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UPDATE: The Pirates renounce any connection to the Pirates Fan Advisor thing

Aug 8, 2012, 1:41 PM EDT

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UPDATE: There has been clarification from the team. This remains a dumb idea, but it is apparently not a team-endorsed dumb idea, the presence of team president Frank Coonelly on the website in question notwithstanding. In fact, they have asked that the video of Coonelly be removed from the site and issued a statement making it clear that they have nothing to do with this:

“The Pirates have no financial agreement or affiliation with and receive no financial benefit in any way. The Pirates were approached by a long-time Pirates fan and Pirates Fantasy Camp goer, asking if the organization would consider feedback that he collected from the fans through his independent Web site in order to improve the experience at PNC Park.

“We agreed to consider any feedback he gathered as we are constantly seeking input from our fans. The fact we agreed to listen to whatever information is collected and agreed to shoot a brief online video communicating as much is the extent of the Pirates’ involvement To avoid any confusion among our fans that we are in some way asking them to pay to provide us with their input, we have asked the video be removed from the site.

“All of the many, many channels of communication remain available to our fans. Whether it is through our online surveys, social media platforms, customer service department, guest services stations at the ballpark, season-ticket holder Q&A events, fan forums at public events such as PirateFest, e-mail, standard mail or the many other options, we actively encourage our fans to share their experiences and opinions with us.”


1:41: This is … odd.

The Pirates have set up something called the Fan Advisor Network. The upshot: they’re asking Pirates fans to pay the team money, ranging from $9.95 to $50 a month to become some sort of glorified focus group. From their website, where team president Frank Coonelly greets you with an awkwardly read video:

The concept is fairly simple:  Turn the most passionate and intelligent Pirate fans into consultants for the team that they love.  Never before has the objective “voice of the fan” been captured.  The Fan Advisor Network does so each and every week through its unique Fan Advisor Network Consulting System, a weekly single-question statistically valid survey.  Confidential weekly reports are generated  from this data and provided to the Pirates as well as to the Pirate Fan Advisors themselves.

In addition to being allowed to take part in the team’s weekly surveys there are what sound like message boards, lapel pins, some ticketing preferences and other swag, the niceness of which depends on what level of membership you sign up for. Bronze is $9.95 a month, Silver is $23.95 a month and Gold is $600 a year. Why they don’t just call that $50 a month is beyond me, but maybe some past focus group paid the team to tell it that $600 a year sounds better.

The core to it all, however, is that the Pirates are selling some sort of exclusive fandom to people and then want to use them as a focus group.  Which all sounds kind of weird.  I mean, maybe other teams go to their season ticket holders for feedback and things, but I’m not sure any other team does this kind of thing so explicitly.

If it were me: I’d just constantly harass the Pirates twitter feed with all of my brilliant ideas. That’s free!

(h/t to Dejan Kovacevic)

  1. kkolchak - Aug 8, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    “Turn the most passionate and intelligent Pirate fans into consultants for the team that they love.”

    Passionate, maybe. But I’m not so sure about the intelligence of any fan who pays their team good money for nothing.

    • redguy12588 - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      If I was a Cards or Reds fan, I’d advise them to trade Cole and Taillon for a bucket of balls and to turn McCutchen into a pitcher.

      But since I’m a Pirates fan, I just find this slightly concerning that they’ll actually take advice from fans.

      • paperlions - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:32 PM

        While I don’t like seeing the Cardinals in 3rd place….I LOVE seeing the NL Central have 3 competitive teams and for the Pirates to be one of them…..they should definitely bring back the flat-topped caps from the We Are Family era….even as a kid Cardinal fan, I loved those.

    • xmatt0926x - Aug 8, 2012 at 4:16 PM

      No, bring back Kent Tekulve in the flat hats along with his badass 1970’s sunglasses that he wore on the mound.

  2. kopy - Aug 8, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Why would people pay a baseball team for the privilege of taking part in surveys? Money is supposed to flow in the opposite direction in that transaction.

