MLB’s #THIS Campaign: Same Old Game with a New Media Strategy

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Baseball is long.

Veryyyyy long. 162 regular season games. Spanning from April to October, baseball is unavoidably present.

Considered as an “old school” sport with a rich American history, there’s been talk about implementing new rule changes to try and speed the game up to attract younger audiences. It’s no secret that the attention span of Millenials has probably dropped because of the immediacy of and UX with social media.

6 second vines. Looping gifs. Memes. Seems like our interactions with each other are maxed to 140 characters – on and off Twitter. It’s like digitally window-shopping where people, brands included, have just a few moments to captivate our attention.

Baseball recognized this and made a very smart counter punch – if they can’t change the game to attract newer and younger fans, then speak their language and use digital media to reach them.

In April, MLB launched a marketing campaign called “This is Baseball” that continues to run during the duration of the season. It’s picked up momentum now that we’re nearing the playoff portion of the season. Consisting of gifs, memes, and vines, new content is released every week on both television and social media to bridge the gaps in audience while remaining authentic to what baseball is as a brand.

Sport is deeply embedded into our culture – visually and emotionally Identifying with a team, player, or even just a fan of competition is an ongoing experience. The experience does not stop at the end of a game or a season. A game can last 2-3 hours on average…but the experience can last a lifetime. Fandom is a 365 days a year emotional, intrinsic commitment. More simply stated: The Experience > The Game.

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Baseball is illustrating the longevity of the sport experience with its yearlong marketing strategy.

Advertising Age referred to MLB’s content as documentary-style ads to provide a behind-the-scenes feel to the game starring baseball players, managers, and fans. Cameras dedicated to this campaign followed all 30 teams, all season long, to capture authentic content and moments fans would embrace.

Baseball is one of those sports that has two classes of fans – the old faithful and the new brood. There’s the guy who sits in the bleachers with his Sony Walkman headphones, listening to the game broadcast on AM radio with the sports page on his lap. And then there’s the late 20s to early 30s something sitting next to him that checks-in the ballpark on Facebook, and attaches to it a selfie with the diamond and perfectly manicured grass in the background. One category of fan is not necessarily better than the other. Sport has room for both. And it takes a smart marketing strategy to captivate both at the same time: old and new school fans, traditional and new media content. #THIS nailed it.

Jason DeLand, founder of the creative agency behind these ads Anomaly, told AdAge, “We want to introduce baseball to America. Not the old America, the new America. Not the old baseball, the new baseball.” This concept of “new baseball” isn’t referring to the game; the play itself is the same – still takes 3 outs to retire a side. “New baseball” is about how we experience the game today, the new ways we can share our stories with the event, and how long can we make these moments last. Digital and social media are the tools to amplify each.

Personally, baseball has never been on the top of my sports list. I typically only watch right around All-Star break when the games start to matter a little more. But once I saw the content from #THIS, I felt like I was missing out on months of top-shelf play and experiences. I was angry at myself for not watching more. And the content of these ads put a mental alarm in my head to not miss another moment of the season if I can help it.

Well-played MLB…

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