While players and fans are fixated on the World Series starting Wednesday, the 33-year-old vice president of marketing for the Boston Red Sox is already tackling projects to get seats filled in 2014.
You’d think Adam Grossman has a pretty easy job. After all, with the Boston Red Sox owning one of the most iconic brands in professional sports and gunning for their third World Series title in the past decade, how hard could it be to put fans in the seats at Fenway Park?
But Grossman, the team’s 33-year-old vice president for marketing and brand development, takes nothing for granted. While players and fans are fixated on the World Series starting Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals, he’s already preparing for 2014.
“The competition is fiercer than in the past,” Grossman said.
“We have to continue to work to get people to the ballpark, not just once but three or four times a season,” he told JTA in a recent phone interview. And while the Red Sox are blessed with committed owners willing to invest “an abundance of resources” to secure top players every year, he said, “we don’t rest on that.”
Grossman said the team works hard to enhance the experience at Fenway, whether a fan is coming to the ballpark once a year on a family outing or is a season-ticket holder attending all 81 home games.
For example, Grossman and his staff are tackling a long-range project to determine how many times a season-ticket holder actually ventures into the ballpark rather than gives away or sells the ticket. Preferences could then be ascertained and the ticket-holder's needs consistently met, Grossman said.
Installing WiFi is another “really hot topic” for the Red Sox — as it is throughout spectator sports — because fans are seeking “more technological access” through which to enjoy a game, such as viewing replays in multiple angles on their smartphones, he said.
Grossman eyes fans as consumers with choices extending beyond Fenway Park. Every Red Sox game is televised and ticket-resale sites that bypass the box office are proliferating. Plus there are plenty of other recreational offerings.
“We’re talking about an increasingly crowded marketplace,” he said.
Such concerns might seem overstated, given that the Red Sox sold out Fenway Park for 794 consecutive games. But the 10-year streak ended in April and, despite the club rebounding strongly from a disastrous 93-loss last-place season in 2012 to post the American League's best record, its home attendance this season actually dropped by nearly 210,000 fans – the equivalent of about six games with empty seats.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Red Sox have not led the American League in attendance since 1975. Of course, that’s because even the recently refurbished Fenway remains the smallest of the 30 major league stadiums. Still, only four A.L. teams attracted more than the 2.8 million fans who came to see the Sox play there this season.
Sports remains a bottom-line business on the field and in the ledger, so Grossman knows he faces challenges.
The Duke University graduate doesn’t get much rest — his responsibilities extend to advertising, broadcasting, sponsorships and promoting the team via social media. But working for one of baseball’s flagship organizations, and in sports management generally, is a “dream job,” he said.
Grossman joined the Red Sox straight out of Duke in 2002, and within six years he was named to his current position. He soon took what he dubbed a three-year sabbatical with the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins, handling public affairs and marketing, before returning to Boston.
He launched his career in sports by networking with Mark Shapiro, now the president of the Cleveland Indians, Grossman’s hometown team. But he’s become even closer friends with Shapiro’s brother David, who runs the Boston-based MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. Together they established a Red Sox mentoring program at a high school next to Fenway Park. And their families — Grossman is married with a 15-month-old baby — have celebrated several Jewish holidays together and see each other most Sunday nights.
Grossman “obviously has a passion for sports, for sports’ place in the community and how sports teams can advance society,” David Shapiro said. “That’ll always be a part of the fabric of who he is.”
With the World Series back in Boston, Grossman is enjoying every moment, although it has meant longer work days and a shorter off-season to prepare for '14.
“This is what we’re here for: the players, the organization, the fans,” he said. “This is where you want to be, to play in October. For awhile, October felt like a natural extension of the regular season.”