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'Manny-gate' could hurt Dodgers marketing

May 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
"Mannywood" is gone, and the Dodgers are already feeling the fallout. With Manny Ramirez suspended for a drug violation, the team temporarily loses its top gate attraction. His suspension could turn into a marketing nightmare.There are Manny Ramirez billboards all over town. Manny is very popular and a big part of the Dodgers marketing strategy, but now the team faces a dilemma. He's going to be coming back, so they have to deal with his suspension very carefully.

From the beginning, Manny has been a fan favorite, and the Dodgers took advantage of it.

Promoting Manny "dreadlock caps" and, of course, Ramirez shirts. A section in left field was named "Mannywood" for fans who wanted to be closer to their hero.

But now it's "Manny-Won't," since he won't be around for 49 more games.

"He just got caught," said one fan. "He should have known better than that."

Mannywood ticket-holders will be getting refunds if they want. For the Dodgers, it's all about turning this into something positive.

"They've put in a lot effort in, a lot of emotion, a lot of money into marketing Manny Ramirez since he's been here since last August," said David Carter, executive director, USC Sports Business Institute.

Carter says the Dodgers history and tradition is its best asset.

"Don't run from your brand," said Carter. "I think right now is a time to say we're all in this together. We're part of the Dodger organization. We're going to get through this and go back to the history and tradition. Manny Ramirez is a very small part of that and now is a time to communicate that to all their fans and their corporate partners and their TV partners and everyone else, that the Dodgers will be the Dodgers."

At the Dodgers Clubhouse store in Universal City there was Manny memorabilia on display and for sale. People say it's all up to Manny now.

"The game's still going to go on, you know?" said Dodgers fan Jennifer Bueno. "It's not going to stop anything. People are still going to go to the Dodger games and stuff."

"It's real disappointing," said Dodgers fan George Villanueva. "He'll still come back though."

"If he steps up to the plate, admits mistakes, shows contrition, wants to move forward, this community will embrace him 100 percent," said sports agent Jerome Stanley.

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