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Friday, October 31, 2014
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Gazzolo Column: Marketing wasn't Bucs' strong suit

Last Modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 10:49 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

It was just two years ago that hopes were sky high.

The Swashbucklers were under new management and there was fresh energy in the franchise.

There were high hopes for the future.

Not even two full seasons later, all seems lost.

On Thursday, when the Swashbucklers closed their doors, the promises of what was to come became what might have been.

How it slipped away is for debate.

Lake Charles is a market that has lost teams before, so this is nothing new.

The city has lost a hockey team, pro baseball teams, more than a few basketball teams and now an indoor football team.

But the Bucs had a nine-year run so this is a bit of a surprise, especially when it comes to the timing.

There were, however, more than a few signs of trouble.

While sponsorship was strong, there was a lack of fan support this season. A bad schedule from the league didn’t help either.

Also, the club lost its first three games, all at home, putting a wet blanket on early excitement.

Then there was the lack of marketing. Word never really got out about when the team was playing at home and when it was not. This proved to be perhaps the biggest stumbling block of all.

“We have to look at everything to see what happened,” said Swashbucklers president Chris Meaux. “Clearly, we made our share of mistakes.

“Maybe it was how we promoted the team, or maybe we just misread the market. It is hard to say right now. One thing is for sure, we never got the word out about our product enough.”

It has left this group of owners scratching their heads for most of the two seasons they were running the show.

“I can’t tell you for sure if it was one thing or another,” Meaux said. “We tried to put a great product on the field and we just never did get the public to respond the way we needed.

“We tried, we just never were able to make the connection.”

In the end, the Bucs’ ownership tried to treat the team like it was more professional, and that might have been their mistake.

They figured if they put a winning team on the field, then everything else would work out.

Instead, the success of the franchise wasn’t about the record, it was about something else.

Thom Hager, who ran the club before Meaux and his partners, maybe had it right. He put on a show and the fans seemed to follow.

Sure, it was part carnival, but it seemed to work. Many, including myself, took shots at what Hager’s Bucs were, which at times resembled a sideshow. Still, Hager had it right.

Sometimes you do need the monkey with a tin cup out in front to draw a crowd.

Hager took no joy in the Bucs’ demise.

“It is sad,” Hager said. “These guys tried. Chris really tried. He wanted so much to make it work.

“One thing you have to do is get the word out, get people to take a look at your product. We did that in a lot of different ways.”

Hager admitted to giving away tickets which in the end may have devalued the product itself.

“I have always liked the promotional, marketing side of things, especially in Lake Charles,” Hager said. “For me that was the fun of it.”

It also appears to be the missing piece to the current’s Swashbucklers program. They seemed to be more about football than self promotion.

“I do think we maybe could have done some more in the marketing and promotions, that is one thing I will take a long look at,” Meaux said.

With an economic boom expected to hit the area, Meaux and his group where hoping be a big part of that.

“We were committed to the area,” he said. “It just didn’t work out.”

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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