The Rays have put out a quasi call-to-arms to fans and players for the 2014 season, and you can expect to see this slogan all over Rays social media accounts as well as on television, print and radio outlets starting this weekend.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Rays senior vice president Mark Fernandez emphasized the hope of bringing fans together at the Trop to cheer on the Rays through their 2014 marketing campaign. The theme is more aggressive than last year's "Welcome Home" matra, but no less appropriate.
"The slogan celebrates the excitement, high energy, and passion for the team on the field and in the community," Fernandez said. Yes, Rays fans have constantly been criticized nationally for the team's poor attendance at home games, despite winning 90 or more games five of the last six years. Unfortunately, it's growing hard to combat, as the team's attendance has been the lowest in baseball the past two seasons.
Locally, the Rays support has always been there and statistics show it's growing. In 2012, Rays games saw a 28 percent increase in television ratings to 4.90 Nielson score, followed by a slight increase in 2013 up to a 4.93 rating. The all-time high for the team was in 2010, when the team drew in an average 5.90, which was fifth in Major League Baseball. Without getting into too much about the over-analyzed stadium saga, the struggle will always be there for the Rays to draw in consistently average numbers while the team plays at Tropicana Field, a long journey for most Rays fans when the alternative is television.
However, as we have seen in the past, campaigns can be monumental. Maddon has employed his own "Eat Last" encouragement to the players this season, regarding personal and team leadership, but it had a more personal application than what should be mainstream. The hope is to continue an attitude in leadership to join the laid back atmosphere of the clubhouse. The "9=8" mantra in 2008 was created by Joe Maddon as well, but it was far reaching. It resonated and energized the fan base, uniting both the team and fans throughout their run to the World Series.
The same thing could very well happen with "Rays Up" in 2014. After an "unusual" off-season, which included the Rays holding on to ace David Price and newer fan favorites James Loney and David DeJesus, excitement could arguably be higher in the Tampa area more than in past years. Add in Wil Myers and Evan Longoria as your everyday middle-of-the-lineup players and there's a lot to look forward to this season.
The 2014 marketing campaign can accomplish a few different things. "Rays Up" can energize the Rays fans fed up with this kind of ridicule by media and rival teams. Remember this?
Don't worry @raysbaseball we look forward to seeing you in Tampa in September for our home games at the Trop.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) July 30, 2013
I believe it can also act as a unifying "battle cry" for both fans and players as they prepare to prove everyone wrong -- again -- as the "small-market team that could" in 2014.
Are you ready to Rays Up? Get ready, the season is almost here.
P.S. If you type in "Rays Up" into YouTube, this is what you'll find:
*Video was made in 2012