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Phillies merchandise sales down 60% this year

Aug 20, 2012, 10:31 AM EDT

Phillies fans AP

I will never say that Phillies fans don’t support their team. They obviously do, and with great fervor and zeal.  To the extent I take issue with them over their level of support is when Phillies fans lay claim to some sort of Phillies Fan Exceptionalism in which they not only support their team to a higher degree, but that they do so in some qualitatively different way. When they claim not just that they have more fans who show up in greater numbers, but that they are better fans in some way, immune to the hot-and-cold running fandom of other teams.

I take issue with this because, any time you look at the numbers, you realize that it’s not the case. Phillies fans, like everyone else, like a winner and get rather “meh” about things when their team loses. From the Philly Inquirer:

The sale of licensed Major League Baseball merchandise was a $5 billion business in 2011, and the 102-win Phillies, according to figures provided by SportsOneSource, accounted for an astonishingly large share, 16.2 percent … But in this 2012 season, when the club’s run of on-field success has come to a sudden, screeching halt, the falloff in those sales has mirrored the deterioration of its won-loss record.

According to SportsOneSource, a Maine firm that monitors the sale of sports-related merchandise at outlets other than ballparks, the purchase of Phillies-related products has declined by 60 percent.

They’re still second to the Yankees in gross sales, but market share has dipped to 8.9 percent.

Still great, obviously, but evidence that, as a fan base, they haven’t broken old paradigms and that people get more excited about them when they win than when they lose. Like just about everyone else.

  1. heyblueyoustink - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    Cheesesteak, soft pretzel, and Lager sales all remain as strong as ever.

    • Old Gator - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      That’s too bad. This was a great opportunity to save some aortas and valves, reduce the need for stents and angioplasties, you know? Ah well.

      • heyblueyoustink - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:11 PM

        Somebody has to keep Cardiac units in business.

    • Old Gator - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      That’s too bad. This was a great opportunity to save some aortas and valves, reduce the need for stents and angioplasties, you know? Ah well.

    • professormaddog31 - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      yo, you forgot crab fries.

      • slavetothetrafficlight - Aug 20, 2012 at 3:32 PM

        …which are just called fries everywhere else in the country. WTF – no crab!

  2. delawarephilliesfan - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    “When they claim not just that they more fans who show up in greater numbers, but that they are better fans in some way, immune to the hot-and-cold running fandom of other teams.”

    Phillies Attendance. Natitude Attendance.

    Didn’t even have to break a sweat that was so easy. Moving right along…….

  3. verytalldad - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    No natitude in philly

  4. redguy12588 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    That picture made me lose it.

  5. thefalcon123 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    This whole Philly Fans = Loyal thing really bites my ass because it’s so demonstrably untrue.

    Philles Wins and NL Attendance Rank- 2000-2012

    2000: 67 Wins, ranked 13 out of 16 in attendance
    2001: 86 wins, 14th in attendance
    2002: 80 wins, 14th in attendance
    2003: 86 wins, 10th in attendance
    2004: 86 wins, 2nd in attendance (new ballpark)
    2005: 88 wins, 9th in attendance
    2006: 85 wins, 7th in attendance
    2007: 89 wins, 6th in attendance (postseason!)
    2008: 92 wins, 4th in attendance (postseason)
    2009: 93 wins, 2nd in attendance (postseason)
    2010: 97 wins, 1st in attendance (postseason)
    2011: 102 wins, 1st in attendance (postseason)

    Hmm…it seems like a lot of people come when they’re good, and not so many when they’re not.

    You want loyalty? Go talk to a Cubs fan. They may be bitter, angry, depressed people, but they still come out to the ballpark to support some pretty wretched teams.

    • delawarephilliesfan - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      You left out 2012 – last place, 1st in attendance.

      But why let facts get in the way of your bitterness ;)

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM

        1. Let me make this clear, I am in no way a Cubs fan…at all. Nothing delights me more than their continued misery.

        2. …and attendance is declining. Didn’t their sell-out streak recently end? This is carry-over effect from several years of excellent play. I find it highly doubtful they will rank first (or second or third) next year.

