With a new crop of young stars, Major League Baseball (MLB) is promoting its new season as a new era in its Opening Day 2019 campaign.
Continuing where last year’s ‘Rewrite The Rules’ work left off, the new season creative features a team of 11 young super stars (such as Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton , Aaron Judge and Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr debate amongst themselves who’s the best in a hero spot called ‘Let Them Play’.
The opening day commercial is set at a news conference and revolves around back and forth banter between the youngsters which makes it clear these kids are relishing the opportunity to break traditions.
The press conference sees Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa declare themselves future World Series champions and poke fun at Stanton and Judge for preemptively celebrating the Yankees’ 28th title by pointing out they haven’t been a part of the previous 27 championship teams, while Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins yell out projected home run totals as if they’re auctioneers.
The commercial, which debuted 24 hours ahead of Opening Day on 27 March, sees new crop of baseball stars – every player in the spot is under 30 and most have only been in the majors a couple of years – clearly aren’t going to stick by the same unwritten rules established during the 100 years of baseball that preceded them.
The spot was also released in a simultaneous Spanish language version.
The commercial will run in ballparks across the league, as well as on television, digital and social channels (where it was supported by additional new season content including a ‘work excuse letter’.
The campaign saw MLB work with Cycle Media for both ‘Let the Kids Play’ ads and produced them during Spring Training.
“What we wanted to do was really showcase the youngest star power of our game and really showcase the personalities of the players on and off the field,” explained MLB SVP marketing Barbara McHugh.
McHugh added that, due to their chaotic and clashing training schedules, the players mostly had to be shot separately as it wasn’t possible to get all of them in the same room together.
Despite this, many of the players had fun with the material – with some improvising their lines – and the MLB plans to release outtakes and additional footage digitally in the coming weeks.
(Back in 2014 MLB failed with its ‘Make Opening Day a Holiday’ marketing initiative which aimed to generate 100,000 signatures to send to the White House for national holiday consideration.
The MLB began this fresh approach with last postseason’s ‘Rewrite the Rules’ campaign which featured a voiceover from Ken Griffey Jr and starred an impressive line up of next generation stars (including Javy Baez and Francisco Lindor) flipping bats, slamming helmets and showing a fresh fire and passion for the sport
The work sees the MLB’s revamped marketing team shine a spotlight on the off-the-field personalities of the sport’s next generation of stars.
The new work is described by Barbara McHugh McHugh as “as a fun way to kind of have that 2.0 version of last year’s campaign’.
It marks something of a change of approach from 2017′s ‘This Season On Baseball’ Opening Day initiative (see case study).
The youth focused new season campaign is just one part of America’s pastime looking to the future and focusing on engaging new, younger audiences.
Other rights-owner initiatives range from offering new streaming services and apps, to investing in getting more kids playing in Little League and even rule changes that shorten the game.
After all, MLB has the oldest viewers of major US sports with half of its audience 55 or older (up from 41% a decade ago) according to Nielsen ratings.
The average age of baseball viewers is 53: compared with 47 for the NFL and 37 for the NBA.
And fewer young people are playing the sport too: the number of people between the ages of 7 and 17 playing baseball in the US fell by 41% from 9m in 2002 to 5.3m in 2013.
But other MLB statistics are very healthy indeed: MLB has brought in record revenues for the past 14 years in a row.
The 2019 season sees MLB celebrate its 150th year and, according to Nielsen Sports Sponsorlink, boasts 170m loyal US fans and a further 10m in Canada.
Plus, according to Nielsen Sports, MLB also boasts the highest average percentage of fans who’ve attended a game in 2018 with the average MLB team fan base is more than 2.5m people.
“One of the things that makes Major League Baseball very special is its accessibility to fans. 23& of the US adult population attended at least one game in their home market in 2018, compared to the 12% average across professional ‘stick and ball’ sports,” said Jon Stainer, Managing Director, Nielsen Sports Americas
MLB is also starting to attract fans from other parts of the world: especially in Mexico and Japan (where the league is returning to host games in 2019).
Interest in those countries’ age 16-69 populations is 42% and 24%, respectively, up from 39% and 22% in 2017, according to Nielsen SportsDNA.
While interest in MLB in the UK has been steady for the past two years at 8%, and London will host Europe’s first ever MLB games on 29 and 30 June.
“The landmark two-game series at London’s iconic Olympic Stadium signals MLB’s strong intent to grow its brand internationally and create a footprint in the UK. The limited participation base at a youth and grass-roots level in the U.K. highlights the difference in interest levels compared to Mexico and Japan; however, this summer’s series presents a great opportunity to drive interest in MLB,” said Stainer.