Celebrity Marketing: How Authentic Brand Engagement Can Turn Baseball Icons into Baseball Buddies

Following record shattering ratings in the 2016 World Series and 2017 World Baseball Classic, baseball is proving why it is “America’s Pastime”.

Despite the heroics of those two events, Major League Baseball faces the issue of skewing to an older demographic. According to Nielsen ratings, 50% of baseball fans are 55 or older. Additionally, those ages 18-34 are 14 percent less likely to report a strong interest in baseball.

However, MLB Opening Week attendance revealed a modest increase from 2016, and that is largely thanks to baseball’s latest initiative to appeal to a younger demographic.

The new 60-second spot “This Season on Baseball” positions the 2017 MLB season as an ongoing reality TV show, diving into the personas of baseball’s hottest young talent. Whether it’s Bryce Harper taking an ice bath or the Mets’ fireballers at dinner, the message is that these icons are real people. The creative is fresh, showing viewers that baseball and its stud stars are spontaneous: which is exactly what young fans demand.

Avid sports fans crave any interaction with their favorite superstars, whether it be as big as an autograph or simply favoriting their tweets.

Along with exotic ballpark menu items, teams have even incorporated VR elements to their stadiums this season, paving the way for unparalleled fan engagement, ultimately bringing a younger crowd into the seats. Fenway Park has added a VR batting cage in their Kids Concourse, where young fans can take a crack at facing their favorite Major Leaguers.

Not only is the MLB virtually connecting to their fan base, but now they are interacting in real-time in a whole new way via social media.

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has just released their own social media app called Infield Chatter, designed to provide baseball fans with ultimate player interaction. Unlike other social media platforms, Infield Chatter is designed strictly for players and fans to share pictures, video, and text to their in-app feeds.

While this innovative approach to fan connection doesn’t exactly stretch MLB’s brand appeal to new audiences, it certainly enhances the experience of the most avid followers. The app is still very much in its primitive stages, but has all the makings to generate enough buzz to raise some eyebrows across the entire sports world.

Nearly 1,000 major and minor league players are on the app, including superstars Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes and NL MVP Kris Bryant. While MLB itself has yet to partner with the app, the MLBPA believes that the only way to truly bring viewers to the MLB brand is to have a conversation with them.

What’s key is that these MLB players aren’t talking at the fans. They’re talking with the fans.

This level of intimacy provides a whole new level of brand appreciation and attachment, which should ultimately translate to cross-generation appeal.

photo credit: www.staticflickr.com

Celebrity Marketing: Adding An Athlete Can Improve Your Brand’s Bottom Line

Stephen Curry for Degree

Stephen Curry for Degree

Three interesting facts and tips about athletes and endorsements

Choosing the right one

Choosing an athlete for your brand is one of the more difficult parts of celebrity marketing.  Brands look for different characteristics in athletes both on and off the field.  On the field characteristics generally speak for themselves; anything to do with skill level, performance, potential ability, or style of play all help brands make a decision on which athlete they want to use for their campaign.  As a result many brands look to sign players with the potential to become the next superstar.  For example, Steph Curry signed a variety of deals with multiple brands as he started to emerge as an NBA talent. Then, in 2015, Curry won the MVP and the NBA Finals, making him infinitely more valuable to brands.  The brands who signed him prior to his breakout season benefited immensely from this.

Another important aspect to consider when signing athletes to deals is their off the field qualities.  Things like their personality or charisma, how well they interact with fans, their looks, and their background are all important.  A good example is David Beckham, who ticks off all the good measurables from that list. Combined with the fact that he is a world class player it is no wonder Beckham is such a sought after name in the advertising industry.

Finally, it is important to consider how the athlete is viewed by the targeted audience. Ensuring that the sport is popular in the campaign’s region and making sure the demographic in question likes the team the athlete plays for are both important things to consider when choosing an athlete.

Adds 4% to sales

Athletes can bring plenty to the table in terms of success. A study by Harvard Business School concluded that athletes bring in up to 4% more in sales than other celebrities.  This number may sound relatively small but it translates to gains of over 10 million dollars annually.  In addition, this study also concluded that an athlete’s performance over time goes hand in hand with sales.  For example, if a player wins a championship, the amount they bring in for the exact same promotion or ad rises.

How much the athletes make

A contributing factor in signing an athlete to a brand is the endorsement money.  This is one area that athletes are especially keen on.  This is because endorsements tend to make athletes much more money than their typical salary.  According to a study by Forbes, LeBron James makes 53 million dollars from endorsements, compared to only 19 million from his salary and winnings.

photo credit: Degree/Unilever (Disclosure: Unilever is a Burns Client)