      • delawarephilliesfan - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        The Phillies are first in attendance despite a major drop off in performace. Washington is 8th despite a mojor uptick in perfomance.

        To your point that sell outs=loyality – which team has the most in the NL?

      • Steve A - Aug 20, 2012 at 9:50 PM

        Attendance lags team performance. The dip in attendance for the Phillies will be seen next year, just as the growth in attendance for the Nationals will be seen then. You’ll see less season ticket and season-equivalent ticket renewals for the Phils, and that’s a big part of overall attendance numbers.

    • heyblueyoustink - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Believe me, if you knew the Vet, you’d understand the low attendance.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      Cubs tickets are way underpriced. I can’t believe how cheap they are. I think that’s part of their secret.

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:23 AM

        This is getting cute.

        Phillies prices for random September game (only available tickets listed):
        Field: $38-70
        Terrace: $20-$38
        Pavilion: $20-$38
        Arcade: $38
        Foul Pole: $20-$38

        Cubs prices for random September Game
        Club Box: $72-$92
        Field Box: $55-$70
        Terrace: $28-$55
        Upper Deck Box: $43-$55
        Upper Deck Reserved: $19-$28

        I can’t believe how not at all different the prices are at all.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:48 AM

        These comparisons are more complex than objective research can show.

        I always aim to spend about $40 a ticket to a baseball game. My seat at Wrigley for that price was FAR better than what I could get anywhere else (other than Pittsburgh, where I stub-hubbed six seats for $19 each that were maybe 20 rows behind home plate last year).

        I’m willing to take thumbs-downs, but in my experience Cubs tickets are far cheaper than other MLB games I’ve been to. And Chicago is generally an expensive city.

    • wetmorepsu12 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      using the cubs as an example in your favor does not really work that well, seeing as wrigley has recently been routinely inhabited by tourists and fans of the opposing team

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:38 AM

        Shit…you’re gonna make me go here, aren’t you?

        # of time the Cardinals have *not* ranked in the top 5 in attendance in my lifetime (1982-present)

        3

        In 1993, they ranked 6th, in 1995, they ranked 7th and in 2004 they ranked 6th (and won 105 games)

      • The Rabbit - Aug 20, 2012 at 4:32 PM

        @ The Falcon
        If they are going to sell the cheap seats for $4 on the weekend and the “Dynamic deals” at under $20 for better seats, then attendance should stay up. What the stated price is and what the tickets are selling for near the day of the game from the club are often not even close.
        Understand, I’m not complaining and other clubs are doing the same thing (I’m on a number of team e-mail lists)….but this is just one factor that enters into attendance figures not even allowing for the fact that some stadiums are larger than others. So, although it might be interesting, rankings are somewhat meaningless.
        And, yes, we all “love” interleague..the seats were really cheap when the Cards were playing the Indians.

    • slavetothetrafficlight - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM

      The “Phillies fan exceptionalism” that you’re sensing has nothing to do with supporting the team through thick and thin, regardless of the team’s performance. It’s quite the opposite actually, and that’s what makes it “qualitatively different.”

      I am not a Phillies fan, nor am I defending Phillies fans. But I do live in eastern Pennsylvania, and I can tell you the relationship fans here have with the Phillies truly is unique. It’s not that they’ll only ride on a bandwagon. It’s just that when the team struggles, the fan base has a tendency to project that failure onto the city at large and therefore themselves. They still love the Phils, and still have just as much emotion invested in them, they just don’t wear it on their sleeves like they did the past couple of years because the disappointment is painful enough already.

    • phillyphever - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:50 PM

      1) 00-03 was played in the Vet. You can fill the rest of the blanks.
      2) Are you sure the people in Wrigley just watch baseball there or just to drink their miseries away? Since it is the biggest bar in Chicago.

    • mybrunoblog - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      People go to Wrigley for beers and social time. The fact that there is a ball game is secondary. Lots of tourists too. Wrigley stopped being about baseball years ago. I know there are still lots of hard core Cubbie fans but they are in the minority at Wrigley these days.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Aug 20, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      You said it, Falcon. We’re basically watching Iowa play at Wrigley every day, and we’re still here. I love my Cubs endlessly, limitlessly and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. No matter how hard that may be.

