What MLB's High Technique Officer discovered about fan engagement throughout a fanless season
During the shortened, fanless season of Major League Baseball, cardboard cutouts took center stage.
Numerous teams took advantage of the easy opportunity to fill the spaces to raise money for charity. For example, the Philadelphia Phillies donated $ 320,000 after over 10,000 fans bought cardboard cuts of themselves, friends, family, and even their pets to give the Citizens Bank Ballpark a static amount. Additionally, many organizations were giving away tickets and home run balls when a batsman punched you with a homer.
The initiative, adopted by almost every MLB team, was a way to get fans to the ballpark during a season when they couldn't experience the live bang of the bat.
However, MLB's main focus this season has been on bringing the game closer to fans in the safety and comfort of their homes. Ahead of the World Series, which kicks off tonight, Chris Marinak, MLB's Chief Strategy and Operations Officer, shared with Adweek what the league had learned from that unorthodox season, including the fact that it needed to lay the foundations – the stadium experience new to create and build a virtual community for fans.
"What we will highlight for the next year is the continued growth of new products and features on digital platforms so our fans can create a sense of community," said Marinak, pointing out how young generations are digitally interacting with baseball that his core group by fans of older generations usually does not.
This realization drives MLB's biggest technological advance for the World Series. The league has teamed up with Snap to integrate its AR platform with the MLB Ballpark app. It allows fans to use eight different augmented reality lenses to bring the World Series to them and put themselves in the ball park for pictures and videos to be shared on social media.
The hunt for younger viewers has taken different forms across sports leagues, but TikTok and Snap have often been the focus of that effort. In the case of the NFL, the league put kids in the spotlight at its biggest event – the Super Bowl – with an ad that ran during the game. For the World Series, MLB will also be enabled on Twitter as some practice balls have tweets from fans. The league also partnered with Animal Crossing, Nintendo's hit video game popular with Gen Z.
“What we've learned about the younger generation of consumers is that they already have platforms that they want to be on. And they are used to getting involved on these platforms, ”Marinak explained that it is essential for MLB as a content provider to create opportunities for fans to engage with the league's content on platforms where fans want to get involved.
According to Marinak, MLB strived to create a digital community for fans through various initiatives. The Cheer at the Ballpark is a league-wide experience that allowed fans to influence the atmosphere in the stadium with their cell phones. Over 71 million interactions were generated in the two-month regular season. In its new movie room, fans can create custom Highlight Roles that can be shared anywhere. Finally, the rally game allows fans to predict what will happen next in the games while competing for cash prizes.
Marinak sees his engagement demographics as the main metric to gauge whether the league's activations are successful this postseason, with the hope that younger generations – mostly fans in the 16-25 year olds – will exceed the index, if so, review the content created by the Snap Partnership.
The fans. The brands. Socially good. The future of sport. Don't miss the upcoming one Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience from November 16-19. Early bird passes available until October 26th. Register now.