New Blood: Rakuten Golden Eagles

» 14 February 2009 » In sports business »

When talking about sports business in Japanese Professional Baseball, you’d have to say that one of the most aggressive teams is the Rakuten Golden Eagles, an expansion team that joined Nippon Professional Baseball in the 2005 season. One of two teams (the other being the Softbank Hawks) owned by a new generation information technology company, the team has been showing an aggressive approach to changing the color of business in professional baseball.

Their ballpark, Kleenex Stadium Miyagi, is a major league-style ballpark, being the first ballpark in Japan introducing the field level seats. The seating in the stadium has changed with renovation and has expanded recently with group seating near the right field section for family customers. Another major league-style section is the “Eagles’ Nest”, an indoor lounge above the first base side which gives the fans another option. This area can be used for events and parties on non-game days as well. The stadium also offers a day-care center for the fan’s children. On weekends and holidays, the parents will be able to leave their kids from the time the gate opens until thirty minutes after the final out. The stadium also provides an entertainment center called “Children’s Land.” During games this area will be open with entertainment attractions, such as a dome shaped trampoline, an air shute, and a train ride attraction for not only kids, but their parents as well.

Selling stadium naming rights is not common in Japan yet, and Stadium Miyagi is one of the few ballparks that have taken that opportunity to expand their business. Another sponsorship business they have been able to expand is on their LED scoreboard. New spaces on the scoreboard have allowed the opportunities to add sponsors and expand their business in another way.

Another interesting entertainment that the Rakuten Golden Eagles provides is their own cheerleading squad, known as the “Tohoku Golden Angels.” This will be the fifth year and the cheerleading team has reached to a partnership with United Spirit Association/Japan which has its headquarters in the United States. They look at this new partnership to not only benefit the baseball and sports world, but an opportunity to learn from cheerleading in the United States and find ways to provide optimism to northern Japan.

Optimism will be helpful in an economic downturn and the Golden Eagles are preparing to be creative with their ticket sales strategies as the future becomes less predictable. This is a strategy that American fans are familiar with, but the Golden Eagles will be the first to implement in Japanese professional baseball. Every season game will be categorized into one of the five set prices for tickets regarding the time of the year, day of the week, and opponents. With flex pricing in place, the average price per ticket will be lower than the previous season.

As economic crisis hits the world, this may not be a bad time for the individual teams in Japanese professional baseball to expand their business by being creative and implementing the “Sport Management” way of thinking. Being too dependent on the owner’s business could only hurt in a time like this… It will be interesting to see what the other teams are coming up with and I will touch on another team’s new business idea next.

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