clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankee Stadium has a branding problem

If you were thinking about taking a Yankee Stadium tour, you’re better off watching the commercials at home for free

Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoff Eastern Conference Semifinal Leg 2 - Toronto FC v New York City FC Photo by Michael Stewart/Getty Images

Back in October, the Yankees announced a few new additions to the stadium in order to liven the place up. They added kid-friendly areas, some new bars, and a few drinking sections. It would have been easy to complain about the team’s insistence on adding even more branded areas to Yankee Stadium, but at the time I chose to defend them because I felt it was a step in the right direction. After recently taking a tour of the place, however, I need to speak out.

In October, I made excuses for the team:

The Yankees, of course, are a business, and they will take any opportunity to add an extra brand to their exuberant list of corporate sponsors.

This obviously still holds true, but at the time I felt the team was doing it in good faith. Any business is going to want corporate sponsors to help pay off the bills from trying to improve the overall product. It’s just that I assumed they would make an effort to balance the advertisements with some substance. It is now clear to me that the Yankees have no interest in any form of balance.

We, as a society, are overly advertised to. Brands want to get in our faces about practically everything at all times. For the sake of full disclosure, I actually work in advertisement. Every day I read about how some new brand is changing the way we impede the daily lives of potential customers. Branded content, native advertising, display ads and video ads, brand activation, and corporate sponsorships are just a few of the best methods to garner attention from the masses. The Yankees, as you might have already noticed, peddle in corporate sponsorships—heavily.

For this reason, I must take back my previous statement:

It does feel a little too brand-y, but I’ll take that over stagnation.

While I still appreciate the effort to make Yankee Stadium into something a little more interesting, I can now see through their efforts for what they are—another commercial to put brands in front of our faces. I can see this now because I had the opportunity to see what they were doing to the stadium in person.

For Christmas this year, I received tickets for a tour of Yankee Stadium. I took my first tour back when the place first opened, but that was years ago. It would be fun to see things again. The last time I went, we weren’t able to see the locker room because the Yankees were at Citi Field playing a series against the Mets and the players had kept all their stuff at the stadium, despite technically being on the road. It was disappointing at the time, but I understood it then, and I understand that now. Going in the winter wasn’t going to stop me.

Except we didn’t get to see the locker room, or the dugout, or step onto the warning track, or even see Monument Park. What we got instead was a walking tour advertisement, and it was kind of insulting. Instead of sitting in the dugout, like I did the last time I went, we were allowed the privilege of entering a luxury box from the SAP Suite Lounge and Board Room. It was impeccably sanitized and offered us a look at the field that no member of the 15-20 person group could likely ever afford. During our time at this stop, we were all yelled at by the tour staff to keep off the leather couches. There was also absolutely no sitting in the window-facing bar stools, either. Look but don’t touch was the message here.

I didn’t get to feel the warning track clay and dirt under my feet, because instead, I was given the honor of touring the Delta Sky360 Suite that had opened only a year earlier. The place looked like a hotel dining and bar room that had been abandoned in the offseason. The outdoor patio felt like a furniture display at a department store. I could not have cared less about these luxurious amenities, but what I did find amusing was the series of small baseball-sized smudges that were pressed onto the outside wall to help remind me that we were still in a baseball stadium.

On our way to these destinations, we were taken through the inner hallways of the stadium, accented by print photos of the most accomplished Yankees throughout the team’s history. It seemed like a nice touch at the time, but after the fact it just felt like the Yankees were dressing up an empty apartment to make it look like someone actually lived there. There was no Monument Park, but I did get to walk through the FedEx Banquet and Conference Center, because these are the sights that I definitely came to see.

The highlight of the whole tour ended up being the New York Yankees Museum (presented by Bank of America), where at least you were allowed to see something about baseball. It’s honestly too bad we didn’t get to check out the Audi Yankees Club, Mohegan Sun Sports Bar, and the Party City Party Suites. Perhaps once they are done with all the construction this offseason, they can take fans out to see the Kids Clubhouse presented by Sunrun, the MasterCard Batter’s Eye Cafe, the AT&T Sports Lounge, and the Budweiser Party Deck.

The one thing I got out of the tour was an updated look at the construction taking place in center field right now.

Two whole sections of the bleachers are now gone. I didn’t realize they would be eliminating entire sections like that, since not all those seats were partial view. This just seems like an excuse to eliminate cheap seats and put something bright and shiny in its place. I later found out that the two landings will be called Frank’s RedHot Terrace and Toyota Terrace, and now I’m just done.

As our tour slinked back into the Great Hall after traveling the circumference of the stadium, I asked one of the tour guides why we didn’t visit Monument Park. Apparently, due to the construction in the outfield seats, they are not taking people over there at this time. OK, I suppose I get that, but what about the locker room and dugout?

We went New Year’s Eve day, which was now a few days removed from the Pinstripe Bowl, which took place on the 28th. Maybe that event left the place in disarray? The field was still done up for football, and I have no idea how long it takes for them to get everything back to normal. No one ever explained it to us. Nothing was said and no one seemed to pay any mind to the fact that we had just gone on an hour long corporate tour, as if they were hoping we would invest in stock.

I was disappointed, my girlfriend—who had paid for the tickets—was unhappy too, maybe even more so. As we left the stadium, she said she felt as if we had just paid to be advertised to, and she’s right. We spent more time hearing about Delta, FedEx, SAP, Toyota, and New Era than we talked about Yankee players not named Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter. I don’t know what anyone else felt about the tour, but there were a few who were there for the first time. One group was visiting from Australia for their first trip to New York City. This should not be the image that the Yankees leave them with—a neon sign blinking off and on into everlasting continuum.

Maybe in a few years, we’ll be sure to see all the places that we missed when they rename them the Papa John’s Home Dugout, Monument Park presented by Jeep, maybe the W.B. Mason Visiting Bullpen, and the AT&T Grandstand. We were pretty unhappy by the end of the tour, and in the most congruent way possible, the tour ended with our guide telling us to take advantage of $5 off for every $20 spent at the Hard Rock Cafe on the premises. We didn’t.

When I had the time to look up the Yankee Stadium tour details, I saw no mention of planned changes due to construction or the Pinstripe Bowl. I’m not so blind to see that we might have caught them at a bad time, however, as paying customers, we deserve to know what we’re paying to go see. If every other point of interest is unavailable, it might be better that they don’t do it at all instead of offering up one prolonged corporate commercial.

This seems to be an ongoing issue at the new Yankee Stadium—replacing style (or lack thereof) over substance—because in the end, it doesn’t feel like this place has all that much to offer.