  3. doctorfootball - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    How about a little restitution to the fans who hung with the Pirates thorough almost two decades of horrible baseball?

    • chew1985 - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      Agreed…and how about reimbursing taxpayers since we threw in over $300 million for the Pirates, Steelers, Phillies, Eagles, Hershey Park Arena and a host of minor league teams across the state to be gifted with their spiffy new stadiums to enrich the owners and players at the expense of EVERYONE else in the state?

      The state of Pennsylvania sure could use that money now. And I might add this was done not by the democrats, but by a republican governor Tom “Duct Tape” Ridge and a republican state senate.

      • kopy - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:58 PM

        I thought Pennsylvanians get mad when you don’t refer to their state as a commonwealth.

      • jmp527 - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:11 PM

        So the state doesn’t see any revenue from the insane parking prices for football games, the taxes added to ticket costs, the hotel rooms being rented out, and the bars and restaurants around the stadiums thriving during the seasons.What about the concerts and other events held at the stadiums? If “Duct Tape” wouldn’t have done it, another governor from a different state would have offered. Keep politics out of this moron. If you don’t like public money being thrown into the sports world, I advise you to stop watching the 4 major sports. Enjoy figure skating and ping pong

      • chew1985 - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:45 PM

        jmp527: “keeping politics out of our discussions” is what has caused our country to go off the cliff. People don’t want to get involved until the damage is done. That’s the way it’s been for generations and now look what we’ve got. I’d certainly LIKE to keep politics out of this but unfortunately if affects ALL of our daily lives, sport, non-sport, whatever.

        And as for all those insane prices for parking, hotels and concessions, the bulk of it barely covers the extra cost of administration, police and traffic control, not to mention that the teams get their healthy cut. For A-Rod to get his $30 million a year, it must come out of the pockets of thousands of people, voluntarily or otherwise. And spare me on all the “jobs” that appear to be created. They are low paying irradic part time positions that will not pay a living wage or support a family in any respect. They are essentially worthless. An economist released a study a few years back and showed that a simple factory employing 500 full time employees in lieu of a sports stadium in the same location strengthens the local economic stability of the area more than any professional sports stadium would. The $300 million dollars stolen from Pennsylvania taxpayers–or any state’s taxpayers–to build arenas barely used 100 times per year represents a mockery of the long term well-being of any society forced to tolerate it.

      • dennisund - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:46 PM

        kopy, as a Pennsylvanian, I don’t think this is a representative opinion. Most Pennsylvanians I know save their venom for draconian, prohibition era liquor laws.

      • jmp527 - Aug 9, 2012 at 12:45 PM

        You can keep your worthless talking points. Here in Pittsburgh, the parking lots are operated by a local public organization. The city gets a good cut after the cops and workers are paid. Your story about a manufacturing plant in place of a stadium is a great theory. It’s pretty hard to get a new manufacturing plant to operate in a city these days. Not many companies can be lured into paying high city taxes and overpaying union jobs (now what political party supports high taxes and high union wages?). I don’t stand up for paying low wages for jobs but manufacturing jobs are usually pretty simple and don’t require much education and skill. Low paying jobs as in part time jobs are not meant to support a family. Anyone that works as a hot dog vendor and expects to support a family is insane. You complain about Duct Tape Ridge so I’m wondering if you had a problem with the last gov for quadrupling the state’s deficit. Sports teams are the least of the state’s problems

  4. rwshelton2 - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Mr. Calcaterra,

    Maybe you should read the website a bit – the ‘Pirates’ did not set this up. They agreed to endorse it apparently, but if you read before you blog, you’ll see that it is an independent company that somehow convinced the front office to work with them.

    I don’t think it is an intelligent move at all – but please don’t portray this as thought the Pirate front office produced this and put it on their own website. This is a private business venture that got the Pirates cooperation.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      Given that the team president provides an enthusiastic and video greeting, it is clearly endorsed by the team and will no doubt benefit them or else they would not participate.

