Should MLB Alter Their Marketing Strategy?

Each season, it seems that the All-Star Game’s selection process is criticized when 1-2 players are inexplicably snubbed from the team despite incredibly strong performances. This year was no different, as Andrew McCutchen became the one player that many columnists fought for, including authors on this site. I recently outlined McCutchen’s breakout earlier this week. In the comment section of that article, one of the FanGraphs readers, BIP, asked whether lack of awareness about McCutchen’s season was due to the fact that Major League Baseball does a terrible job promoting its star players. Inspired by that query, let’s take a look at some of the issues surrounding baseball’s current marketing strategy.

Before we look at the current marketing strategies employed by Major League Baseball, however, let’s think about what players are currently baseball’s most recognizable stars. I would argue that two of the names that immediately come to mind are Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. Though neither player participates in many endorsements, they are both immediately recognizable by even the most casual baseball fans.

There’s nothing wrong with those players being the most recognizable either. Whether you love him or hate him, Jeter plays on the most popular team in baseball, and has certainly done enough in his career to deserve the praise despite his declining numbers. Albert Pujols has been arguably the best player in baseball over the past decade, and seems like an acceptable choice as well. But where does that leave baseball’s rising stars?

Clearly, these players lack the exposure they deserve. When is the last time you saw Hanley Ramirez, Justin Upton or Clayton Kershaw promoted heavily in an ad campaign or even in an upcoming game promotion? Promoting these players seems like a no-brainer for MLB. Not only could they usher in younger fans, but they would be promoting the best future talents in the game. Seems like a win-win, right?

Instead, Major League Baseball has adopted a different strategy — Brian Wilson‘s beard. While that article is obviously meant to be satirical, there’s actually a lot of truth in the piece. Major League Baseball took it even further with Wilson, however, as they featured the San Francisco Giants on The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants, which premiered on Showtime last night. While there’s no doubt that Wilson is an interesting character, he’s also a 29-year-old relief pitcher who tossed 74.2 innings for his team last season. That’s not really the type of player that exemplifies longevity in the sport.

If Major League Baseball wanted to adopt a more player-friendly marketing approach — which focused on both current and future stars — they should look at the NBA. The NBA does a tremendous job when it comes to promoting their biggest stars. Think of the last 50 NBA commercials you’ve seen; how many are built around Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant (there are others, but those players immediately come to mind). The NBA does a great job of featuring their elite players in marketing and promotions. Can baseball say the same?

In fairness, baseball has recently become more receptive to promoting its future stars. Their handling of both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper at least shows that there is some willingness to promote tomorrow’s stars. At the same time, it’s clear that the casual fans — the ones that might vote on an All-Star Game — aren’t always aware of some of the elite performers in the game. Perhaps baseball wants to focus less on individual players and stress that baseball is a team game- that’s their prerogative. But it seems like they are doing themselves a huge disservice by neglecting the future stars — and even the current superstars — in their sport.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


107 Responses to “Should MLB Alter Their Marketing Strategy?”

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  1. Jonas says:

    A-Rod is way more recognizable among casual fans than Albert Pujols.

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    • TK says:

      Honestly, you aren’t a “casual fan” if you don’t know who either of these players are, and A-rod is only more recognizable than Pujols because he dates aging pop stars.

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      • Max says:

        No, I’m with Jonas here. There are more people who would recognize Alex Rodriguez’ name than Albert Pujols’. It could be that he’s on the Yankees, or that he signed the richest contract in history, or just that he’s been around longer than Pujols. I don’t think it has much to do with Madonna.

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  2. ltrebleg says:

    There was an Upton Brothers ad last year. I think I have seen it a few times this year as well. Third video down at this link: http://www.theuptonbrothers.com/video

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  3. Telo says:

    I tend to agree. I’m far from an expert, but basketball seems to market themselves especially well, and it seems to come straight from Stern at the top. From the simple things like allowing clips of games to be reproduced, the NBA and MLB are polar opposites, and basketball really seems to penetrate more social strata with their campaigns. From the big head commercials, to the “time travel” pieces, they are just dynamic. And don’t get me wrong, I love Brian Wilson’s beard as much as the next guy, and he was mildly hilarious last night at the ESPYs, but MLB doesn’t have an identity like the NBA does.

    Honestly, is it because they don’t feel the pressure? The NBA is strapped for cash (obviously!), and the MLB is thriving. At this moment in time it could just be a matter of not having a fire lit under their ass. They don’t need to be saavy marketers (right now).

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    • Chris Cwik says:

      Good point about allowing clips to be reproduced. I love this topic because there are so many different areas that can be discussed. One could easily dedicate an entire article to that aspect, I couldn’t even mention it in this piece.

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    • Paul says:

      I just totally disagree. Their marketing campaign is savvy because it works. NBA markets to its customers effectively and so does MLB. It’s not close to the same demographic.

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  4. Paul says:

    I’m completely on the other side of this. The way the NBA promotes is stars is one of the reasons I deplore it. I know, for some reason, a lot of people love Shaq. Here’s one guy that would be really disappointed to see Starlin Castro star in a cyborg flick. MLB is not the NBA, thankfully.

    MLB’s stars are promoted pretty heavily at the local level, and frankly their diefication in the city they play in is plenty. I’m just not seeing the rationale behind trying the Lebron treatment with any MLB player. In my opinion, one of baseball’s strengths is that it’s players are still viewed as down-to-earth, regular people (in the context of sports millionaires).

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    • Chris Cwik says:

      Yeah, I can definitely see the ways in which this approach would rub people the wrong way. I’m not necessarily saying either way is right or wrong, but I’m always in favor of the fans being more informed. I feel like NBA fans are more informed about players and individual performances since the NBA beats you over the head with those players.

      I definitely see why baseball wouldn’t want to adopt some of those strategies, but I feel like it does hurt them in some areas.

      Neither approach is perfect, I just think it’s a really interesting topic.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        also, i think that the difference in baseball is that they have 9 players on the field at one time, with a bunch of important pitchers that take the field only once every 5 days or on unpredictable schedules (relievers). basketball has 5 guys there at one time, so each one is inherently more valuable than any one baseball player, while also getting more screen time. not saying that that’s better for marketting, as i wouldnt know anything about that, just saying that its a difference.

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    • Jason B says:

      To be fair, I don’t think the NBA asked or encouraged Shaq to star in a cyborg flick (or a genie flick) – I think that was a (dry heaves-inducing, cash-grab) decision made solely by the Big Aristotle.

      Baseball crossovers into the entertainment world seem fairly rare compared to NBA and NFL players. But I (and I think every other sensible person) loved, loved, LOVED the all-stars that were trotted out on the Simpsons back in the day (Mattingly, Sax, Ozzie, Boggs, Canseco, Griffey, Strawberry, Scoscia, Clemens…). That’s the way to do a crossover into show-biz and do it right. Let them poke fun at themselves and show a little personality.

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    • mattmaison says:

      Agreed wholeheartedly. Marketing teams instead of players leads to generations of fans instead of just current ones. I think people care less about the NBA playoffs than they do the MLB playoffs because of the NBA’s strategy.

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  5. Wily Mo Pena says:

    Maybe its because I live in the New York area, but Derek Jeter has smeared his name all over numerous product endorsements, everything from sports drinks to Ford trucks, so I don’t know where you get off claiming he needs more exposure. His quest for 3000 hits was covered at a nearly vomit inducing level, meanwhile Jim Thome’s quest for 600 home runs was barely mentioned. (As you well know, 3000 hits is a hell of an accomplishment, an accomplishment, however, that has been achieved by over 20 players in baseball history. There are only 7 players in baseball history that have reached the 600 mark in home runs. Since this site is based upon statistical analysis, it is easy to argue that the 600 mark in home runs is a much more difficult quest to achieve, given the dearth of players who have hit that many home runs over their careers.) With regards to advertising, I know he has had a great career, its hard to argue to the contrary, however the man has the personality of a fire hydrant. In terms of the commercials that he is in, he doesn’t even act, he just sits there, goes through the motions while someone else does a voice over. His total lack of personality probably explains while he lacks the national exposure that some other, “lesser known” baseball stars have received. The bottom line is that love him or hate him, Brian Wilson has a personality that people can react to, thus explaining why he is a good choice for commercials. (in other words he gets the viewers attention). Derek Jeter, on the other hand, is a freaking robot who is only capable of spewing out tired bromides revolving around what he thinks people want to hear as opposed to meaningful statements that reflect how he thinks or feels.

    Granted, I am a bit biased, I hate the Yankess, and Derek Jeter, but I stand by my statements, the man’s personality is basura caliente.

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    • Jason B says:

      I don’t think the author was arguing for more Jeter exposure. I think between the 3,000 hit pursuit and the All-Star Game kerfuffle, we’re ALL in Jeter overdose mode.

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      • Chris Cwik says:

        Right.

        When in doubt, I run the “girlfriend test*.”

        Ask your girlfriend about the most recognizable players in baseball. I can guarantee she says Jeter. He’s just the one guy every fan thinks about.

        *This assumes people who read/write for FanGraphs are capable of attaining girlfriends.

        **This also assumes your girlfriend is a casual baseball fan.

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        can one have a girlfriend without ever dating? sounds like a non-overlapping venn diagram to me

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      • Telo says:

        I will perform this experiment right now.

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      • Bryz says:

        Texted my girlfriend with the caveat that she couldn’t name current or former Twins players. Here’s what she came up with.

        Nolan Ryan
        Yogi Berra
        Babe Ruth
        Ken Griffey, Jr.
        Jackie Robinson
        Derek Jeter (!)
        Darryl Strawberry

        All retired except the magical Captain himself. Also, she claims she can come up with more when she’s not busy, so maybe I’ll be able to get some more current players out of her later.

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      • Telo says:

        Answer: “Jeter… or Papi”

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      • TK says:

        I asked for 3 major leaguers besides Braves (my team) or Nats (my city) and I got:

        Mickey Mantle

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      • Bryz says:

        From my girlfriend after chatting with her on the phone.

        Nick Swisher (Remembered him from How I Met Your Mother cameo but remembered him as Derek Jeter)
        A.J. Pierzynski (But she only remembered him because he played for the Twins)
        Barry Bonds (Legitimately remembered him)
        Ichiro (Couldn’t spell his name so she didn’t bother texting him)
        Hideki Matsui (“Isn’t there another Japanese guy in the majors, other than Tsuyoshi (Nishioka)?”)

        So my girlfriend legitimately named 2 active players, and that’s Jeter and Ichiro. (Being a Twins fan, I don’t give her credit for A.J.) She claims she could remember more players if she wasn’t put on the spot, however. For example, she’s read Moneyball but can’t remember any of the players mentioned in the book.

        Chris, your “girlfriend test” has made me giddy.

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  6. Go To War Miss Agnes says:

    Two quick edits (sorry to be a stickler):

    First paragraph- “Major League Baseball does a terrible job promoting it’s star players.”

    Last paragraph- “In fairness, baseball has recently become more receptive to promoting it’s future stars.”

    In both cases, the “it’s” should not have an apostrophe. Overall, good article though. Simmons actually touches on this a tad in his recent Grantland piece on what he’d do if he was commissioner. He mentions how many more marketable stars the NBA has than MLB. The first thing that came to my mind was, “They don’t HAVE more stars, they just do a better job at making sure people know who the stars are.”

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    • Paul says:

      I made the same apostrophe mistake in my comment. Are you really assuming that a writer and reasonably intelligent people on this site don’t know the rule? Just not worth mentioning.

      To your point, you’re right, but is MLB a star-based league? I argue that it’s(*) not. So let’s say MLB decides Curtis Granderson is the Lebron of baseball (a great choice in so many way, in my opinion). How does splashing him in everybody’s face in Seattle promoting the game? Most likely it’s going to turn people off, and wind up making a lot of people outside of the New York region hate a guy who is really impossible not to like.

      MLB is not the NBA. There are 25 players, at least 15 of whom really, really matter. How many people can name the 8th man on a NBA championship roster? Totally, completely different game. The NBA’s strategy is appropriate for their game, would be a disaster for MLB.

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      • Go To War Miss Agnes says:

        So because there are smart people on the site who know the rules of grammar, we should simply ignore typos? If there were some format where I could anonymously slip a note to the author to say, “Hey, I noticed this,” then I would. But there’s not, so I did it here, and it’s been corrected less than an hour later, so I’d it worked well. Of course I know typos happen; I wasn’t critical of the author, I just pointed something out so it could be fixed. Not really sure what you would have me do there.

        As for the rest of the point, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think marketing individual stars is important for the game’s well being. It certainly was a huge part of baseball’s past. That doesn’t mean that they should copy the NBA’s methods, but having fans identify with individual players is a good thing, especially for struggling franchises. If fans had a reason to come to the ballpark other than to see a winning team, that would be a huge boost for losing teams.

        Also, look at how much revenue the NBA and NFL generate in jersey sales. That alone makes it worth MLB’s time to ramp up those efforts.

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  7. mw says:

    One problem is that you don’t always know who the next stars are going to be. Young baseball players are so unpredictable, and injuries are so frequent, that you could easily wind up promoting the wrong playets.
    The NBA doesn’t have this problem b/c its stars emerge earlier in their careers.

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    • Chris Cwik says:

      I think that could partially be a reason why baseball is hesitant to put these guys in the spotlight. Jeremy Hermida was once the best prospect in baseball. They would have looked pretty bad if they pushed him for years only to see what happened to him now.

      I’m also thinking of guys like Jay Bruce or Phil Hughes; who took a few years to finally become what everyone expected.

      There’s a ton of risk in trying to predict who will “make it.” I think that probably plays a larger role than we realize.

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      • gonfalon says:

        Agreed, there is a lot of risk.

        Brien Taylor was a first round pick for the Yankees but never made the big leagues.

        Gregg Jefferies was another first round pick and was highly touted, but just turned out to be moderately above average (107 career OPS+).

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    • Mcneildon says:

      MW,

      I agree with you but I don’t see why that would prevent MLB from promoting the young players that are either already stars or look pretty close to stardom: Longoria, King Felix, McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, etc.

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  8. mw says:

    Sorry for the double post – but as an example – what if MLB had done major marketing campaigns last decade for Bobby Crosby and Angel Berroa. I’m not saying that MLB can’t do better in this dept, and I think you’re right to bring this up as a problem, but there are challenges presented by baseball that other sports just don’t face.

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    • Jason B says:

      True – you don’t wanna jump too soon – one doesn’t really know for certain when or even if the Bryce Harpers and Joba Chamberlains of the world will ultimately pan out.

      Even so, there is a treasure trove of actual, established young stars they could mine – and some of them don’t even play for the Yankees, BoSox, or Phils! Where is the ad featuring the legitimately amazing Jose Bautista? The reigning MVP Joey Votto? The super-talented Justin Upton? The electrifying Clayton Kershaw, or fellow fireballer Josh Johnson? etc etc etc.

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  9. von_bluff says:

    Enter Bryce Harper, whose borderline cocky attitude and supreme baseball talent will be a marketer’s dream.

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    • Andrew says:

      Uh, not sure if it’s borderline…

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Bryce Harper has already started his takeover.

      During travel ball tournaments, there are already 3-4 kids on each team that wear the Bryce Harper “Ultimate Warrior Eye Black”.

      I haven’t watched the LLWS for some years. But I was always amazed at how Derek Jeter was the “favorite player” for over half of the players. I’m tempted to watch this year just to see how many say “Bryce Harper”.

      We understand that cocky attitude is not a negative for young fans, right? Blowing kisses at your opponent just makes him more attractive to young fans … especially if the guys their dad’s and grandpa’s age complain about it.

      If Strasburg and Harper both pan out, the nationals will be “the team” of fan ages 8-24. Think “OKC” of the NBA.

      In the NFL and NBA, they can market their stars more because the stars at important positions can impact the game so much more. Pujols gets 4 at bats a game. Peyton Manning touches the ball 80 times in a game. Kobe can touch it on every play.

      —————————————

      Did the author really say Derek Jeter and not many endorsements? Let’s see there’s Gillette, Gatorade, Wheaties, the expensive watch, the cologne, etc. I am able to rattle these off and I live in North Central Illinois. In regards to baseball training aids, the name Derek Jeter, is on everything.

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  10. RC says:

    “they should look at the NBA”

    Hold on, we’re telling MLB to look at the marketing for the least popular non-hockey sport in the USA? Seriously?

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    • JMHawkins says:

      Exactly. Isn’t the NBA looking at serious financial problems right now? Maybe their marketing strategy isn’t that good after all….

      For one thing, I think it has warped the game itself. The NBA’s effort to dub Shaq the new Face of the league when Jordan retired led to the refs allowing all sorts of offensive charging fouls to go un-called and the game degenerated into a dull series of backing down in the post. I think they revamped to try and highlight Kobe Bryant later, but by then I’d lost interest.

      The other problem is that stars don’t always have the best personalities. That’s another problem with the NBA – the more I know about the guys playing it, the less I really like it. By making the game about the personalities playing it, the NBA has lessened the appeal.

      It would be the same with baseball. Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, A-Rod… A list of stars that probably are more popular the more you see of their on-field play and the less you see of their personalities, eh? How many more names go on that list if the game becomes about the stars?

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    • Mcneildon says:

      Good point, but I think the NBA would be much less popular if they didn’t market their stars the way they do. It would probably resemble what it was in the late 70’s and early 80’s

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  11. MrKnowNothing says:

    Unremarked upon:

    English. Many of baseball’s top stars, upcoming and established, simply don’t have a fluid grasp of English. That’s limiting when it comes to pushing them to the mainstream. (It isn’t a killer though, as a guy like Ichiro can get over huge almost because he doesn’t speak English.)

    Personalities. Brian Wilson has a TREMENDOUS personality. Albert Pujols doesn’t. Pujols is about as dull and dry as they come, while Wilson is clearly gregarious and then some. If you want one of them to be on the ESPY’s, and you’re some producer who really doesn’t care about the sport, you’re gonna choose the guy with the crazy beard, tats, and who has this off-kilter sense of humor.

    I think basketball in particular, above all other sports, lends itself to individual marketing so much easier. There are only five main players on a team, and even of those 5, usually it’s just one or two that carry the load. You could go out and push Roy Halladay all day long, but he’s still only playing in maybe 20% of his teams games. Even the best hitter comes up 4 times a game. In basketball, Kobe gets to touch the ball every few seconds of every game.

    Football, by the by, is routinely criticized, particularly by the players, for NOT marketing individuals. It’s the ultimate team game (rightfully so, with the ridiculously high level of turnover found within the sport). It’s doing ok.

    Hell, oddly enough, the more a sport focuses attention away from the individual and onto the team, the stronger the sport seems to be…

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    • d says:

      Just a thought: is it possible that baseball culture fosters the calm and controlled demeanor more than other sports? —The whole hotdog/showing up thing that is so taboo in baseball? Alternately, might it also be that it is easiest to play at a high level if one if emotionally reserved? “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” and so forth. Only the closer/reliever mentality seems to be exempt from that prescription (thus Brian Wilson’s popularity). Accordingly, might it be that a larger segment of the top performers in baseball have boring-as-hell personalities as compared to the top performers in other major sports? People mentioned Bryce Harper as potentially an interesting future face of baseball, but by all accounts, his apparent arrogance (and his open expression of it, more importantly) is looked upon terribly by the baseball community.

      The finest in armchair psychology, I know, and there are plenty of counter examples, but there may be something to this.

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    • Phantom Stranger says:

      That is an incredibly important point, as much as 40% of MLB players can barely converse in English. That basically kills television and print interviews for that segment, as viewers do not want to hear what translators have to say.

      It is painful to sit through some of the post-game interviews by the Latin players, particularly the younger ones.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        That was the common thinking when I was younger … that not being able to speak English may have cost Juan Gonzales two MVPs.

        Having Enlish as a second language doesn;t have to be a detriment in marketing, provided that the ads play on it. having an athlete use a popular cliche with their accent could be humorous.

        Peyton Manning has as dry of a voice as anyone can have. His look is about as “cool” as Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds. But, in his commercials … he’s hilarious. He plays on his awkwardness. “YTour offense is offensive”, his spot on SNL, his cheesy moustache commercial, etc. It’s been brilliant.

        A Spanish speaking player could repeat enough English to make a commercial, just like Jackie Chan recites English in movies, but isn’t fluent in it.

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      • JohnnyComeLately says:

        “Baseball’s been very very good to me” — Sammy Sosa

        Does everyone know this, or only Cubs fans (like me)? An example of limited English ability that still translates to marketability.

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      • “Having English as a second language doesn;t have to be a detriment in marketing, provided that the ads play on it. having an athlete use a popular cliche with their accent could be humorous.”

        Gheorghe Muresan agrees with you. He loves that game.

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    • Jason B says:

      “Brian Wilson has a TREMENDOUS personality.”

      I would have used a different all-caps word to fill in the blank there, but to each their own… =)

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  12. Steve says:

    The biggest problem is that MLB and ESPN don’t promote all teams equally on a nation wide basis. The local markets are well marketed, but its hard to find a game on ESPN that doesn’t feature the Red Sox or Yankees. I think a big first step is to promote teams equally.

    The NFL takes the approach of promoting teams over players. Players come and go, but team loyalty lasts forever. One player like LeBron has a huge impact on his team, maybe 20+ wins for a superstar in a season half as long. In the MLB and NFL, the impact of an individual player is much less, so the importance of a team needs to be stressed.

    MLB would be wise to promote all of the teams equally as a primary strategy. With the exposure of these teams, the awareness of their superstars will come as a secondary benefit.

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    • Guest says:

      Exactly. Maybe more fans would know Andrew McCutchen if he were presented to a national audience more than a couple of times a year during the summer grind on a Tuesday at noon.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        They’re missing the boat on this one.

        Anything, let’s say “urban”, is cool in our society for the younger generation.

        McCutchen makes flashy plays, has cool hair, looks cool in his baggy jersey, and is a very good player, that has fun. Get this guy in a Nike or Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial as fast as possible.

        ESPN could easily show him hitting, running, and playing defense, and end it with a “Watch to see what he does next” type of message.

        But, baseball does market to teams … and too often just to a few teams. But, I think baseball has a viewership that is similar to the NBA … in that there aren’t a lot of regular season followers, except for the “big games”.

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    • Kirkwood says:

      Except then fewer people watch and ESPN et al makes fewer ad revenue, which, unfortunately, is all they really want. That’s why, every time I turn on Sunday/Monday/Wednesday night baseball, I have to watch either the Sox, Yanks, Phils, or Giants.

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    • Phantom Stranger says:

      MLB has made a deal with the devil, sacrificing the long-term health of the sport for short-term ratings. ESPN has made it clear they only care about the Yankees and Red Sox to any significant degree, so MLB has capitulated to that decision and forsaken other teams getting any national exposure.

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    • Mcneildon says:

      But does any sport market its teams equally? Do the Patriots, Colts, and Steelers not get more publicity than other NFL teams? Does anybody besides a basketball junkie know anything about the Bucks or Pacers? In the NHL, do they market the…oh wait, major sports.

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      • Jason B says:

        Yeah I agree – I think the BOS/NYY/CHC/PHI hyper-attention issue (or the dreaded “East Coast bias” or whatever you want to call it) is one that rears its head in *any* sport. Are the Buffalo Bills or Arizona Cardinals playing on Sunday night this year? Did TNT showcase the Bucks or Warriors in their NBA coverage much this year? I dunno why baseball seems to get saddled with this more so than any other sport.

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  13. Templeton1979 says:

    How pointless was it to put the DH rule in an NL park during the ASG??

    It’s not like pitchers have ever really hit in the ASG before. The reserve position players pinch-hit for the pitcher and then a new one comes in. Why the DH rule?

    Pointless! At least when you choose the pinch hitter for the pitcher with NL rules, you can put in the best hitter for the offense and against the current opposing pitcher considering the situation at hand. What was the point of putting the rule in when it wouldn’t make a difference anyways?? Just to put Ortiz and Michael Young in the lineup over an all-around player who is more deserving? Can’t they be picked for the team regardless??

    Having a DH left the teams with a designated person in the lineup when they could have chosen from ANY of the reserves with NL rules. It didn’t even make any difference in the score of the game (5-1, still a low score). Stupidity! Where does Selig come up with these dumb ideas??

    NL park should have NL rules. I don’t want to see that change in the future and I’m sure many NL fans feel the same way. I’d rather see the pitcher bat and either help his cause or be a quick out and get on with it! Tim Hudson and Zach Duke among others have pitched great games this season and then drove in most of the runs with the bat in that game. Tim Hudson did this against the Blue Jays, an AL team! This makes the start much more dominant and exciting when the pitcher is able to contribute on all sides of the game.

    I don’t think the DH created any more AL fans (Yankees were already the most popular team in baseball even before the rules changed in 1973) and the NL teams didn’t lose any fans due to it either. Increased popularity has come with championships (Look at the Giants, Phillies and Red Sox in the past few years) not from having or not having the DH rule.

    The Golden Age of baseball had many fans drawn to the game, and there wasn’t even a DH in place for any of those AL teams. The Yankees of the 90s would have been huge DH or not, it only mattered slightly in terms of run inflation compared to the rest of the AL, who also had a DH. They still won the World Series with the DH in games in their home park and without it in the others in NL parks. It neither helped nor hindered anything significantly beyond proportion to a lineup made up solely of their eight position players.

    In the NL you have the pitcher, who doesn’t have much value offensively but can occasionally make a difference. If the DH rule expanded it would not only water-down the talent pool by creating 16 more major league roster spots, it would further hinder the game by allowing one player on the roster to stay past his prime and play almost every game who can barely run the bases let alone play a position.

    Here’s a good marketing strategy. Let’s keep the different leagues unique at least! Selig doesn’t need to tamper with everything. If he doesn’t like the way interleague play is going, then limit the number of interleague games! There are a lot of true baseball fans who care more about good all-around baseball than a few more home runs by an immobile cinderblock.

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    • Ed says:

      Templeton is also outraged that the NFL did away with leather helmets and that the NBA is no longer using peach baskets for each goal. God forbid that we could actually do something to improve the sport and make it more exciting. So let’s all put on our straw hats and hook up the horse and buggy so we can go see a real baseball game!

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      • Templeton1979 says:

        Oh, please. I’m saying keep the leagues unique! Adding a DH to the NL won’t increase popularity as it never increased popularity in the AL. Championships increase popularity, not half a player added to each lineup.

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      • Bolton says:

        The use of immobile players makes the game more exciting?

        Rather than the DH, I would prefer the concept of an eight-man lineup, which leaves the batting to those who take the field. With such a move, the marketable young stars such as McCutchen would get more at-bats.

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      • Jason B says:

        As was mentioned in a previous article – let’s let the DH dead horse lie for a while – it’s as frustrating and unfruitful as arguing religion or politics.

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  14. rob.allgood says:

    It seems to me that this veteran fixation (and inherent youth aversion) is something that is more than just a problem with the MLB marketing department. It’s something that permeates the entire sport. From the media love-fest Derek Jeter receives despite declining numbers, to Tony Larussa’s preference for gritty vets over young players like Dan Haren (ca. 2004) and Colby Rasmus (currently), baseball seems to cling just a little too long to a hero at the expense of both the hero’s legacy and a young player’s development. As mw points out it may have a lot to do with a perceived disconnect between hype and future success, but as the futures games have established, people in baseball have a pretty good idea who’s the next big thing. Maybe they’d just rather cling to their venerable heroes.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      The NFL knows what’s what … they market their rookies big time, and they sell a bunch of new jerseys. Adrian Peterson was a mega-star from day one. So, is Tim Tebow.

      But, the differences there are [1] these guys were well known, and already stars, in college, and [2] they will start or play immediately after being drafted.

      Baseball doesn’t have the same situation for young players.

      MLB did market the hell out of Strasburg, and people watched every time he pitched. An incredibly unique situation.

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  15. twf says:

    i’m firmly of the opinion that MLB’s marketing and PR is, taken as a whole, god-awful. not even considering how abysmally PED use was handled. can you think of any other professional sport that would claim their games are too long, and the pace too slow? would you ever hear the NFL commissioner state that? even though NFL games, though clocked at 1 hr., tend to be slightly longer than baseball games (on average)? the MLB has no frelling idea how to promote the game. it goes beyond the…curious…decision to promote the game with midget lumberjacks in brian wilson’s beard (as an aside, if you want to use hair to promote the game, why not coco’s fro? i loved coco’s fro). it’s as if the execs honestly do not know what is enjoyable about the game.

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    • Kirkwood says:

      Yep, I completely agree. MLB’s ad campaign screams “trying too hard” and “doesn’t get it” to me. “MLB Always Epic” is just a bunch of older white guys trying to be hip and having no idea what they’re actually saying, but thinking to themselves “young people like the word epic, let’s say it every 5 seconds, people will love this shit.”

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  16. MikeS says:

    I think they should market to kids more aggressively. Just about everybody who loves baseball fell in love with it as a child. Few people avoid baseball till their adult years then discover it and enjoy it. Starting the All Star game well after 8 PM EDT on a Tuesday (even in the summer) and post season games that routinely last till 11PM or midnight EST may lead to bigger TV contracts, better ratings and more ad revenue in the short term takes the game away from kids in the longer term. Despite MLB trying to force the All Star game down our throats by trying to convince us that it is meaningful, it is mostly an exhibition game and I found it a lot more fascinating when I was younger. I don’t think I am alone since this years ratings were the worst ever. They think they can’t give away a weekend of games in the middle of the season but both the NBA and NHL play their game on a Sunday afternoon.

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    • DeManiac says:

      This is an excellent point. TV is one side of it, but I think live ballgames are another. I’m not going to preach for cheaper tickets so more kids can go to games (that’s another topic for another day), but I think it’s all related.

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  17. mike wants wins says:

    1. I HATE the way the NBA markets itself. The whole “me first” part of marketing is part of what leads to players playing under different rules depending on their status. That is why I don’t watch the NBA.

    2. The NFL is the most successful league in the land. I’d steal all my ideas from them.

    3. MLB should stop marketing and having rules that make serious MLB fans happier. Those fans stay no matter what, mostly. All rule changes and marketing should be aimed at the fringe fan, those are the people whose behavior you can change.

    4. I haven’t given it enough thought beyond that.

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  18. CG says:

    Not sure if this is still true, but, 2-3 years ago the NBA used BBDO (one of the bigger advertising firms) to market and advertise and, correct me if I’m wrong, MLB does it all in house.

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  19. Ian says:

    “At the same time, it’s clear that the casual fans — the ones that might vote on an All-Star Game — aren’t always aware of some of the elite performers in the game.”

    Sometimes the players, the coaches, and MLB aren’t aware of some of the elite performers in the game.

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  20. Ace says:

    This is a fundamental uphill battle based on the nature of the game. If you turn on almost any given Lakers game or any given Minnesota Vikings game, the odds are you’re going to see Kobe Bryant or Adrian Peterson do something spectacular. It’s simply not the same case with baseball. If you turn on any given Brewers game, the odds are you will see Braun or Prince go 1 for 3.

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  21. Joe says:

    Look at recent ad campaigns for consumer products. Old Spice, for example, has seen enormous publicity and recognition for outlandish advertising. The trend is to create a memorable ad, not a memorable product. Its not about long term brand recognition, but an instant or cheap laugh. Much of the time I think people think these types of ads are contrived (what ad isn’t). The Brian Wilson marketing is simply another example.

    Does Brian Wilson make MLB more interesting and marketable. Short term, sure. Long term, I don’t think my children will be associating the greatness and history of the MLB with a dyed black beard.

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  22. Templeton1979 says:

    In terms of coming up with a marketing strategy for individual players, It is important to come up with a new strategy, you’re right.

    While the “Epic” commercials featuring Felix Hernandez and Prince Fielder do a little for this, another thing could help players gain more popularity: catchier nicknames and deserved coverage.

    In a recent poll by mlb.com, Justin Verlander was overwhelmingly the winner in the selection of the first-half AL Cy Young Voting (JV 186, JW 104), but what about Jered Weaver? Weaver has an era 29 points lower than Verlander and leads all of mlb in that category, is the current Most Valuable Player on a team with no offensive stars which would most definitely be losing without him on the squad, and is also a good strikeout pitcher. Both play in weak divisions, but Verlander gets much more offensive support. Personally, I think Weaver should get more consideration, and the reason for this is simple: Verlander gets more coverage.

    This should be a Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio race! A neck and neck run for the Cy Young! Both players should be featured in promotions and talked about with equal praise before every start!! If that were to happen, Weaver would be getting more votes and the race would be a lot closer, as it should be. Baseball is about rivalry, not undeserved domination when one player is statistically running at the same pace but covered less by the media as the other. Where’s the excitement in that?? Rivals have much more drawing power.

    About the nicknames:

    If Jeter weren’t on the Yankees, he’d be almost completely overlooked by the media, especially considering his nickname is “Mr. November”. The playoffs were postponed until November one season ten years ago and that’s all they can come up with?? Compare that to “The Man With the Golden Arm” or The Splendid Splinter” and “Charlie Hustle”.

    From looking up the nicknames of some current stars, I found:

    “Big Daddy” for Matt Holliday
    “Tex” for Mark Teixeira- he’s from Maryland!!
    “A-Gon” for Adrian Gonzalez
    “Mighty Mouse” for Dustin Pedroia

    Two of those are pretty lazy and none of them are marketable. Think of Ryan Braun’s “The Hebrew Hammer” or David Ortiz’ “Big Papi” (same as Big Daddy, but with a little culture and background for the player).

    Here’s some nicknames that I came up with for some players that are catchier and more creative/marketable:

    The Joltin’ Jet” for Drew Stubbs- because of his power/ speed combo

    “The Silver Surfer” for Jered Weaver- based on his appearance and the movement on his deceptive curveball, plus he’s from Southern California

    “The Bronx Blade” for Robinson Cano- has that great power swing and plays for the Yankees

    However, alliteration doesn’t always have to be used (though it helps). For instance:

    “The Red Baron” for Joey Votto – team leader of the Reds and their best hitter

    “Freight Train” for Justin Verlander- goes deep into game for his team, still running strong and efficiently into the ninth inning, plus he attended Old Dominion University (like the freight line. Not that he should be a spokesman or in ads for freight lines, but he could! It just adds background to the nickname).

    MLB marketing and team announcers need to get more creative.

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    • Ace says:

      Jeter’s nickname is The Captain.

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      • Templeton1979 says:

        I don’t really think of that as a nickname though. He IS the captain, so it doesn’t really count as creative. He’s doing fine in terms of media coverage because he plays in New York. However, with a nickname as simple as “The Captain”, how would one make a name for himself on a small market team?? There are lots of team captains. The name doesn’t exactly draw people in or set him apart from other stars, know what I mean?

        All it says is he’s the captain. It’s not “The Wild Hoss of the Osage” or “The Iron Horse” or “Say Hey”. There’s no personality or background in it, basically.

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    • Jerome S. says:

      CC Sabathia is also a very good American League pitcher.

      Just thought you should know.

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      • Templeton1979 says:

        Yes, he is. Agreed. But I think it’s better marketing to focus on Jered Weaver.vs. Justin Verlander.

        Weaver individually gives his team the best team to win among all pitchers in MLB (best WPA and ERA among starters) and is the biggest star on his team. Verlander is the one who gets all the coverage as an AL pitcher this season and therefore should be the “Goliath” of the two.

        CC is a very good starter, I agree entirely. But the Yankees have a lot of star players and I don’t think he stands out apart from his team as much as JV or JW stand out from theirs. Plus, CC already gets plenty of coverage as he plays on the most popular teams in baseball. The Yankees have 0 marketing problems as far as media coverage, and fans enjoy seeing rivals in twos (DiMaggio vs. Williams, Mantle vs. Maris, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Sosa vs. McGwire), more than threes. It’s just a better marketing strategy.

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      • Templeton1979 says:

        *best CHANCE to win, not team. Ha whoops

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      • Templeton1979 says:

        *JV already gets all the coverage as the “best” AL starter this season

        *CC plays on the most popular team in baseball and already gets plenty of media coverage

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    • Kirkwood says:

      “Freight Train” Justin Verlander is pretty great, just sayin’.

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    • Templeton1979 says:

      *Corection: The Joltin’ Jet is Andrew McCutchen because of his power/ speed combo and defensive prowess, not Drew Stubbs.

      Other nicknames:

      Clayton Kershaw- “The Texas Terror”. The young Texas native is experiencing phenomenal success in the big leagues at a very young age for a pitcher (23). He is also the current strikeout king this season.

      Matt Kemp, “The Colossus of Chavez Ravine”- Is an enormous presence offensively (having a monster season in which he could be the fifth player to go 40/40 ever). Chavez Ravine is where Dodger Stadium is located.

      Troy Tulowitzki, “The Mile-High Rabbi”- Finest defensive player in the game of baseball with great offensive skills and intangibles as well. He’s not Jewish. However, Babe Ruth was “The Sultan of Swat” but he wasn’t Middle Eastern was he??

      Jordan “Zigzag” Zimmermann- He has unbelievable movement on his pitches with which he can get an out anywhere in the zone. Zimmermann is breakout player of the year so far and is one of only two pitchers to throw an immaculate inning this season in all of MLB.

      “Hurricane Hanley” Ramirez- Is an extremely skilled player offensively but also has a reputation for his attitude in the clubhouse, so it has multiple uses.

      “Cool-hand Cole” Hamels- The lefty is having a career year in Philadelphia on the pitcher’s mound. Amazing circle changeup.

      Jose Reyes, “The King of Queens”- In Spanish, “rey” means king, and the Mets play ball in Queens, NYC. He’s the most dominant leadoff hitter in baseball and is definitely NL MVP so far.

      Reyes is also one of the greatest players of this generation. Through their first 1000 games: Ty Cobb 106 triples and 391 steals, Jose Reyes 98 triples and 360 steals. Players like that don’t come along very often!!

      Albert Pujols, “The Modern Marvel”- The greatest hitter of the current era. It’s not easy to be as consistent as he has been. Especially considering the level of competition within the giant baseball market of the 21st century.

      “High Noon” Justin Upton – Only Jose Bautista has hit more ‘no doubt’ hrs (9) than Upton (8) in all of MLB (according to hittrackeronline). Fastest bat in the West!

      Gerardo “Space Invader” Parra – The 24-year-old has enormous range and arm strength making him one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. He’s also improved offensively this season.

      Matt Wieters, “The Mad Monitor”- Best defensive catcher in MLB by far this season. Can throw out the fastest baserunners with ease (has caught Pierre, Ichiro, Gardner, BJ Upton, Crawford, and Stubbs) and is superb at the plate with runners in scoring position.

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    • Templeton1979 says:

      Yadier Molina, “The Snide Sniper”- Best defensive player in the game over the past seven years. Has a rifle of an arm and has thrown out the highest percentage of baserunners (by far!) among all catchers (except for this season). Since 2004, he’s saved 53 Defensive runs (DRS. 2nd most in that period by a catcher is Pudge Rodriguez with 27!) and 43 runs saved from stolen bases (rSB. 2nd most in that period is also Pudge with only 25!) No one is more feared by baserunners!

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  23. Adam says:

    I think part is that the nature of the NBA game lends itself to marketing the individual more so than MLB. Kobe’s always in and always has the ball late in the game, Jeter may not get a key AB or an interesting fielding play. NBA goes overboard though, its ALL about the individual, it doesn’t matter that Durant plays for a previously obscure team in a small city, he’s now a marketed star, on national TV all the time.

    Could MLB approximate it? I suppose. They’d have to get off the Yankee/Red Sox/Cubs/Phillies TV ratings game and start actually showing D-Backs games on national TV if they want anyone to know Justin Upton. But should they? Eh. They overhype the teams instead of the individuals, which is probably fine from their standpoint.

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  24. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    I for one look forward to hilarious Peyton-Manning-style TV commercials and SNL appearances tracking the wacky hijinks and heartwarmingly innocent goofy guy antics of Zack Greinke.

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  25. The Nicker says:

    While you focus strictly on Brian Wilson’s beard, at least one other guy noticed that King Felix, Ubaldo and Prince are also starring in those MLB epic commercials.

    In addition Joe Mauer is seemingly everywhere with both The Show commercials and Head & Shoulders, etc.

    Then you’ve got Evan Longoria, Justin Verlander & Andrew Bailey for the other baseball video game. Nick Swisher and Big Papi doing MLB Fan Cave stuff. I don’t think the situation is as stagnant as you make it out to be,

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    • JohnnyComeLately says:

      That Ubaldo commercial is pretty funny.

      (He’s flipping through license plates with names on them in a tourist shop looking for “Ubaldo”, asking if there are more in the back — if you haven’t seen it)

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  26. Bryz says:

    I can’t speak for all ballparks, but working at Target Field, they always show the This Week In Baseball clips about 1 hour before the game starts. It’s usually about 15-20 minutes long and includes a wide variety of players and coaches, plus it’s specifically designed for kids. If I remember correctly, one of their recent videos focused on not Albert Pujols’, but Lance Berkman’s resurgence as a Cardinal. They also had Jose Bautista do a Sopranos-like spoof* where he becomes upset that there’s a baseball at the dinner table with him, so he (pardon the pun) whacks the baseball.

    I hope TWIB is still on TV on Saturdays. I watched it as a kid and it helped me get to know some of the other players, and these in-ballpark clips are still fun to watch.

    * Yeah, yeah, The Sopranos isn’t kid-friendly, but make it G-rated and you’ve got something kids and adults can enjoy.

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  27. Michael F says:

    It really is absolutely terrible. You can argue that the NFL and even perhaps the NHL does a better job marketing its players, who spend most of their exposure covered by large and view-obstructing helmets, than MLB does.

    There really is no excuse for this.

    I just went through a list of teams, and the only ones I found that would be hard-pressed to find a true, elite-caliber star to promote would be the Orioles (catchers take time to develop, though), the Royals (again, just a development time-lag issue), the Astros (::tumbleweed passes::) and maybe the Padres (although I love Mat Latos).

    Otherwise, each team has someone who can and should star in a national commercial.

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  28. badenjr says:

    It seems to me that the marketing problem that MLB has is less about who they market and more about how they market. If you want to ensure the future of the sport, you need to build the fanbase of the future. They need to target kids. When I was young, baseball was different from all the other sports. It had Opening Day. Some playoff games were during the day right after I got home from school. I can’t even begin to describe how elated I was the time that I got tickets to the only scheduled double-header of the season one year! I remember going to games and watching players sign autographs. Even if the star player didn’t sign your ball, there was always another player coming by later. This was exciting to a little kid. These are indellible memories etched in my mind to me.

    My kids are still young, so I’m trying like mad to get them interested in baseball. My son actually watched a few minutes of the All-Star game – he was impressed by Bautista’s catch at the wall – before he fell asleep. The game didn’t start until almost 9:00 here on the east coast. All the players we wanted to see entered the game well after he was asleep. We went to a game recently. He got an autograph from one good, young pitcher on the visiting team. The entire team signed four autographs all night. He’s too young to really appreciate the scarcity of that, but is this anyway for MLB to be building a fanbase. He spent the first few innings wanting to catch a foul ball. Too bad he couldn’t have tried to catch a ball during batting practice instead, like we used to do. (Actually, its only the home team – you know, the one the fans are there to see – that takes batting practice before the fans are allowed in the stadium.) During the game, I wanted to get my son some souvenirs. One problem: as fans of the visiting team, there were no souvenirs to be found in the entire stadium! I went to a game at another stadium last year. I had great seats: front row of the upper deck, right behind home plate. There wasn’t a single foul ball that reached the upper deck all night long! If we’re that far away from the field, how should I expect to keep my young kids interested in the action? Who wants to pay an arm and a leg though for their 4 year old to have seats right on the field though? Baseball just isn’t a family friendly game anymore. Even on TV, it’s not what it used to be. Last season, our team (the Reds) made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. He didn’t get to stay up with me to see – well, since I don’t pay for mlb.tv or cable or satelite, hear – the Reds clinch the pennant. For that matter, neither one of us even got to see the Reds play in a single playoff game! It had been 15 years! Even if we had seen a game, we’d have been treated to commercial every time there was a pitching change, which only get more frequent in the late innings. I love the game, but is it really too much to ask for MLB to try to make the baseball experience – both in person and on TV – a little bit kid and family-friendly?

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    • badenjr says:

      Let me just add, that as a Reds fan, I think Brandon Phillips is exactly the kind of guy MLB ought to be marketing. He’s great with twitter. He interacts with the fans. One the one occasion, he even went to a kid’s little league game just because the kid asked him to on twitter. That’s PR that MLB doesn’t understand. Phillips is good, not great, player – definitely not among my favorites. He’s going to be a free agent at year’s end, and he’ll be looking for a contract worth more than his play warrants. Even knowing that, I hope that the Reds re-sign him (or at least pick up his option). Sometimes it is more than wins and losses, and it doesn’t always take a superstar to make the impression that matters.

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  29. Choo says:

    NBA marketing reflects the NBA game – in your face, right now, me, me, me, instant gratification. To stoke the interest of my 3-year old son, all it took was a two-second clip of man-beast LaBron James jumping over five guys and cramming on their collective heads like a superhero. “Whoa! Can we watch that, Daddy?” Basketball is visually appealing and easy to grasp – all 10 players are in the picture at the same time – and every superstar gets 100 dramatic close-ups and replays whether he scores 40 points or 4 points.

    MLB lacks every advantage the NBA has when it comes to marketability on a national scale. My kids get excited when they see Ichiro, but after his first plate appearance, he disappears for 40 minutes. 100 flashy Ichiro promos won’t change that fact. To maintain the interest of my kids or the casual fan (my wife) throughout an entire batting order, it is necessary for them to know the other players as well. When Ichiro disappears into the dugout and Brendan Ryan comes to the plate, Brendan Ryan needs an identity (“He is really good at fielding grounders, has a funny mustache and likes coffee more than Dad”). Once that happens, they stick around and begin to feel solidarity with the team. It’s why the local/regional promotions are so effective.

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  30. mike wants wins says:

    5. Put the names of the players no the jerseys, home and away. Is there any other sport where you have no idea who is currently playing? It’s murder for the casual fan, really stupid. Really, really stupid not to have players’ names on their jerseys.

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  31. J Hey says:

    I think baseball does a decent job marketing, but the All-Star Game needs tweaks because it got the lowest rating ever this year. The ASG is a showcase for casual fans, so MLB really needs to get it right.

    First, they need to move it to Wed. so all pitchers are available. The pithers unavailable for the AL this year was ridiculous.

    If we saw Verlander, CC, and Felix instead of CJ Wilson, Walden, Chris Perez, and League the game would have been much more entertaining.

    Second, they should have 1 round of HR derby with 2 players from each league if the game is tied after 9. Lance Berkman had this idea and it would eliminate worry about having enough pitchers if the game goes into extras. Also, the fans would love it.

    Lastly, keep the best players in for the entire game or almost the entire game. This is how it used to be and would make it much more exciting also.

    If these changes were made, I think the ASG would be awesome again and fans would like it much more.

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  32. Sox2727 says:

    Here’s another problem with MLB’s “strategy.” They only look at a few variables of the game i.e. home run hitters (Albert Pujols), strike out pitchers (Felix Hernandez), and players in major markets (Derek Jeter). If they get a player in a major market like New York or L.A. that is a home run hitter or strikeout pitcher their work is done. They do such a poor job of promoting players who don’t fit into one of those three categories. I think we all can agree that players like Tulo or McCutchen, who are multi-faceted players should be a core focus of marketing campaigns for MLB because they do so many things well. But neither Tulo nor McCutchen will probably ever hit 40 homers, and MLB is still in love with promoting the home run so that hurts their cause. Tulo just signed a long-term deal with the Rockies and the Pirates want to lock up McCutchen, so we can kiss the idea of big media market exposure goodbye. For whatever the reason MLB just doesn’t seem interested in thinking outside the box.

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  33. Brendan Jovel says:

    Making a Great personal ad – Show who you really are – If you have an excellent sense of humour, do not just tell individuals that you are funny prove it inside your ad. Be realistic. Many people do not look like film stars, most of whom do not look so very good in actual life either. So manage your expectations on what the person you may meet on the web is going to look like.

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