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Baseball Hits a Home Run by Integrating Social Media with Content and Art

The media campaign

In 2011 Major League Baseball decided to try a new approach to reach their fans, they did this by introducing the “MLB Fan Cave”. Occupying an old Tower Records location in Greenwich Village they transformed the old record store into a fully interactive fun zone for MLB fans. The space featured 15 big screen TV’s that would broadcast all 2,430 games and be a year round experience where other fans could stop by along with baseball players and celebrities. To launce their new facility they ran a contest to have 2 lucky fans spend the entire season living in this “cave”. "Fans love to talk baseball to other fans. So social media was a natural solution for us to facilitate engagement and extend the conversation" says Jackie Parkes, CMO of MLB (Forbes.com1). Over 10,000 fans submitted videos in order to be one of the lucky 2 fans chosen for this experience. At the end two were chosen who would spend the entire season in this cave morning to night and watch every single game. While spending all day at the cave they would use various sources of social media to chronicle their experience. This promotion used various different social media platforms that are highlighted in (Chapter 15, Advertising and promotion); this included Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blogs, and user generated content. There was also the use of sponsors and key influencers throughout the process. Twitter was one of the most used social media devices with over 12,000 tweets sent out throughout the process. “Like Facebook, may marketers have found Twitter a useful tool for communicating with their customers and potential customers, may be the very best for establishing connections with customers.” (Pg. 511, Advertising and promotion)

Campaign objectives and target audience

The fan cave idea has multiple objectives, MLB had seen how important social media was becoming in order to promote their brand. Tim Brosnan who was the Executive VP of business stated “The MLB Fan Cave grew out of our desire to address three specific areas in which we saw opportunity for growth: engaging with fans via social media, both at the league level and through players; reaching younger fans and converting casual baseball fans into more avid followers; and raising the profile of our players by showcasing their off-field personalities” (Lostremote.com2) One of the most important objectives of this process was to increase the profiles of current players, the way baseball is set up the camera is only set on a catcher who has their face covered, a batter who is only up a couple times a day and the pitcher who only places once every 5 days. Baseball was starting to have an imaging issue where their players were not as recognizable as NFL, NBA and even soccer stars. By creating buzz using the fan cave and having players come in regularly they were able to have further exposure for their players to all fans. The target audience was not only avid fans but casual and even non fans. This was a unique idea that drove interest of many different people. “The MLB Fan Cave will be a convergence of baseball with pop culture, social media, technology, celebrity, entertainment, music and art” (MLB.com3) The fan cave held music concerts, had celebrities come visit for a few days and it also featured various baseball art. The cave generated the interest and the two individuals who spent all day in the cave were the ones promoting everything that was going on using social media. Web-series were also created using MLB players to show the excitement that occurs at the fan cave. The objective was to create a unique idea and then to use social media to reach all target audiences.

Results was it successful?

The fan cave was officially shut down in 2015 when MLB hired a new commissioner in Rob Manfred. His regime felt the MLB Fan Cave was not part of their social media agenda and they wanted to use it for other projects. “The move was an attempt to consolidate all of baseball’s social media activities under MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Network. MLBAM had its own active social media agenda separate from the Fan Cave, often creating confusion on matters such as who would take a lead role in promoting coming MLB events” (Sportsbuisnessdaily.com4). The fan cave was a success in that it created a buzz and introduced an entirely new concept to sports marketing. The cave was a tool that was used to expand their social media platform. Although it was successful the new commissioner was trying to align off of their marketing campaigns and felt the fan caves current usage did not do that. Instead they started using the cave as pop up stores to sell merchandise during peak seasons such as the playoffs. The fan cave created a vehicle for social media to use to share the unique content here is a link of when Dodgers right fielder Yasil Puig visited the cave.

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