as much as some other businesses.”
Attendance is headed toward another 3 million-plus season. While the franchise lost a couple of sponsors because of the recession, it picked up AirTran for its right field party porch and overall has more than held its own in sponsorships.
The Brewers also have increased partnerships with Summerfest, the Milwaukee Zoo and other attractions around the Milwaukee area and in the state.
For years, the Green Bay Packers have overcome playing in the smallest NFL market to rank near the top of the league in merchandise sales. Much of that could be attributed to Brett Favre and the success the team had during his tenure as quarterback.
The Packers remain strong in marketing and sales, but they now have company in the state with the Brewers.
–Hoffmann has covered state sports for various media outlets for 38 years and still writes for Game Day, the Brewers’ program.