  6. ditto65 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    The plight of the bandwagon fan base. Weak sales during lean years…

    • biasedhomer - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      Weak sales yet they are 2nd only to the yankees. Guess the other 30 teams are struggling mighty to sell merchandise.

  7. ningenito78 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Preach, Brother Craig! Preach!

  8. deathmonkey41 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Well, you can’t blame me for that- I bought plenty of Cliff Lee jerseys to use as toilet paper..

  9. willclarkgameface - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    I have a feeling 9 volt battery sales will be up in September in the area. We ARE talking about the Phillies and their fans after all.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      I know this is a played-out meme and all, but no one buys batteries to throw at people. We just don’t throw away the dead ones.

      Is that so hard to understand?

      • 18thstreet - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        Pipe down.

        That reminds me, I need to buy a pipe to throw at John Lackey.

    • funnyman549 - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      You’re wrong! It was “C” batteries.

  10. dcowboyfan - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    All these same ” loyal, die hard ” Phillies fans are now the ones wearing Nationals merchandise !!!
    Thses fans are the biggest ” Frauds ” in sports !!!! They all subscribe to Bandwagon Weekly , and have sore ankles from jumping on and off it !!!! Everyone with any common sense knows the World Series gift by beating the Rays was an absolute joke !!! Had they played anyone else, it would have been a different story. So , what have they done since ??? A big fat ZERO !!!!!
    These fans are as bad as the Eagles fans, and both teams end the season with the same results ( excuses)….Should of, Could of, Would of, but didnt !!!!!!!!!!

    • heyblueyoustink - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      Get it all off your chest, genius? I mean what incredible insight you have.

    • rgamb285 - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Funny a cowboy fan would comment, are you even from Dallas? or do you live in the Philly area and refuse to be a Philly fan because the cowboys were winning superbowls when you were growing up? You have no merit in commenting on a “bandwagon fan” blog when you are worse than any true fan of any team. And where do you get the idea that Phils fans are wearing National gear? They had to go as far as not selling tickets to anyone with a Philly zip code so they could actually have a home game against the Phils this year. You say the Phillies have done nothing since 2008? How many playoff games have the cowboys won since their last super bowl? 1 in 17 years (against the eagles, and i know wheres my super bowl), Should of, Could of, but didnt !!!!! someone needs to take a look in the mirror and come back with some facts

  11. prionogenic - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Some of it undoubtedly is due to lack of successful, however, other factors may come into play.

    1. No new acquisitions this year. I don’t see the Modell’s packed with Wigginton Jerseys like they were when Halladay, Lee, Ibanez (first year at least), even Pence came into town.

    2. With Howard and Utley, hurt most of the year, there’s not much being bought with those guys names on it.

    3. It’s not yet the whole season, I’m not sure what the numbers will look like when Holidays roll around, I always seem to get Phillies stuff

    4. Postseason merchandise. No playoffs this year, so no commemorative pint glasses or logo’d t-shirts, etc.

  12. Joe - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    “SportsOneSource, a Maine firm that monitors the sale of sports-related merchandise at outlets other than ballparks”

    Hey, who says there are no businesse in Maine?

    • Joe - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      *businesses

  13. kvanhorn87 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    How is this a story? They are only 2nd in MLB in sales. Last year they had the 4 aces and pence to fuel sales. Last year was an anomaly. How do the numbers compare to 2 years ago?

  14. mdpickles - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    C’mon Craig! Of course sales are down. Who wants to buy shirts and jerseys with names like Pence, Victorino and Blanton on them. Besides, everyone already has Howard, Rollins, Utley and Halladay gear. And to Falcon123, this is about merchandise sales, not ticket sales. Regardless of their record this year, they are leading the NL in attendance. Baseball fans in Philly go to games watch baseball, baseball fans in Chicago go to Cubs games to get drunk.

