“Baseball? It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit, it symbolizes. It’s a sport, business and sometimes even a religion.” – Ernie Harwell
I’ve been a baseball fan of Major League Baseball (MLB) for as long as I can remember. As much as I love hockey and football, baseball is the sport for which I have the most passion. My first baseball game was in the late 70’s between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium (where the ghosts of Mantle, DiMaggio, and Ruth resided). The smells of peanuts, hot dogs, and (yes) cigarette smoke, still reside in my senses.
Baseball, to many, is a sport that brings out emotions like no other sport can. Just look at how Chicago reacted in 2016 after the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908. There are Cubs fans who were born into hearing the quote, “This is Our Year” and turned into, “Maybe Next Year.” Cities like Philadelphia and Boston, who experienced success recently, fell in love with players so much, they named their children after guys like Chase Utley or Jason Varitek.
As the years have passed, MLB has also become an excellent marketing and public relations machine. The internet has enabled the league to reach more of a worldwide audience than it did 15 years ago. The MLB At Bat app (for both Android and iOS), had about 12.7 million downloads last year. Nearly 8.5 million people use the At Bat app daily. Their social media presence is outstanding. In fact, in 2016, AdWeek called MLB’s channels a powerhouse on social.
While working towards my master’s degree from Purdue University, I had a social media class where my final project was an analysis of the New York Mets social media during the 2015 World Series. One of the aspects I focused on was how hashtags were used. Between #LGM (Let’s Go Mets) and #NYM, the Mets were able to stretch their reach to a larger, more nation-wide audience.
In 2016, Major League Baseball teamed with on-field cap partner, New Era, to start #CapsOn. This social media campaign encourages fans to take their love of the game, their team, and their cap, and let others know that baseball is back. While I love sharing topics that involve PR and marketing, anytime it can include sports, I’m game. As I shared with my American University Introduction to Public Relations class, MLB’s strategy to market the game in this way is terrific. It a perfect tactic to engage its publics, especially one that could be categorized as a special event. Offline, this would be created by an organization to provide a venue to interact with its fans. Online, MLB can interact by retweeting the most creative posts by fans or offering a free hat to a random follower who retweets and follows @MLB on Twitter.
If you are a student of baseball, as well as public relations, marketing, and social media, this should be a campaign that piques your interest. Here’s what Noah Garden, Executive VP of Business at MLB said:
“Social is a big part of what we do because it’s an effective way to reach our fans. We’re going to keep the excitement of Opening Day going. It’s about harnessing the buzz that we have and making it more visible.”
It shouldn’t be much surprise that MLB sees social as a way to connect with fans. The #CapsOn campaign is a perfect way to build brand champions and activate influencers. To be a trusted brand, you must be able to show current and potential followers that you want to reward them for being a fan. While MLB has had its share of bad PR in the last few years, overall the league has made certain to reach fans where they are and keeping them coming back for more.
The famous line from Field of Dreams is, “If you build it, he will come.” Major League Baseball has truly built a social media presence many brands could only dream to have. Fans from all over the world have come to spread the message digitally. That’s a walk-off win in public relations and marketing.