Saturday, July 06, 2013

I Play For Smart People

We're not even at the All Star Break and already the howling has started in certain quarters about how, if the playoffs started today, it would be a ratings disaster because the playoffs wouldn't consist exclusively of the Yankees and Red Sox, possibly cloned to fill all the playoff slots but ensuring large TV markets). The spectre of *gasp* a Pittsburgh or an Oakland sneaking into the postseason, instead of the large market teams that Fox is banking on, will apparently trigger the zombie apocalypse, the heat-death of the universe, and a reboot of "Boy Meets World" (Note: One of these has already happened. Danielle Fishel, call me.)
In the meantime, however, MLB is doing something very smart.
Yes, I'll stop here for a second and let that sink in. Baseball...is doing something smart.
Specifically, they're running a series of ads, featuring young stars, talking about why they play. Which makes sense - you promote your sport by promoting your stars. 
But what's interesting is which stars they're promoting. While ESPN sticks to the tried-and-true method of "We promote Yankees-Red Sox, and maybe Dodgers-Angels", MLB is looking elsewhere. Which is why their ads include:
  • Prince Fielder, who plays for Detroit
  • Adam Jones, who plays for Baltimore
  • Carlos Gonzalez, who plays for Colorado
  • Jose "Joey Bats" Bautista, who plays for Toronto
  • Buster Posey, who plays for San Francisco
  • Andrew McCutcheon, who plays for Pittsburgh
  • David Price, who plays for Tampa Bay
  • David Wright, who plays for a New York team, but not the one anyone cares about
  • Justin Verlander, who also plays for Detroit
  • Bryce Harper, who plays for Washington
  • Robinson Cano, who plays for the Yankees, but does his commercial in Spanish, and who isn't Jeter or A-Rod
You get the idea. They're promoting the players whom you haven't already heard of, to turn them into household names, to get fans interested when they play in October. They're promoting diverse players, to chip away at the misconception that baseball is just for white dudes. They're promoting good players, instead of big names. And they're looking to grow interest in the game, rather than doubling down on the sure thing. 
And who knows. Some of those guys are going to be playing in October. Maybe a lot of them. And hopefully some folks who, once upon a time, would have looked up and said "Who?" will instead be saying "I gotta see him.
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