  15. spudatx - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    If I was a Phillies fan, I’d be happy to see that the fair weather has lifted around Phillies nation and taken those with Natitude away. Despite the hurt brought on by last year’s early post-season exit and the team’s slump this year, life without the pretenders is far more enjoyable.

  16. phillyphan83 - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    dccowboyfan…first of all, no single phillies fan IN THE WORLD is wearing ANYTHING nationals. Do you think if you just make stuff up that makes it true??? how dumb do yo think we are??? and talk about bandwagon…YOUR SCREENAME IS DCCOWBOYFAN, THE COWBOYS DONT PLAY IN DC!!!!!!! Go away troll.

    • kalinedrive - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Actually, it’s dcowboysfan, one D as in Dallas, one C as in Cowboys. So there’s NO CONNECTION TO DC!!!!!

  17. summeroftony - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Duh

  18. mdpickles - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Craig know this better than anyone. Hardballtalk.com site clicks are down? Put a bunch of posts about about the Phillies and watch the site clicks from Philly jump ratings.

    How come there is no post on which team is 3rd or last in merchandise sales? Oh right, site clicks!!!

  19. rgamb285 - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Hey Craig,

    Let me guess, you are not a Philadelphia fan are you. People love to hate on Philadelphia fans when they are down. That means we must do something right to get the nation to hate us

    • kalinedrive - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:57 PM

      Something a politician might say.

  20. phillyphever - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    No surprise Craig. There’s pretty much nothing new to sell this year (besides those awful Phantic earmuff hats).

  21. hisgirlgotburrelled - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    From the article: “The Phillies aren’t the only team suffering a sales slump. Through July, Powell noted, MLB’s merchandise sales were off 25 percent from a year ago.”

    “They’re still second to the Yankees in gross sales.”

    Pretty good sales despite such a shitty season. I mean, 2nd behind only the largest fan base in the nation. Philly isn’t the 2nd biggest market with an MLB team. And as previously mentioned, they didn’t have any new jerseys to sell this year. So all I see here is that even with a losing season and without any new free agents and mid-season trades they still are out-selling a lot of winning teams (DC, Texas, LA, Chicago). Find me one person that would not be surprised to hear that their merchandise sales were 2nd in the MLB during this bad season. If your point is to say there are so many band wagon fans, just like every other city, then shouldn’t sales and attendance have dipped below 2nd and 1st in the MLB? Wouldn’t that mean that there are a lot less band wagon fans than every other city? So, maybe similar in that there are some, but not nearly as many.

  22. schmedley69 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    It’s no secret that winning attracts fans, and losing drives them away, and that extended periods of losing can turn a good fan-base into a bad one (see Orioles, Baltimore), just as extended periods of winning can turn a bad fan base into a good one (see Rangers, Texas). The only real exceptions are the Florida teams, who can’t even draw when they’re winning.

    As far as fan-bases that support a losing team on a regular basis, the only one I can think of is the Cubs, and a lot of that has to do with the stadium being such a tourist attraction.

    And as far as Cardinals fans being the best in baseball, as the talking heads tell us all the time? Go back and look at their history. They haven’t had many extended periods of losing in their history. They have always been a pretty good team. I grew up in Baltimore, and they were always a great fan-base, and the fact that the Orioles had always been good had a lot to do with that. Now that they have sucked for 10+ years, Camden Yards is empty on most nights, even though the Orioles are contenders this year. Let’s see the Cardinals finish dead last for 10 straight years with no hope and see how well they draw, and how “great” their fans are.

  23. schmedley69 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:13 PM

    And let’s not forget that last year’s Phillies merchandise sales were probably inflated due to the Cliff Lee signing and Hunter Pence trade.

  24. millmannj - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Please, Phillies have the biggest bandwagon fans of them all. Pre-September 2007, you had no problem walking up to the box office at the ballpark day-of-game and get your pick of seats. You were also sure to hear the stupid E-A-G-L-E-S chant at least twice a game. Now, after a few bad months all the frontrunners have left.

    Case in point: I was in two Philly-area bars tonight and 95% of the TV’s were tuned to an Eagles exhibition game, instead of Phillies/Reds.

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