      Indeed, if there is no formal team participation here, the offer of the program is fraudulent.

      • rwshelton2 - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:14 PM

        The point is you say ‘The Pirates have set up something’ and ‘The core to it all, however, is that the Pirates are selling’.

        No, they’re not – the website says ‘The Fan Advisor Network is by fans for fans so it does not seek nor accept any funding from leagues, teams or players’.

        Look, I don’t get it either, but this post implies that this is a Pirate organizational business venture. Its all weird, and I don’t understand their motive or benefit, but the wording is misleading here.

        If there is ”Extremely limited availability’ for a Gold membership, that’s not exactly freeing up cash for the Pirates to go sign Cole Hamels…

      • napoleonblownapart6887 - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:04 PM

        Exactly. Any professional sports team with any sort of pride would laugh these guys out of their office with a proposal to create some sort of network like this.

        My only hope is that this was actually really cheap and therefore they didn’t do the necessary leg work to see what they were getting… and hey if they cut the network shortly after the season then this will be like Matt Morris all over again!

      • rwshelton2 - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:40 PM

        LIKE I SAID – go read Dejan’s feed now – this entire post is misleading.

      • bigleagues - Aug 8, 2012 at 5:54 PM


        Having been responsible for the sports marketing and promotions side of a AA level team, I can say – unequivocally – that I would have never seriously passed this along to my General Manager or ownership.

        If I were to have passed it along, I would have only done so preceded by a clear warning that there is some Superfan conspiring to usurp our team identity in a misguided ill-conceived attempt to gain some sort of fantasized VIP access to the team.

        Believe it or not . . . this sort of stuff is more common than you think. Except rarely does someone follow through and take it upon themselves to actually spend thousands of dollars on building a website and producing videos – let alone attain the cooperation of the target organization – all the while obviously being deceptive about the fact that there is some bizarro paid membership component which somehow had slipped through the discussion cracks until launch of said nutty website concept.

    • eshine76 - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM

      Did the website get hacked? Was a gun put to Frank Coonelly’s head to read the script, hence the akwardness? This may not be “produced” by the Pirates, but they signed off on it and are in support of it. The relationship and endorsement is no different than the many other vendors that teams work with.

    • paperlions - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:35 PM

      At least we know who went through and gave every post a thumbs down. I figured Coonelly was a reader of HBT, but I guess not.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:55 PM

      Looks like Mr. Shelton may have had a point …

  5. eshine76 - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    I used to work in minor league baseball and we did something similar with a group of season ticket holders and sponsors, only it was for one night, it was free, and we bought them dinner. Ridiculous.

  6. norvturnersneck - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Don’t you get paid to be in a focus group? Not the other way around.

  7. nolanwiffle - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    First order of business is to get rid of that stupid-looking, sneering pirate from their logo.

  8. hisgirlgotburrelled - Aug 8, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    And never before has a single-question survey captured the voice of the fan. At least not nearly as well as message boards, comments on blogs, and of course using their real voice by calling the radio shows. But those are free, and your opinion doesn’t matter unless you pay them to listen.

    This sounds similar to Green Bay’s non-stock stock in that the organization wants a good amount of money but gives the fan next to nothing in return while trumping it up as some proof of being a passionate fan.

    • kkolchak - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:46 PM

      Actually, I applaud the Packers. Not only is the team owned by the city and not some billionaire asshole, but their most recent “stock” sale paid for stadium improvements at Lambeau rather than the taxpayers. That’s a sports business model everyone should support.

      • hisgirlgotburrelled - Aug 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM

        Actually, I never said it was a bad idea. I said it’s similar in that you donate money and get next to nothing in return. Which is a moot point now that the Pirates said they’re not involved. But if your fan base thinks paying a couple hundred dollars for a certificate means they’re true loyal fans then that’s their thing.

        Packers fans are tax payers. It’s the second time they’ve sold non-stock stock in 14 years. It’s not a mandatory tax, but it’s still money from fans.

