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Vice-President, Advertising and Marketing, Major League Baseball FROM: Rebecca Sparenberg DATE: March 3, 2011 SUBJECT: The MLB is Missing an Opportunity to Connect with Women Online
"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." I. Major League Baseball, AFar-Flung Empire Baseball has long been known as America¶s past time. Major League Baseball (MLB) represents the highest level of professional baseball played in North America. MLB has faced its share of controversies over the years, and since the league¶s founding, there have been conflicts between fans, players, owners and the commissioner. However, over past ten years, baseball has been losing popularity. Ticket and apparel sales have seriously declined and the 2010 World Series averaged just 14.3 million viewers, the second-lowest rating in the classic¶s history.1 America¶s icon is in trouble. The economic decline, steroid controversies, numerous player scandals, ownership debacles and getting dropped from the 2012 Olympics have all taken their toll. In the past, the MLB and baseball in general, has quickly bounced back from controversy and scandal had little effect on the long term popularity of the sport. However, the MLB¶s image has also taken a hit, and it has yet to recover. Recently, sports columnist Brian Ross likened the MLB to the mob, ³an old-boy, backroom institution run by fiefdoms of power brokers who do as they will.´2 Since the 1960s, the MLB has steadily expanded their operations creating a host of smaller limited liability partnerships and corporations that control everything from merchandise licensing andticketing to money management and media; all under the main MLB framework.2 Certainly,the MLB¶s firm hold on any baseball related newsand media supports Ross¶ mob
Marco.Proud To Be an American? World Baseball Classic Could Help Heal MLB's Image. Bleacher Report. <http://bleacherreport.com/articles/114250-proud-to-be-an-american-world-baseball-classic-could-helpheal-mlbs-image>. 2 Ross, David. Mets Money Mishap May Make MLB a Monopoly After All. The Huffington Post.< http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-ross/mets-money-mishap-revives_b_828745.html?ir=New%20York>
analogy. Having dominated the television and radio markets, themedia arm of MLB is now staking out online real estate. MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), the league¶s interactive media and Internetcompany, manages the official league site, www.MLB.com, as well as, each of the 30 individual club sites. Only large media outlets, such as ESPN and Fox, have access to MLB.com material, and these companies pay hefty annual access fees for the privilege. Critics have denounced the MLB for infringing on reporters First Amendment rights and strong arming small publications and media outlets out of the market with fees.2 While sales are down in the major league, minor league sales and attendance have reached new heights. In 2010, MLB acquired Minor League Baseball's official Website, www.MiLB.com, as well as their television operations. By adding MiLB to their media empire, MLB gained control over all of the sites previously managed by MiLB, contributing millions in additional ticketing fees and gaining access to millions of new target fans.2
II: The Problem: It¶s Not Enough to Just Show Up In 2006, Major League Baseball (MLB) boasted the most gender balanced fan base of the major sports leagues, with 46% of the league¶s fans being female. Five years later, the league leaders have toppled from their lofty throne. Last year, the National Football League (NFL) passed both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and MLB to claim the largest percentage of female viewers in major sports. Women purchase over 70% of all NBA and NFL apparel online, while the MLB has flat lined at around 50%. 3 In the overall scheme of things, third place isn¶t a terrible position. However, NBA and NFL are on a roll, and the farther away they pull, the more difficult it will be for MLB to retake the crown. Furthermore, the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) viewership are improving.Both the NHL and NASCAR want that third place spot, and they are doing a better job of marketing to women than the MLB. WhatMLB and individual clubs have done an excellent job of is creating female targeted initiatives at games. The most successful being the "Going to Bat against Breast Cancer"
Ivy Cohen Cooperation Communication. <http://www.ivycohen.com/MarketingCoach/TargetingWomen.html>
initiative. Pink bats on Mother's Day have become symbolic of the program and raises awareness about breast cancer. Game-used pink bats, home plates, logo bases and lineup cards are auctioned online at MLB.com and all proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure. One day a year players across the league bat for their mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and all the women in their lives.4 But the other 364 days a year, 46% of the baseball fan base is still women. Teams such as the Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers, and Astros have started hosting ³Baseball 101´ events. They invite women for pre-game talks with members of coaching staff to discuss how the game is played.3Twenty-three clubs are also taking part in Stitch N¶Pitch. Together with the National Needlearts Association (TNNA), clubs invite women to come to a ball game and crochet, knit, or embroider,while sitting among friends and cheering on their favorite team.5 Several teams also offer wine-tasting and spa getaways as incentives to woo women to stadiums. But 17 percent of women consider themselves avid fans, and that number is even higher in larger markets. According to MLB, 75 percent of the women in the Boston area are baseball fans and 39 percent are avid fans.6However, while pink bats, wine and massages may attract women to a single game, overall it¶s shortsighted. The MLB is missing a prime opportunity to connect with women. If baseball wants women to come back game after games, they must show that they are invested in women. Furthermore, the MLBAM already has all the tools in place to create online communities for female baseball fans where they can connect with other female fans, educate themselves about the game and learn about how the MLB is investing in women on and off the field.
