Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beyond Baseball?

Major league baseball has launched a new ad campaign featuring Tim Lincecum and Ryan Howard that begins with images of them when they were young and transitions to them playing in the majors. It concludes with the tagline: "This is beyond inspiration/dedication; This is beyond baseball." Here's the Lincecum spot:

Besides the fact that every player in the majors trained hard to get there, the message "beyond baseball" confirms that major league execs feel the game itself is bankrupt, that fans won't come just to watch a game. The rally monkey, loud music between innings, slides in the bleachers, etc. all underscore this philosophy. But MLB can only continue to sell baseball if the game itself is at the center of their marketing strategy. Light shows and mascot races are short sighted. To be successful long term, MLB should not draw attention to what is "beyond baseball," it should focus on, well, "baseball."


Anonymous said...

Despite the tagline, this commercial emphasizes baseball itself much more than things like the rally monkey, music, etc. Besides, some of the best baseball fans are the kids aspiring to the big leagues themselves, and this campaign appeals to them.
I'd also like to point out that some stories are worth telling. This one isn't just about Lincecum's hard work as a kid, it's also about his contributions to the game. While it's true that everyone who makes the big leagues worked hard to get there, Lincecum is not only an exceptionally skilled pitcher (Cy Young winner!) but, as the SI cover states, a "freak" with his unique and efficient mechanics, the product of years of working with his father, a Boeing employee. That's not just cool, it's revolutionary!

SM Sprenger said...

Anonymous makes a very strong point, but there probably is a deep connection, as Corry claims, between the rally monkey and the idea of "transcending" baseball. They're two different instantiations of the same idea or impulse. That is, there's an anxiousness by the marketeers of baseball about it being unappealing. So they're constantly searching for peripherals beyond it to draw people in. For me it pushed me away: I drew the line back in the 80's when they started blasting annoying music between innings... The difference with this video is that it is actually somewhat inspiring and appeals at a higher level.

Libby said...

Agreed. Baseball has grown into more of the commodity of being at a ball game. People rarely sit through an entire nine innings of baseball in their house. There are many distractions. Unlike basketball and ice hockey, the games not always fast paced, and there aren't always things happening. We get a number of crotch shots, foul mouthed players, and many bad calls, but not much action unless there is a big inning. Fans go to the ball games, not simply to watch baseball but to endure the other things going on during the game--IE things being thrown into the stands, the mascot dance offs, the opportunity to be shown on the big screen. I think that everyone needs to at least go to one European soccer match. Their games are all about the game-not the hoopla, and a European soccer game may have been the most fun game I have ever attended.

Corry Cropper said...

Maybe MLB is right, their only chance at selling the game is to focus on what is "beyond" baseball. But I think in the long run this is a short sighted strategy. Yes, there are compelling, inspiring stories in baseball (as in most professions)... but why go "beyond" baseball as a marketing strategy? I agree with Libby: soccer games (even MLS in the U.S.) are more about the game itself--no loud music because the game doesn't stop for TV timeouts... the advertising is right on the shirts!