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Padres Marketing Exec: ‘Control the Controllables’

Wayne Partello realizes he has no control over the baseball games at Petco Park — at least what happens on the field. But the executive sweats the details about the rest of the ballpark experience.

His job, he said, is to “control the controllables.”

San Diego’s Design Forward Alliance heard some thoughts from the San Diego Padres’ chief marketing officer in late July, with the thought that Partello’s work at the ballpark offers a wealth of lessons that transfer well to other areas of business.

Partello is in charge of the stadium experience at Petco Park, including the music and the scoreboard displays, as well as the information and stories presented to fans.

Partello’s design and business tips for his audience to take away included the following:

• Remove friction (that is, make your product easy to use). There is a lot people can do with their entertainment dollar in San Diego, he said.

• Create for all senses. Baseball games at Petco Park are a visual spectacle, but Partello, who was trained in the radio business, spent ample time talking about creating a soundtrack for the games. For example, the public address system plays a common sound clip for a home run (the ship’s horn from an aircraft carrier). A strike out or a walk have their own unique sound clips.

• Know that your initial plan will not be your final plan.

• Test, test, test.

Asked how to measure the impact of his work, Partello urged his audience to “get out of the bubble” and mingle with customers. “Walk the park … you hear things,” he said.

One question from the audience was how the Padres can create fan unity when the uniform colors keep changing regularly. A person looking up at the stands doesn’t see a “sea of color” showing overwhelming support for the home team.

Partello allowed that the only consistency in uniforms “has been inconsistency.” The team owners’ goals are to work “to determine who we are” and to set a color scheme by 2019 — the team’s 50th anniversary in Major League Baseball.

“We’ll do research in the off season,” Partello said.

The Design Forward Alliance grew from work in San Diego’s design community and at UC San Diego (with substantial help from Professor Don Norman). The group staged a large design conference in June 2016.

A second conference is planned for Oct. 25-27. Information is available at www.designforwardSD.com.

The alliance has big plans, said Scott Robinson, president of the nonprofit (and CEO of the Fresh Form Interactive branding agency). The alliance wants to put San Diego into the running to be a world design capital. The Montreal-based World Design Organization gives the title to one city in the world every two years. Taipei, Taiwan is the current world design capital, and Mexico City will take the mantle in 2018.

The alliance also gave its members a civic challenge: a homework assignment that all San Diegans can take up. The 2017 civic challenge asks the question, How do we create a San Diego where we all move freely? One component of the challenge is how to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. More on the topic is available at D4SD.org.

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