Ahh, America’s favorite pastime. Hot dogs, peanuts, jerseys, and Big League Chew. We have all heard the call at the stadium – “Beer here.”  Major League Baseball commands attention, defining summer for sports fans and inflaming longstanding hometown rivalries.  I live in New York City, though I was raised outside Boston.  Talk about a rivalry – the Yankees and Red Sox – though not a good year for the BoSox this year.  Every home run, broken bat and strikeout adds up to the biggest baseball event of the year: the World Series.

The World Series is one of the key tent pole events of the advertising year.  It is important to big brands and advertisers.  Sports is a great way to reach a key male demographic; so for car companies, beer, snack food, soft drink, and other brands, the World Series is one of the championship venues in which they need to play. This is true not only for national advertisers, but local advertisers as well.  So you might see a major automotive company in the national network television spots and local dealer association advertising in the local spots for a market.  If you are thirsty, hungry, need a deodorant, a new shaver, or a new car – watch the World Series.

The Way I See It

  • I see the best of athletic competition bringing new thrills and touching childhood memories.  I see television advertising at its best touching a key advertising demographic.
  • I see the smart use of online, mobile, and social media by MLB to keep consumers in touch who are not in front of the television, giving advertisers multiple platforms to reach their audience.
  • I see athletes competing and I look for the next breakout star shaving, eating cereal or promoting the features of a new car.

The Way the Industry Sees It

To learn more about baseball’s biggest matchup and what it means to the advertising industry, I sat down with Jacqueline Parkes, the first-ever Chief Marketing Officer of Major League Baseball.  She answered some of my biggest questions about the World Series for advertisers.

[Since the World Series is a competition that lasts anywhere from 4 to 7 games, does MLB view this as a competitive advantage in terms of marketing value over some other sports championship competition that may be only be one game?

Every event is different and presents its own unique opportunities.  The World Series has stood the test of time to consistently stand as one of the jewel events of the television calendar.  From an advertising standpoint, our partners at FOX routinely sell out of all inventory.  We all focus primarily on the first four games since we know they will definitely take place – as MLB did this year by dedicating each of the first four games to an important community initiative (Stand Up To Cancer, Welcome Back Veterans, youth charities and Habitat for Humanity) – and then if and when games 5, 6 and 7 take place we all move quickly to activate around them.  We feel it is very important to leverage our largest promotional platform, the World Series, to build awareness for charities that help drive our communities.

How important are historic or geographic rivalries to baseball and the World Series?  Do they factor into marketing the MLB?

Certain matchups between teams with a long history can sometimes help bring in more viewers at the start of a World Series, but it’s been proven time and time again that in the end, the drama on the field will bring in the viewers regardless of who’s playing.  In 2011, the Cardinals and Rangers came into the World Series having never faced each other, and yet the seventh game of that epic World Series was the most-watched baseball game since the Red Sox ended their 86-year drought in 2004.

Have the demographics of baseball fans changed over the years – either those who attend or those who watch? Is it different with the World Series?

As the national pastime, baseball’s fan base consistently mirrors that of the country at large.  We have fans across the spectrum – young and old, male and female, of all races and backgrounds, in urban and rural areas, etc.  The past nine seasons have been the nine best-attended seasons in MLB history, with 75 million fans passing through the gates each year.  Our 30 clubs work very hard every year to ensure that baseball remains the most family-friendly of all the major sports, with ticket prices holding steady at an average of around $25, far and away the lowest of the major professional sports.  While we have a large and loyal fan base, we are always working to build the next generation of fans, and for the past two years have done so through an exciting new initiative called the MLB Fan Cave, which engages younger audiences through social media while raising the profile of our star players and placing baseball at the center of all things pop culture.

In July, MLB launched a Twitter campaign to allow fans to vote for the final two players for the All-Star Game during a four-hour period via tweeted hashtags. Was this a success? How important is social media for MLB and the World Series?

That initiative was undertaken by our partners at MLB Advanced Media and was certainly a success.  Social media played a huge role throughout All-Star Week, as we once again allowed players to tweet from the field during the Home Run Derby and for the first time allowed in-game tweeting during the All-Star Game itself.  We set up a room alongside the clubhouses where players could use social media after being removed from the game.  Both initiatives were a huge success, resulting in big increases for the participating players’ Twitter following while simultaneously driving TV ratings and viewership increases for both events.

What is the coolest object in your office right now?

An Opening Day poster signed by President Barack Obama – 100th Anniversary of the Opening Day Presidential First Pitch from 2010 at Nationals Park.  The poster was created by our design team at MLB in an effort to pay tribute to the historic nature of President Obama’s first pitch – marking the 17th President to throw out a first pitch on Opening Day.