By: Chris Larson
When you look at the entire wide world of sports, especially the four professional major sports, there is one area that the MLB severely lacks in and that is the idea of marketing, particularly marketing star players from each franchise. Sure, there's marketing in individual cities whether it be in New York City with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, in Houston with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, or even Phoenix with Paul Goldschmidt. Every city markets their own franchise stars, but overall, baseball has not stayed up-to-date in the marketing department like the other three major sports have.
For instance, when you look at the NBA, you can automatically name many stars that line NBA rosters around the league. Whether it be LeBron James aka King James, James Hardin of the Houston Rockets, or Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, there are stars abound all over. The same can be said for both the NHL and NFL also. Both of those leagues do a great job of marketing their stars and fans, who may not even watch either sport, can at least name a handful of players from both sports. The same can't be said for baseball though.
If you were to ask a group from the younger generation (18 and under) or those who didn't watch the game of baseball to name five baseball players in the game today, the list would likely start with Mike Trout and/or Bryce Harper followed up by maybe Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, and potentially Jose Altuve. That's a group of five that you would be lucky to hear listed out by someone because the last three probably wouldn't be mentioned in most cases. In fact, Bryce Harper is garnering more attention this season leading up to free agency because he has a much bigger brand compared to Manny Machado, which is something that needs to change.
There are so many superstars in the game today and guys that are franchise-like players, that the MLB is doing a huge disservice by not involving them more often in marketing campaigns. It's time for baseball to finally embrace the talent that is all throughout the league and start promoting it at a high level because that's what's going to get people interested in the game.
In addition, you can't overlook the fact that baseball continues to have the oldest viewership of the four major professional sports either. According to Nielsen TV ratings and an article written by Karl Paul of Market Watch, "50% of it's audience is 55 or older compared to just 41% ten years ago with the average age of a baseball viewer being 53 years old" (Paul, 2017, para. 3). As a result of all of that, the amount of participation in youth baseball leagues has also experienced a dramatic drop over the course of the past decade. As the article by Paul states, "The number of people between the ages of 7 and 17 playing baseball in the U.S. decreased by 41% from 9 million in 2002 to 5.3 million in 2013" (Paul, 2017, para. 3). If baseball was marketed in a better format, maybe those statistics would begin to change.
With all of the talk in recent years about getting the younger crowd interested in the game of baseball by trying to improve pace-of-play measures, more emphasis needs to be put on marketing stars throughout the MLB, especially through social media applications like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The younger generation uses all of those social media applications heavily in their everyday lives and by utilizing those applications, the amount of younger people becoming interested in the game would skyrocket.
Sure, the Facebook Live games are a great way to expose the younger crowd to the game of baseball and teach them the basic methodologies of the game, but it's never going to be the same as a social media based marketing campaign. The younger crowd, especially those that may watch baseball seldomly or may have never watched a game before in their life, aren't going to want to sit at their computer and watch the entire Facebook Live game every week. They would be much more interested if they were able to do something interactive and fun involving superstars from around the game.
Imagine if MLB decided to select a few franchise players from around the league and have them come together for a marketing campaign about a hot new product that the younger generation would be heavily interested in. If that happened, the number of younger fans flocking to the game would go up tremendously. It would raise the interest of the younger crowd in the game because they see these All-Star baseball players embracing the product, jersey and merchandise sales would go through the roof, and baseball would be the cool thing again.
Granted, the amount of money in baseball has never been as high as it is right now, but that doesn't mean that the MLB needs to stop focusing on marketing and start investing more time and energy into pace-of-play initiatives. That means that if the league wants to continue having all of this money flow into the game, it needs to be aggressive and continue looking for ways to grow it. With the right marketing measures put into place, baseball can absolutely become the next best thing again and we can go back to having a nation where people gather around their TVs on Sunday nights or national holidays, watching the best matchup of that day.
Of course, there is going to be the select group of people who highly disagree with me about this topic and think that baseball shouldn't revolve entirely around marketing, but consider the world we live in today. Times are changing and that means that baseball needs to continually be changing it's marketing efforts as well otherwise the game will be left for dead and will not be successful in the future. The best way to start is through social media and the time to do it is now before it's too late.
Paul, K. (2017). Why the biggest battle in major league baseball is happening off the field.
Retrieved from: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-ways-mlb-is-trying-to-get-younger fans-interested-in-baseball-2017-02-22