Marketing Strategy

How Major League Baseball Can Fix Its Attendance Problem With Better Marketing

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Perhaps the biggest sports conversation and concern this summer is the shrinking attendance at Major League Baseball parks. Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner, noted that attendance is down nearly 10% from last year, making it the sixth season in a row of declining attendance. Major League Baseball is frantically considering rule changes, pitch clocks and fan-friendly scheduling to appeal to the millennial demographic. But one adjustment I believe they should also be looking at is their marketing.

Marketing 101: Know Your Target Audience

As with any marketing strategy, it’s important for MLB to understand its target audience. The organization recently started showing exit velocity and launch angles on its television broadcasts, as well as new statistics that even savvy fans struggle to understand, like ISO (isolated power), OPS (on-base plus slugging) and SLG (slugging percentage). And while these new metrics delight the diehard fans, there’s a chance they could lessen the appeal and slow the growth of a new, younger fanbase.

Additionally, many MLB talking heads believe that people find it boring because there are more strikeouts than home runs this year, which is allegedly why they do not come to the park. But consider for a moment that the average baseball park-goer doesn’t notice this. They probably also don’t notice that the average length of a game has gone from 2:56 to 3:05.

A good marketing strategy understands which parts of the customer experience fans do notice, like the rising costs of tickets and draft beer. Understanding what’s paramount to your target audience and incorporating that into the overall marketing strategy is always a good idea.

More Marketing Of Fan Experiences

Major League Baseball could also improve its marketing with more promotion of fan experiences. Baseball has always been about the journey, not necessarily the statistics and measurements within the game.

Most MLB television commercials show their star players hitting home runs and making exciting plays as if these things happen every five minutes. This is not an accurate depiction of what goes on during a major league ballgame. There is a lot of downtime with long periods of extremely limited or no excitement. When you are marketing MLB as if it’s as exciting as the NFL, NHL or the NBA, it becomes difficult to deliver on that marketing strategy.

Additionally, in the last three years, the number of home runs in Major League Baseball has increased, yet attendance keeps dropping. So why not incorporate this data into your marketing strategy?

Millennials just want to know that they are going to have a good time. MLB could focus more on promoting fan experiences through its television commercials. For example, ads could show four young people sitting in the stands, drinking beers, laughing and cheering on their team.

Say what you want about millennials, but they are not cheap. Millennials gladly shell out $12 for their Moscow mules and fancy IPA beers and eat at the trendiest restaurants. Again, they just want to have a good time, so why not promote the fan experience?

And because baseball is America’s pastime, what if MLB showed more of the family aspect? Television commercials could show a parent and child walking into the park together, wearing their team’s jerseys and building that perfect hot dog with the right mix of condiments. This is what going to the park has always been about: the fan experience. It is a time to spend with family and friends in an outdoor sports arena in the summer. The NFL, NHL and NBA cannot touch that experience. Corona does a great job with this in their “Find Your Beach” marketing message. Summertime and outdoor arenas are what makes baseball unique, and MLB could leverage that in its marketing strategy.

Smarter Social Media

Another opportunity for improved marketing is for MLB teams to leverage their YouTube channels. Some of these baseball teams have very few videos uploaded to their channels. Half of MLB games are played in home stadiums, making it easy to capture a lot of video.

When you consider the enormous number of opportunities within a game to capture great video, especially fan and player interactions, these numbers really show missed marketing opportunities for those teams. In contrast, the Boston Celtics have over 4,000 videos uploaded to their YouTube page. This is a great example of a pro sports team maximizing video marketing.

Finally, on this point, YouTube has a 27% market share of social media, and Snapchat has less than 1%. It makes sense to put your videos in the pond with more fish because millennials dig YouTube, too.

The Rubber Match

Major League Baseball doesn’t have to change the rules of the game and alter longstanding records to fix its attendance problem. I certainly don’t want to see this. There are plenty of new fans out there who have no idea how fun it is to go to a game. And they never will if MLB teams don’t improve their marketing message. It also wouldn’t hurt if they dropped the price of draft beer.

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