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“Young Power” Returns to the Stands

Posted September. 22, 2005 07:44,   


The Doosan Bears played against the visiting Hyundai Unicorns at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on the evening of September 20. The teams that made it to the postseason have already been determined, and since this was a weekday there were only 3,731 spectators, far less than the Bears’ average of 9,945 for a home game. The cheers coming from the home stands, however, were as fervent as ever.

Kim Mee-seon (24, office worker) is a baseball fan who fell in love with the sport last year. Kim said, “I thought baseball was so fun when I first watched a game with my cousins, so I joined an online fraternity named ‘Greatest Bears,’” and added, “I visit the stadium an average of five or six times a month.”

Cho Hee-jin (24), who says she first came to the baseball stadium with her boyfriend two months ago, said, “I had no idea baseball was such a thrilling game. These days we go to the baseball stadium instead of the cinema for dates.”

The youth are returning to the baseball stadium. Kim Jeong-hwan (36, office worker), president of the Lotte Giants supporters group “Giants Forever,” said, “I visit every single home game every year, and I have noticed this year that there are more young people than usual.”

The number of spectators for professional baseball has been persistently decreasing since it reached a climax in 1995 at 5,406,374. Last year’s figure was 2.33 million, which is equivalent to the pre-1989 seasons in which there were fewer than 378 games per season. This year, however, 3.31 million fans have visited the baseball stadium as of September 20, the largest number in eight years since 1997 (3.9 million).

It is encouraging to know that the main reason for the sudden increase is the return of young fans who had been almost extinct until recently. Team marketing analysis shows that youth have been turning away from stadiums since the mid-1990s due to the huge popularity of online games such as “Starcraft” and the explosive growth of the film market that is symbolized by the increase in multiplex cinemas.

Then what is the reason for their comeback?

Baek Seung-chan and Chu Jae-rim, a 20-year-old college student couple, visited Jamsil on September 20. Baek said, “I like this wide area with the view of the sky,” and Chu said, “I enjoy cheering with the others.” Lee Yoon-seung (19, college student), cheerleader of “Wyverns Realm,” an SK Wyverns fan group, said, “I like the way we feel the same thrilling sense of identity that we felt while street cheering during the 2002 Korea Japan World Cup.”

Various marketing efforts, such as scoreboard events, cleaning-time shows, free admission events, and sales for special days, also appeal to the youth.

In addition, the fact that the Lotte Giants, who have been the lowest ranking team in the league for the last four years, have been great this year, and other low ranking teams have improved in general, thereby producing a synergy effect.

Hwang Woo-suk, director of the LG Twins’ Marketing Team, said, “We might as well call it the Lotte effect. Whenever we have a home game against the Lotte Giants, half of the spectators are Lotte fans.”

Sung-Kyu Kim kimsk@donga.com