A-Rod invests in coconut water brand, but endorses another

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Darren Rovell does great work at CNBC covering a range of sports business topics and also runs one of the most interesting Twitter feeds around. He’s been talking for several weeks about a rising product called “coconut water,” which is quickly gaining big-time investors and big-time pitch men from the sports world.

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is one of those pitch men. And, well, he’s also an investor. Let the conflict begin.

Vita Coco, a brand of coconut water that did $40 million in business last year, announced Wednesday that it had signed Rodriguez to an endorsement deal and even released a picture (seen on the right) with A-Rod holding their product. But Rovell heard Wednesday that the slugger is actually a long-time investor in another coconut water brand called Zico, and that his ad for Vita Coco has now caused confusion within both companies.

A-Rod attempted to bring clarity to the matter in typical clumsy fashion on Wednesday:

“I don’t discuss my personal investments,” Rodriguez told CNBC, in statement read by his business manager, Guy Oseary. “What I will say is that since Zico changed their formula to concentrate, I felt that the taste and functionality was compromised and that’s when I started to only drink Vita Coco. I love the taste and purity of Vita Coco.”

So A-Rod pumped money into a coconut water brand, then decided he liked another coconut water brand better and is now helping to sell product for a competitor. Zico CEO Mark Rampolla told Rovell this week that if Rodriguez “truly feels that he made a better choice, we’ll be more than happy to return his money.”

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.