Major League Baseball fans have it good.
The league leads professional sports when it comes to reaching fans in new and innovative ways. The recent start to the 2012 season — and all the ways in which fans can connect to their favorite teams — proves that.
Baseball is NOT boring. It’s not dead. It’s alive and well and filled with energetic and engaged fans.
“Its traditions fit the fabric of spring and summer like few other elements of Americana,” says Joe Favorito, a veteran sports and entertainment marketing and PR consultant. “No other sport anywhere in the world can find ways to engage the casual and ardent follower for a night, a week or a year.”
Social and mobile drive fan interest and engagement. MLB recognizes this, and has doubled its efforts in 2012.
“Baseball is really a social conversation for us,” MLB.com’s director of new media, Andrew Patterson, told Mashable at the beginning of the season. “There’s a game going on, but there’s a conversation happening too.”
Conversation is important, especially when the season is so long. At 81 home games, the average fan has little chance to see every one in person. So fans watch TV, go online and use social media to follow the action. Specifically, they use social media as the action happens.
“Sports have the whole social/TV engagement thing on lockdown,” says Josh Wolford, a staff writer for WebProNews. “83 percent of sports fans say they check sports-related social media pages while watching the game on TV.”
MLB recognizes this new and growing trend, and turns its sometimes slow and floundering product into 140-character, bite-size pieces.
“Integrating more social and mobile into the experience isn’t an aberration, it’s more likely to become the norm,” Patterson says. “The idea now isn’t just to package the content we have and put it out on social media — it’s to create content we know works well on social.”
Where is MLB winning the social media experience? Here are some of FourthAnd140.com’s favorites:
Social Media Clubhouse
Every MLB website hosts a Social Media Clubhouse, which is a one-stop shop for social-media savvy fans. For example, the Cleveland Indians’ Social Media Clubhouse makes it easy to connect with players on Twitter, follow all the official social media sites – including new additions Tumblr and Pinterest. The Social Media Clubhouse is somewhat hidden in the templated MLB team site navigation (under Fans>Connect with TEAM). The page is also very much a jumble of images and links, but it’s a start.
MLB FanCave gets bigger
Now in its second year, MLB FanCave boasts nine new inhabitants, who were chosen from a whopping 50,000 interested fans. The Cave uses online and real-life experiences to give fans added value, including musical artists and celebrities who will visit the Manhattan digs this summer. FanCave definitely speaks to the younger MLB fan, which fits well with its heavy social media reliance.
Facebook is covered
MLB teams make it one-click simple for fans to customize their Facebook profiles this season with a series of pre-made, highly-produced cover photos. Check out what the Milwaukee Brewers offer fans who want to show team pride on Facebook, including some recent All-Star Game ballot propaganda.
Mobile apps go with you
MLB At Bat is a free app which offers player statistics, box scores and more. Subscribers can pay $14.99 for additional content, including video and live radio broadcasts — all right on your phone or tablet.
My favorite is the location-based MLB At the Ballpark app, a check-in service for those fans lucky enough to attend games in person. At the Park connects fans with other fans, and can track stadium check-ins — complete with win-loss records for the games attended. Users can unlock deals, order food and find seats once inside a stadium.
Tweetups and more
More MLB teams are adding in-game activities for social media-savvy fans, like social media nights or special seating. Cleveland wins this space with its Indians Social Suite — a dedicated box for Twitter-friendly fans, and other teams are sure to follow. (I feel a road trip to Cleveland coming on this summer.)
Where else is MLB winning with social and mobile? Add your favorites in the comments below.
Thanks for being a fan.