Social Media Leading the Way for MLB Marketing

Phil GardnerContributor IIIJuly 8, 2011

Mike O'Hara of the Fan Cave
Mike O'Hara of the Fan CaveMike Stobe/Getty Images

Years ago, a baseball game meant sitting in the bleachers with a scorecard, a hot dog and a sunburn. Now there are retractable roofs, healthy alternative food and you’re on your smartphone checking Twitter.

Social media has completely changed the way baseball is being marketed. Radio shows are supplemented with Facebook feeds and replying to wall postings on the air. Every team, player, reporter, website and organization has a Twitter feed updating constantly with news from the game and user interaction.

Stadiums used to run zany contests for fans; now they post a trivia question on Twitter and fans can tweet back their answer with their seat location to claim their prize. Rather than checking individual websites, fans are going straight to their Twitter and Facebook feeds to read their news—it’s all the same news being posted on there, anyway.

Decades ago, fans lined up in the stadiums to vote on their favorite All-Stars. Now they get Tweets from John McCain, Carson Daily and Shaquille O’Neill suggesting which players to vote on and links for where to vote online.

Players are even interacting directly with fans, fielding questions and keeping tabs on each other’s lives outside of baseball.

It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping across baseball.

This season, the MLB Fan Cave was created to fuel it even further and faster. All forms of entertainment are coming together in baseball to unite, and it’s been social media that’s paving the way and facilitating it. It’s now easier than ever to be exposed to baseball.

The good news is it’s working. Every season, fan support is up. Even in these turbulent economic times fans are still coming in droves. New stadiums are going up all over baseball and with few exceptions most stadiums are finding a steady supply of fans. With each subsequent release of the financial data, MLB sets more and more records for revenue. Casual fans are clearly showing up.

The cost of this lies with the die-hard fan. It’s easy to keep off Facebook and Twitter, but you’ll still be bombarded with promotional material for the Fan Cave, Brian Wilson’s interactive beard and “text your vote” contests. Die-hard fans just want to sit there and enjoy the game without a bunch of posers buying the seats up front so they can eat sushi and wave to the camera.

The trouble is that those casual fans are the ones who will keep driving baseball. They showed up to the park, bought their ticket and will probably continue to advertise through word of mouth and bring some friends along.

That revenue is what continues to drive baseball.

Die-hard fans are exactly as their names advertise. They’ll show up steadily regardless of what teams do with their marketing. Die-hard fans don’t come easy, but they can only be eventually groomed out of those casual fans.

People love baseball as a result of growing up with it, learning it, or just deciding they want to and studying it very hard. The point is: It’s not an overnight process. It will only be by attracting casual fans, and attracting them often enough that they grow to love baseball that baseball will really succeed.

It’s the way of the future. Everybody is on social media, so that’s where baseball needs to be as well. When the newest and greatest comes along, baseball will need to be right there as well. Die-hard fans will continue to grumble about the concessions they make, but sometimes it’s what’s necessary in order to grow the sport and evolve with the future.

Speaking of social media, Infield Chatter can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.