Kansas City Royals trending up in brand power despite on-field results

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

MLB franchises are for-profit entertainment and licensing businesses first and foremost, and the Kansas City Royals are doing well despite what the on-field product may show.

For many Kansas City Royals fans the thrill of the on-field success in the 2014 and 2015 seasons can feel like it was more than just two full MLB seasons removed. Like with many other experiences it’s easy to yearn to re-live them after the fact.

Missing the playoffs altogether over the past two years is motivation for that yearning, but there are signs that a return to playoff prominence and that more sustainable than winning a World Series every three decades may be happening.

Among MLB franchises there are definite economic classes. The reason why some franchises are much more valuable than others isn’t completely determined by on-field success, though that definitely helps because consumers tend to buy a good product. Diversification and licensing are essential to this as well.

In terms of economic value for MLB franchises, there is a gold standard. The New York Yankees have sat atop Forbes’ listing of MLB franchise values every year that the publication has put out the ranking partially because of their diversification in the YES Network and Legends Hospitality. The Yankees have also benefitted from being able to attract events other than baseball games to their stadium, like the annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Winning 27 World Series has certainly helped the Yankees market their brand for other businesses, but there’s a psychological component to the team’s success in selling itself. Getting a license to slap a Yankees logo on a product or sell a service as “the official….of the Yankees” costs a premium because the demand is high. The demand is high because there is a strong perception that such a license will make the product or service appeal to consumers.

The Royals don’t have the resources currently to launch their own television network and frankly there are more pressing concerns. That might be a possibility at some point if growth continues, but there are still signs that progress is being made.

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Premium leather goods purveyor Dooney & Bourke recently released a new line of Royals licensed items, demonstrating for another well-known company which deals in licensed goods, the Royals are a national brand that is conducive to sales. Dooney & Bourke’s quality and recognition in the realm where the Royals want to be a prominent brand themselves, among individuals who have disposable income, makes this a great sign for the franchise.

Last year, the Royals were one of a few MLB franchises selected for the launch of Loot Crate’s Sports Crate. That product is now in its second season and still helping make the Royals visible everywhere the crates travel. The fact that legendary singer Billy Joel will be playing Kauffman Stadium in September is a sign that the Royals’ venue is attracting the right kind of attention, as is the fact that Forbes ranked Kauffman the eighth-best stadium in the bigs.

The most recent sign that the Royals are building their business the right way is the introduction of the “Bo Jackson Flex Plan.” Following an increasingly-popular all-digital model, fans get 16 mobile ticket vouchers delivered to their MLB At the Ballpark app throughout the season they can use at their discretion. The Royals appear cognizant of trends which suggest that many potential ballpark goers are more interested in the stadium as a social venue than a place to take in a game.

Next: Kansas City Royals: Five new menu items at Kauffman Stadium for 2018

For the hardcore fan who lives and dies with every win and loss, what’s important is that on-field success and business growth can feed off each other. There’s no guarantee that a growth in valuation will result in more frequent trips to the playoffs, but it’s difficult to argue that growth in the Royals’ coffers would more often than not detract from their chances to be a perennial contender.

The Royals may never be an equal to the Yankees, but their days as a regional brand most MLB fans forget exist appear to have passed.