It's been an extraordinarily bad season so far for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On opening day at Dodgers Stadium, a San Francisco Giants fan was attacked in the stadium parking lot. The fan suffered brain damage and remains in serious condition. The team has since hired former Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton to bring some sense of security to fans at the ballpark.
On June 27, the Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection. Divorce proceedings between team owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie have left the team unable to function financially; Major League Baseball assumed day-to-day management of the team in April. McCourt had attempted to pull off a TV deal that would infuse the team with cash. McCourt claimed in a June 27 statement announcing the bankruptcy filing that MLB commissioner Bud Selig had blocked the deal.
"We brought the commissioner a media rights deal that would have solved the cash flow challenge I presented to him a year ago...yet he's turned his back on the Dodgers, treated us differently and forced us to the point we find ourselves in today," McCourt said in the statement.
Did I mention that the team is in next-to-last place in the National League's West division?
Needless to say, attendance this season at Dodger Stadium has "declined dramatically," according to CNN. This cornerstone brand of Major League Baseball has taken a real beating.
Assuming the team does not go on a long winning streak, what can Dodger management do to bring back the fans and give them confidence that they are not wasting their time investing themselves emotionally in the Dodgers' future?
First of all, team management can make the fans the focus of all official statements. The Dodgers' June 27 statement barely mentions the fans and gives the impression that Frank McCourt's entire focus is on his antagonists. Management must convey that what matters most is the relationship between the team and its community of fans, regardless of who owns the team.
The connection between the fans and the brand is everything—especially when top management is mired in a soap opera. If McCourt can convince fans he is a steward of the Dodgers brand on their behalf, and not an owner fighting for possession of it, they'll start coming back to the ballpark.