The Effect of Ownership Marketing Expertise on MLB Attendance and Digital Consumption

Ted Hayduk and Matthew Walker

Scholarship has established that characteristics of a firm’s upper echelon affect firm-level outcomes in a range of industries. In professional sport, firms depend on live game attendance and, increasingly, the consumption of online content to generate local revenue. The ability to drive these two revenue streams depends on a franchise’s competencies in marketing, relationship management, and brand building. In this research, we speculate those competencies start at the top, i.e., with ownership. Using upper echelons theory (UET), we hypothesize that franchises with owners who have substantial marketing expertise are better able to drive attendance and online search traffic. Using a panel dataset of 30 teams over a 10-season period, we found that ownership expertise in marketing was generative of significantly more attendance but perhaps not significantly greater online traffic. The results are discussed in the context of UET, and implications for practitioners are presented.