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Fall Classic a Tourism Industry Hit

With two California ballclubs vying in the World Series, sports marketing experts see economic lift extending beyond the games

October 17, 2002|Bonnie Harris | Times Staff Writer

During the broadcast of the last National League championship game in San Francisco, when the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals and earned a trip to the World Series, a sunset shot over the bay prompted TV announcer Tim McCarver to gush: "Isn't this the most beautiful place on Earth?"

About 500 miles away in Palm Springs, sports marketing expert Rolfe Shellenberger heard McCarver's words and thought one thing: big dollars for the city of San Francisco.

"That alone is worth millions," Shellenberger said of the offhand remark. "Say it and they will come."

With two California teams -- the Giants and the Anaheim Angels -- playing in the World Series, state and local officials are counting on a nice economic lift from the Fall Classic, which starts Saturday in Orange County.

But in the end, some of the biggest gains may stem not from direct spending by fans and out-of-towners, but from the kind of free advertising that comes from comments like McCarver's and the panoramic images of the two cities that will inevitably help fill time between innings.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 6 inches; 215 words Type of Material: Correction
World Series ads -- A story in Thursday's Business section said state tourism officials would be running television commercials during the World Series that feature actors Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood. In fact, commercials featuring those celebrities will not be included in the state's advertising campaign during the series.

In terms of an immediate windfall, economic development experts say that San Francisco and Anaheim can each expect to take in about $10 million a day from the surge of visitors associated with the World Series. That's nothing compared with what the Super Bowl -- which is played on neutral turf and thus guaranteed to fill hotel rooms -- brings in: about $250 million. Nor does it compare to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, which showers the local economy with $200 million annually.

Yet Lisa Delpy, a professor of sports marketing and tourism studies at George Washington University, believes such raw figures miss the point.

"Most people don't remember where the Super Bowl was played last year, but they can probably tell you who won the World Series," Delpy said. "With this event comes name recognition and a sense of place. You can't put a price on that kind of status."

The way Shellenberger, figures things, televised platitudes such as McCarver's are each worth about 10 seconds of visual exposure during high-profile sporting events. Given that a 30-second commercial during the playoffs cost about $100,000, tourism officials in San Francisco got handed $33,000 of free advertising.

Anaheim and San Francisco have already enjoyed precious time in the national spotlight. Both cities' visitors bureaus have reported increases in requests for tourism information since the playoffs began, and have adjusted their Web sites to focus almost exclusively on the only game in town.

Officials are banking on carefully edited video footage of their respective cities -- to be aired as filler images during the games -- and a flurry of advertising in each other's newspapers to help draw crowds to their cities. The goal is to entice even those who can't get tickets, but want to be close to the action.

About 75% of the seats at both ball parks will go to season ticket holders, corporate sponsors and VIPs, leaving about 10,000 tickets up for grabs at each game, officials said. Face value of the tickets runs about $125, but brokers are selling outfield seats for Saturday's game in Anaheim for $450 apiece.

Already, officials in both cities have dubbed it "The I-5 Series" in anticipation of the fans who will keep the freeway hot between Anaheim and San Francisco over the next week.

The Anaheim Hilton will have 10-inch ads in the San Francisco Chronicle beginning today, congratulating the Giants and inviting fans to "come stay with us" in Anaheim for $149 per night, said Edd Karlan, director of sales and marketing. Karlan expects the World Series will bring at least a 10% increase in business to the 1,600-room property.

"We're going to do well in Anaheim because our games are all weekend games," he said. "And yes, we're hoping to go the full six and seven games. A long, drawn-out series will be much better for us."

For San Francisco, a city that continues to struggle with low hotel occupancy rates, a tourism slump and the aftermath of the dot-com bust, landing in the World Series couldn't have come at a better time, said Lee Blitch, president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

In fact, with San Francisco in the running to host the 2012 Olympics--competing against New York for the U.S. bid--Blitch is already anticipating that the Series will have a big effect. "We got the World Series, which will in turn help us get the Olympics," Blitch said. "Everything in between is simply butter."

California tourism officials also plan to maximize the state's exposure during the World Series. They intend to run the popular campaign featuring celebrities such as Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood urging folks to "find yourself here."

Although it's unclear how many tourists are lured to a city after watching sporting events, many marketing experts suspect the number is significant--particularly when it comes to baseball fans. The World Series tends to include more city vistas and tourist information in its broadcast coverage than do Super Bowls because they're not usually hosted in either team's home town, or basketball championships, which are played indoors.

"You may not have the champagne and caviar crowds like you do with some of the other events, but you have staying power with the World Series," said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "People remember those images. They don't go away when the game's over."

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