Editor’s note: The Kansas City Royals is an advertiser with Startland News, although this report was produced independently by Startland News’ nonprofit newsroom.
Kansas City’s hometown baseball team is coming to the plate with a new pitch as opening day nears: a marketing campaign for the Royals that puts its city, fans and inspiring local entrepreneurs at the top of the roster.
Ahead of March 30’s big home opener, the Royals rolled out its tagline for the 2023 season — “Welcome to the City” — a campaign expected to focus on small business owners and the unique individuals that make up the fan base.
“When you fill a stadium with 40,000 people, every single person has a different story, different point of view, a different memory of going to a game; that’s who we plan to highlight,” shared Tony Snethen, vice president of brand innovation for the Royals and Pine Tar Collective agency lead.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) March 6, 2023
The baseball club wanted to break away from the repetition of past campaigns like “Be Royal,” “Forever Royal,” and “Raised Royal,” he added.
In addition to featuring select community members, the “Welcome to the City” initiative is expected to visually highlight locations across the city that often don’t see the spotlight — like barber shops, coffee shops, and cafes — to really give a sense of who and what truly defines Kansas City.
“(Chairman and CEO) John Sherman told us in a company-wide meeting last year that we are stewards of this team and I think that really kind of stuck with us,” Snethen explained. “We need to do something powerful for our community. While the Royals will always be our focus, we wanted to be very inclusive in our messaging about what the city means to us. We take a lot of pride in the city that we live in — whether it’s big businesses or small businesses— we’re fully supportive of everyone and we want this campaign to kind of feel that.”
With the new airport terminal and the NFL Draft in town next month, attention is on Kansas City right now, he continued, and the Royals wanted to build on that attention.
“We need to take advantage of the spotlight because we know the gift and the treasure that we have here in Kansas City,” he said. “I think a lot of people still look at it as a flyover city and a midway stop to their destination. I think using the spotlight that’s coming up in April with the NFL Draft — and then the World Cup (in 2026) and everything surrounding it — I think is going to be an eye-opening experience for everyone involved that really hasn’t given Kansas City a chance. So we’re definitely going to look for opportunities to lean in while there are people in town experiencing it for the first time.”
Although “Welcome to the City” might sound like a campaign for the new proposed downtown ballpark, Snethen noted, that was not the intention.
“While it wasn’t created for that, it does work well with it if that conversation does come up,” he added.
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Every individual element of the campaign is expected to help paint a broader picture of Kansas City, Snethen said, culminating in a creative reveal when the initiative draws to a close.
“At the end of the year, what we want to do is create a map where people can see all the locations that we used in our creative around the city and metro,” he explained. “Just to show that, we see you, we hear you, and we’ve walked in the same steps as you. That’s how we want to bring it to life.”
Despite the new campaign, Snethen continued, the Royals won’t completely abandon last season’s “Bring Out the Blue,” what he defined as support — however you see fit — for the team.
“That’s really our blue carpet welcome mat to the team when they come back into town from a road trip,” he said. “It’ll happen 13 times this season, including opening day where we want the city to wrap their arms around the team.”
Although the ball club plans to leave its repetitive tag lines in the past, nostalgia is far from benched. The Royals are bringing back a fan favorite on opening day, Snethen shared: wearing full powder blue uniforms to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first time the Royals wore them.
“The timing felt right to give the fans what they wanted,” he added. “We’re really excited. Right now, we’re saying it’s just for opening day, but you never know, there could be a big series in October that we want to break them out for.”
Click here to learn more about the Royals’ March 30 opening day plans.