Phillies Prepare for Another Shot at ‘Red October’

October is a distant memory now for Phillies fans. Or at least, they’re pretending it is.

It wasn’t the season finale the Phillies envisioned when they returned home needing only one win to clinch a National League pennant. The Game 7 loss to the Diamondbacks will continue to sting, but there were euphoric moments too: The team rode a red tide of enthusiasm, uniting the Philadelphia region behind the catchphrase “Red October.”

Now as players begin reporting for spring training, they have a chance for redemption, and the team’s communications gurus are no doubt hoping they’ll be able to dust off the “Red October” catchphrase yet again.

In this part of the country, it was a constant drumbeat for those playoff weeks. The slogan was everywhere. It wasn’t just the team’s PR staff promoting it. Fans dropped it liberally in social media posts. Local businesses plastered it on signs. It showed up on billboards and in media reports, and, of course, on Phillies merchandise. There was even a “Rally for Red October Bus Tour.”

“Red October” serves as shorthand for the playoff frenzy of Phillies fans, a home stadium environment that visiting teams attest can be “four hours of hell.” It’s a way for fans to express their hopes for the team with two simple words. It’s also a great example of savvy use of a secondary brand, according to John Allgood, an instructor of sports management at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.

“You don’t really see that that much in professional sports, when someone can create a secondary brand that goes along with the primary brand,” Allgood said.

That primary brand, of course, includes the Phillies’ name, logo, and familiar red colors. Fans snap that up in the team shop in the form of jerseys, hats and more. “But you just created another brand that you could sell merchandise for,” Allgood noted, as fans now also shell out money for the Red October Phillies gear when they make it to the postseason.

This secondary brand helps build a community and identity around the team, strengthens the overall brand, and “just increases the intensity of the culture,” Allgood said.

It’s a culture he’s experienced. “You have to personally have gone to a game during the playoffs to understand how that place goes insane for their team.”

Hitting gold with that perfect secondary brand isn’t an easy feat. Certainly other teams have managed to find the sweet spot, like the Steelers with their terrible towels. But try to think of another team in the MLB playoffs last year that managed to garner that same “Red October” momentum with a slogan.

The Orioles tried “Take October,” which didn’t take off for obvious reasons. The Phillies’ NLCS opponent, the Arizona Diamondbacks, made it to the World Series even though the best they could come up with was #EmbracetheChaos. (There, they reached the limits of their chaos and fell victim to the buzz saw that was the Texas Rangers. #texaschainsawmassacre?)

Of Red October, “I can’t really think of a secondary brand that has been that embraced,” Allgood said. “It’s all over. It’s everywhere in Philly.”

The phrase has been around for a while. Back in the day, it was always fair game for a pun-happy headline writer playing off the title of the Tom Clancy book and movie adaptation, “The Hunt for Red October.” It popped up here and there on social media as Phillies fans tested it out. But the phrase really exploded on social media in 2009, the year the Phillies fell short in the World Series in their bid for back-to-back titles.

After 2011, the Phillies didn’t have much use for the slogan for about a decade, but in 2022 it came roaring back, embraced by the team as a rallying cry.

Unlike some of the other team efforts at slogans, the Phillies have found one that fits like a glove.

“That’s what makes it unique, is that it actually fits perfectly and the city has bought into it,” Allgood said. It amplifies that wild home crowd experience that makes people willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a ticket.

This kind of brand savvy isn’t a matter of luck, Allgood said. “I think it has to be well thought out, researched, understanding your fan base.”

Right now, that fan base is indulging in some spring hope, rooting for another hard-playing, get-the-uniforms-dirty, fun season with a Red October to cap it off.

“It fits the city’s grit. It fits the Phillies’ grit and I just think it’s something to get behind,” Allgood said.

What Business Leaders Need to Know About Generative AI

The recent successes of generative AI models like ChatGPT and DALL-E have left savvy executives wondering how this new technology will revolutionize their industry. No one can predict the impact gen AI will have on an enterprise, but smart executives know that they...

Six Tips for Building Resilience in a Tough Job Market

Article written by Jessica Venturi, a career counselor with the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. Political forces, emerging technologies, and other unprecedented pressures on the job market can feel particularly daunting to job seekers. We can do...