GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 11, 2013

Sox CEO Kennedy talks business to Chamber

By Sean Horgan
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy was well into the question-and-answer portion of his talk Tuesday morning to the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, when Jason Lattof raised his hand with a question.

Lattof, one of seven Gloucester High School students who attended the breakfast talk at Woodman’s Essex Room, wanted to know which part of venerable Fenway Park the Red Sox planned to renovate next.

Kennedy ran down some of the list of Fenway’s $285 million in improvements since the John Henry-Tom Werner-Larry Lucchino ownership group took control of the franchise in 2002: The Monster seats; new video boards and scoreboards; turning Yawkey Way into a pedestrian mall before games; the right field concourse and roof bar, and so on.

“We’re pretty much done with the major projects now,” Kennedy said to Lattof, who was sitting at a table with teacher Ann Grassetti and six other students from her sports and entertainment marketing class at Gloucester High School.

Kennedy then decided to take advantage of the students’ presence to do a little research of his own.

“I’ve got my own focus group here,” he said.

Now becoming the questioner, Kennedy said the Red Sox, like every other major league franchise, is finding it more and more difficult to market the game to younger fans — specifically those in the 12- to 19-year-old range.

“We have our own theories on that,” Kennedy said. “Why do you think that is? And what can we do?”

Lattof didn’t hesitate. He said the cost of going into the games is almost too high for the average teenager, which led Kennedy to ruminate on the possibility someday of a specially-priced teen ticket at Fenway Park.

That was just one of the enjoyable moments from Kennedy’s presentation on the business of baseball and, more specifically, the business of the Red Sox since 2002. The most enjoyable? Probably the Red Sox merchandise Kennedy handed out to each questioner (his GHS focus group hit the mother lode).

Kennedy noted that, on the heels of Fenway’s own 100-year anniversary season in 2012, Woodman’s is getting ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.

“If I can give you two pieces of advice on 100-year celebrations,” Kennedy said to Maureen Woodman. “Don’t hire Bobby Valentine as manager and try to win more than 69 games.”

A former college pitcher at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., who also worked as an intern for the New York Yankees and in the front office for the San Diego Padres, Kennedy said the current Red Sox owners recognize they are the caretakers of a great tradition in the most fervent baseball market in the country.

Kennedy made it simple when it came to marketing the franchise in New England and to the diaspora of Red Sox fans throughout the country.

“The best form of marketing is winning,” he said.

Among his other remarks:

Kennedy said he believes the Red Sox will continue playing at Fenway Park at least as long as the current ownership group is in place.

“It doesn’t really have anything to do with the investment this ownership group has made in the ballpark,” Kennedy said. “It has to do with Fenway. It’s such a special place. This (ownership) group is committed to Fenway Park for the next generation. It will remain Fenway for at least the next 30 years and I don’t see a day when this ownership group would consider playing anywhere else.”

While returning to the postseason this year for the first time since 2009 would produce enhanced Red Sox revenues — particularly under the new agreement that allows teams to retain 100 percent of postseason revenues — the real value could come down the road in the form of marketing the team’s performance.

“It has a huge impact, not necessarily financially because of the money you would generate from a specific game, but what it means for next year,” Kennedy said. “We’re trying to re-establish the trust and the connection with the fans. We recognize we didn’t deliver and we’re trying to get back to delivering consistently.

“So, if we can get into the postseason, hopefully, and hopefully do well in the postseason, that helps your business financially the following year.”

Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT