Our national pastime of baseball is no longer past tense, passe, or living in the past. Steroids and HGH deserve the credit. These performance-enhancing drugs have provided Major League Baseball with some marketing juice. This enlightened point of view is a matter of perspective. It’s partly sunny, not partly cloudy. The glass is half-full, not half-empty.
There is no such thing as bad publicity. Sports entertainment is about marketing. The Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds steroids calamities provided baseball with an off-season presence. This issue was the hot topic for news media, sports media, bloggers, Internet social sites, and various web-based organizations. Congress even got in on the act with the Clemens congressional committee hearing. Gavel to gavel coverage was provided by every major news outlet. Baseball’s “hot stove” season was sizzling.
Who knew a sport layered in traditions would be at the forefront of pharmaceutical muscle and tissue advancement? Major League Baseball has had its share of drug abuses and allegations. Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry, Dock “LSD” Ellis, Ken Caminiti, Dwight Gooden, Wally Joyner, and Jason Giambi are a few of the names that come to mind. Baseball’s past has also included rumors about widespread amphetamine use. None of these situations have ever sparked the amount of off-season media attention that anabolic steroids received. Usually, the only thing ever heard about after the World Series, are manager terminations, the winter meetings, and possible trades.
MLB needs to promote year around. However, the main focus should be on the off-season. Baseball needs to become the leader of self-promotion. Take a tip from Fox, ESPN, and HBO. Energize beyond the core audience and think outside the diamond. Have some television and radio commercials produced to promote the excitement. Action packed video and audio collages of player home runs, spectacular defensive plays, and great pitching moments. Target the spots at the 18-34 demo and have them narrated by current lifestyle leaders in music, movies, and fashion. Buy time on TV networks other than ESPN and Fox. Place ads on shows that appeal to the demo. Also, embrace more of the new media that technology has created. Go beyond the XM broadcasts and MLB.com to sign partnerships with YouTube, Myspace, Facebook, and any other social networks to advertise the sport. Currently, MLB.com offers inexpensive packages of live game audio and live game video and audio of any team regular season game. The use of this technology probably appeals to sports junkies and the developing younger 12-30-year-old demo that view movies and TV on their computer screens. However, baseball does a poor job of promoting these options.
Devise something for the winter months at a destination location to create some buzz. Pro-football and basketball have turned their drafts into events. Baseball owners annually hold winter meetings during the second week of December. This would be a perfect time to host an event to showcase MLB and its relationship with the fans. On Opening Day, start promoting the venture so people make plans. At the event, get the players involved in an All-Star softball game and other types of non-contact activities. Set up player autograph booths. It is very important to make this extravaganza free. In attendance, have big named musicians, TV celebrities and movie stars that love baseball. Showcase these entertainment icons. Insure that there is something for every age bracket. The objective is to generate excitement and spotlight the sport in the off-season. Sports TV and sports talk radio will love it. Make it an annual event.
Attendance continues to rise and yet there are still some pundits that act as if baseball is a step away from a glue factory. It’s believed that baseball’s lack of growth among youth and African Americans is a direct reflection of societies flaws and the game itself. Some experts have suggested that increases of single parent households are partly to blame. The premise being that the lack of fathers playing catch with their sons has created a potential future crisis for MLB. Another myth for baseball’s problems are the deliberate pace and length of games. Both theories are absurd.
Americans of all ages will buy anything packaged and advertised correctly. Lest we forget the Pet Rock, Cabbage Patch Dolls, $150 Air Jordan gym shoes, Beanie Babies, paid cable TV, and bottled water. MLB just needs to blend old traditions with new ones and market to the masses.