Irreparable Harm?

Ed. Note: Sick of Bobby pictures, Robby declined to add an AP photo to this post. I've added the obvious Bobby marketing video. That lisp is golden.

ROBBY:

So apparently there's some ongoing contractual dispute between the Anaheim Ducks and Bobby Ryan. Maybe you've heard about it? Rather than rehashing what's happened to this point, I thought I would take a different approach. How does this situation impact the Ducks from a marketing perspective and what possible (and realistic) solutions exist to avert losing Bobby or alienating the fanbase.

There's no arguing that Bobby Ryan has quickly become one of the more popular players over the past few years. He's young, talented, and American. He represented the Ducks well at the Olympics, and his boyish charm and adorable lisp have made him a beloved figure in Anaheim (well, at least until July 1st). In fact, just a few weeks ago, at the Open House, the biggest concern amongst most Anaheim fans was re-signing Bobby (with Teemu a close second).

His popularity among the fans has translated into most of the team's marketing efforts, and with Niedermayer hanging ‘em up last month, I'm sure the marketing folks at the Ducks were/are counting on prominently featuring Bobby in promotions going forward. From the commercials and pre-game videos that feature Bobby (along with Getz, Perry, Hiller, and Selanne) to exclusive merchandise at the team store (those hideous orange Bobby Bobby Bobby shirts, personalized pucks, bobble heads, etc.) and the popularity of Ryan jerseys throughout the arena, it's undeniable that Bobby has become an important marketing figure for the team.

As several commenters have pointed out, the window may be quickly closing for Bobby to avoid causing deep, lasting damage to his reputation among Ducks fans. If Anaheim loses Bobby, or if they fail to reach an amicable agreement with him, they run the risk of losing one of their biggest marketing assets. In real terms for the Ducks, this likely means decreased jersey sales (most people probably already have their Getz and Selanne jerseys, and the team doesn't have too many other marketable stars that will compel fans to pony up for a jersey, new design or not) and other Bobby-related merchandise. The team would also have to revise any of its marketing materials that heavily feature Bobby, a cost they probably would prefer to avoid. Finally, it would rob the Ducks of a legitimate American star to market, a luxury that many teams do not currently enjoy. Bobby is a valuable vehicle for gaining recognition league-wide due to his talent and American birth, and the Ducks would certainly prefer to avoid losing that if possible. Further complicating the situation is the fact that few marketable stars are available league-wide should they fail to reach an agreement with him.

So what to do? How can the situation realistically resolve itself such that fans don't want to lynch him if he resigns? After all, it will be important on the ice to have his talent back in the line-up, but off the ice, it would really hurt his peripheral value to the team.

Personally, I think a realistic situation involves Bobby signing the 5 year/$25 million deal with an added no-trade clause. This allows both sides to spin the decision situation as really being about trying to keep Bobby a Duck as long as possible, and both sides get pretty fair value out of the deal. Obviously this is contingent on Bobby accepting a deal he's already turned down, but the addition of a no-trade and the ability to avoid the ire of the fanbase is probably appealing at this point. Not only that, but a no-trade clause also signifies that Bobby is considered to be an important piece of the team going forward, something that has been speculated to be a sticking point in negotiations thus far.

So what say you? Do you think Bobby is an important marketing element to the team? If you do, how do you think this situation could be resolved in a realistic way that benefits all sides and manages to preserve Bobby's love from the fans? Any proposed deal should be fair to both sides.

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