Nats COO Andy Feffer was oft-mentioned in recent weeks, as all sorts of national publications covered Natitude, and Take Back the Park, and the general progression of the Nats into national prominence.
Since I quoted Feffer extensively when writing about both the Natitude slogan and the Take Back the Park weekend, I figured I should catch up with the front-office exec now that the series is over. Here’s a Q and A.
So how would you assess the weekend from a marketing standpoint?
To me, it couldn’t have gone any better. I had a strong feeling our fans would show up this weekend, and as I looked at the crowd, I was proud to be a Washingtonian. Our fans understood how important these games were, and our fans rose to the challenge. They made a really strong statement, coming to the park. And to all those fans questioning whether Washington was really a great sports town and whether our fans would show up, all you had to do was look around at the park each day and see a crowd that was energetic and that rose to the moment.
The fans wrote this story, not you or I. They made a bold statement about what Washington sports is, and I see this as a preview of what to come. It doesn’t end this weekend; this was just the beginning. I think it was a really important moment for our franchise. I really think it was a defining moment....For all the folks that thought otherwise or doubted Washington as a sports town, I thought we reaffirmed that this was a great place for sports. The same week that this happened, 20,000 fans showed up to see RGIII, the Caps were in the playoffs, lighting that up. There’s no better place than Washington for sports.
Do you have numbers on the weekend?
Over 106,000 showed up for the weekend. Of those 106,000, the story before had always been that there were more Phillies fans than Nats fans. I thought our fans took back the park. The overwhelming majority of the fans all three nights made a statement that was certainly strong....This isn’t our story; this is the fans’ story of what they did. I really think it was an organic movement. It was exciting, something I think everyone was proud to be part of.
How long will all the Natitude signage remain up?
That was just for the weekend. We’re back to [Nationals Park]. Hopefully everyone’s energized and the story continues. I think it’s going to be an exciting summer.
Did you hear from any fans who thought the Natitude stuff was cheesy or excessive?
No, it was really overwhelming the amount of personal notes I got from people I didn’t even know, or our staff got from fans who wrote really heartfelt notes about how special it was to have our fans fill the park. That certainly was gratifying, the amount of positive feedback we had. They’re happy this is truly their park. I also want to extend my own personal thanks to all the fans that showed up. They made it happen. It’s really their moment. A heartfelt, genuine thanks to them for making this truly a memorable weekend.
Davey had that one sign taken down and talked about how he couldn’t pronounce Natitude; did you hear from him at all?
The beauty about Davey is he’s this direct baseball guy. He might not be able to pronounce it, but he exudes Natitude more than anyone. He’s got that attitude and edge that says we’re here, we’re coming and we play hardball. Davey, more than anybody, has that Natitude. He exudes Natitude like nobody. He might not be able to pronounce it, but he exudes it. As for that sign, it wasn’t perfectly flat, it was wavy. It was right in the pitchers’ view and it wasn’t a flat surface. It had nothing to do with [the message].
So what’s next?
The whole Take Back the Park effort was one dimension of Natitude. Natitude will continue to be defined by the fans. As the story of the season unfolds, fans will participate in new ways, and we’ll provide the platform for them to do it. Hard Times took it upon themselves to create Natitude wings; hot, hotter and Natitude. They did that themselves. I think you’ll see more of that, new things will develop on their own. It’s less a marketing initiative than an organic movement that becomes fan driven, not team driven. Where it goes, we’ll have to see, but wherever it goes it’ll be fan driven and participatory, not driven by us.
Obviously a lot of people said the atmosphere was electric for much of the weekend. How can you get the atmosphere like that when it isn’t the Phillies in town?
It’s got to happen by itself. I think it will happen by itself....[Exciting moments] don’t just happen against the Phillies; they can be shared every night, and if you’re not there for them, you’ll miss them. Everybody knows it’s coming; it’s happening right before us. There’ll be plenty of times that something special happens, whether it’s a Monday night against the Astros or a Saturday against the Phillies, and you’ll be able to say, I was there for that.