        The Eagles are planning to make $60-100 million dollar improvements to their stadium, and are going to pay for it. No tax money, no fan donations. Not only are they owned by a “billionaire asshole,” but they’re not asking the fans to show that they’re true loyal fans by donating money to their billion-dollar franchise. I am not saying they need to be privately owned, but their business model of being a publically owned organization has drawbacks if they’re asking fans for $65 million when they’re a very popular billion-dollar franchise in the very popular NFL.

  9. willclarkgameface - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    The bottom line is that this is just fucking stupid. The Red Sox have Red Sox Nation and what do you get? Shitty tickets to shit games. A sticker. A schedule. The opportunity to pay to be a fan. LAME.

    Call the front office and tell them to STOP hoarding cash, sign premier free agents, invest in a better scouting system, and WIN. For the love of God – just WIN.

  10. pittman25 - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Looks like this isn’t something the Pirates themselves set up. Dejan Kovacevic just did a Sulia post (on a side note, I hate Sulia) about the Pirates not being involved except that Coonelly agreed to do a video for the fan who started this site up. Not exactly wise on the part of Coonelly, but the team is apparently being misrepresented by the guy whose site this is and they are trying to get it clarified on the site I guess. This might be the most Pirates thing ever.

  11. rcali - Aug 8, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Just when it was becoming less embarrassing to be a Pirate fan….

  12. kkolchak - Aug 8, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    They are having LOADS of fun with this over at Deadspin:

    My favorite part is the tweet questions to Fan Adviser: “Hey, Fan Adviser, ever seen seen a grown man naked?”

  13. bigleagues - Aug 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    After landing on the homepage, it’s easy to see why Craig believed this to be a Pirates conceived and constructed website. That screengrab from the Coonelly video that Lasday has planted firmly in the header sure makes it seem official.

    Mr. Coonelly should fire whomever it was in the marketing and promotions department that didn’t realize that Mike Lasday is a Class 5 Clinger.

    Check this delusional introduction that Lasday has on his YouTube page – the same account he posted the Coonelly vid to:

    And that my friends is a quintessential illustration of the downside of fandom.

    The money spent on website and video production should have been better spent on a few visits to top notch psychiatrist.

    • bigleagues - Aug 8, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      Lasday took down the video of himself that I had originally embedded here. It was funny! Pathetic! But funny.

  14. bigleagues - Aug 8, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    Here is a “commercial” that he’s got posted:

    There is so much greatly awful about this video! Not the least of which is the poor schmuck they’ve in a firefighter costume enthusiastically boasting about how he is a “real fan”!

  15. uwsptke - Aug 8, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Here’s my theory of what happened:

    – Fan approaches Pirates about an idea for collecting fan data, and offers to provide it to them. Fan asks for team involvement for the video and small kickbacks to give the site credibility. Team isn’t purchasing the information provided, so they don’t see the harm.
    – Fan then launches website and charges ridiculous sums of money for fans to offer their opinions. Team most likely had no prior knowledge of Fan’s intent to charge money (or at least this much of it) since that obviously comes off as a terrible idea.
    – Team frantically tries to sever ties with greedy Fan.

  16. dadawg77 - Aug 8, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Actually the whole thing looks like a fan club just marketed as a focus group. If they pushed the stuff like ticket preferences instead of the surveys no one notices the site. However someone thought that being an “advisor” would be a cool new marketing gimmick that blew up.

    The use of MLB trademarks in the screen shots combined the Pirates president’s video tell me the Pirates and/or ownership was much more involved then they are letting on. How can you let your organization presidents film a video for a website without following up on what exactly the use was and purpose of the web site? The Pirates organization can say they don’t have a direct tie to the web site if an owner has one on the side. Without the direct connection the team has plausible deniability if the thing blew up.

  17. bigleagues - Aug 8, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    Well, Lasday has removed the Coonelly video and the video of himself introducing the website.

    So glad I downloaded them before he had a chance to take them down! I’m thinking they need to go into the file-sharing ether in perpetuity.

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