The Plan: Translate Previous Success into the Digital Realm The objective is to translate the on-field successes MLB has had marketing to the world
into the digital world. Over the course of a year, MLBMA will introduce a series of official online websites for female fans. Starting in the first quarter the league will launch its official site,
4Bollinger, Rhett. MLB teams up with Komen on Mother's Day. Major League Baseball. <http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100504&content_id=9783792>. 5 The National Needlearts Association. Stitch N Pitch. <http://stitchnpitch.com/>. 6Stern, Bob. Diamonds are this girl's best friend. Patriot Ledger. <http://www.patriotledger.com/sports/x144143350#axzz1FVmud7JX>.
www.MLBDiamonds.com, operating under the theme ³The Best Diamonds in the World Can Be Found in Baseball.´ MLBDiamonds will serve as an online site for women interested in understanding and embracing the game. It will offer a section on Baseball 101 with explanations of positions, definitions, lingos, plays and video tutorials, as well as, a section for experienced fans interested in learning more complicated theories. The site will also showcase women centricinitiatives such as ³Going to Bat against Breast Cancer´ and profile players who have invested in charities and causes that are supporting women and children in the community. The message is that baseball cares for women and not just women who buy pink apparel; because if more women believe this they will invest in baseball. Lastly, the site will feature baseball from a woman¶s perspective, or more precisely, a multitude of different women with different fields. It will host regular blogs, articles and tweets from the female reporters, executives, workers and even players¶ wives that have made baseball their lives. Baseball explained and reported on by women, for women. In the second quarter of the same year, MLBDiamonds will launch a corresponding phone app. Finally, in the fourth(third ?) quarter, MLBAM will launch team sites that target women in specific markets. These sites will be focused on the individual organizations and showcase what the teams, players and wives¶ club are doing in the region. It will list club events such as wine tasting and spa getaways that are exclusive to members. Exclusive team events for ³members´ will offer chances for women to socialize with other female fans in the region. The team sites will offer more intimate profiles on players than the generic MLB player profiles; much of this information has already been gathered for gameday programs.
Implementation:Create Buzzing, MLB Has the Tools Before MLBDiamond.com launches, we will begin by creating buzz with affiliate
organizations about the siteand pushing the first promotional offer, free MLBDiamonds hats to the first 1,000 women. With MLB¶s control of radio and television, it will be easy to promote the new site with quick 30 second commercials and announcer promos on these mediums. MLB.com will also offer a teaser on its main page before the launch, and a blur and link after the site goes live.One month before the site launches, press releases will be sent to all the major media outlets.
Though the information on all sites will be available for free, users will be prompted to join the ³Diamond¶s Club´ for exclusive e-mails, news and offers, such as deals on women¶s apparel and tickets. The first way to measure success will be by the number of views for the sites and the number of ³members´ each site generates. Eventually, ticket and merchandise sales by women should increase as well.
Conclusion: Educate, Entertain and Engage Women Despite the fact that MLB has started to reach out to women, in less than five years the
MLB has already lost ground to the NBA and NFL. If MLB is not careful, they will end up in the middle of the pack; surpassed by the NHL, NASCAR and major collegiate teams. However, there is more than one way to market to women. Even with the well-documented impact of the Internet on sports and fan engagement, major sports organizations have largely failed to use Web 2.0 technology to target female audiences. The MLB has the opportunity to set a positive trend and strike before their competition. Women must believe that the MLB is invested in them and an online forum is the perfect channel to engage the modern, technologically savvy woman. MLBDiamonds is part of a longterm plan to educate, entertain and engage women and peak their interest in baseball beyond a single game. Women buy or influence at least 83% of all household spending. They are not a niche market for baseball, they are half the market.If MLB wants women to invest in baseball, they must be willing to invest in women.