MLB Social Value Heats Up During Cactus And Grapefruit League Play
We are now into an MLB regular season with fans back in every stadium and a sense of normalcy returning to the sport that is a huge part of the fabric of an American summer. Part of that return started this spring, as fans in small numbers were allowed to attend spring training games in Arizona and Florida as their teams readied for the April 1st start. Last week we looked back at the best of the best in activation during the shortened, fanless summer of 2020. Now we want to bring everyone up to speed and into the regular season by taking a look at how activation and social play advanced during these past few months as teams, and fans, readied for a full 182 games.
While the regular season has a great deal of hyper-local extensions and execution, Spring Training this year was dominated in exposure by MLB partners. On top of that list was Camping World, which used its presenting sponsor position for Spring Training across both markets to drive great awareness and social currency. The positioning makes a lot of sense as fans get ready for a summer where they can be back on the road for vacation, but still may not be ready to travel abroad due to restrictions. So the mushrooming RV and camping business made for a great fit for those engaging online and on broadcast. Camping World even enhanced their position by including deals with some clubs, specifically the Boston Red Sox, which resulted in an even bigger burst of activity.
Of the ten most active brand partnerships in social media value during March, seven were league partners. One outlier was CVS, which took advantage of its position as a leader in healthcare, COVID-19 testing, and vaccinations to sponsor the Red Sox spring training live feed, which garnered almost $159,000 in value. It was second only to Nike’s MLB partnership across all markets.
The Red Sox CVS deal was followed by three other MLB partners, Camping World, Chevrolet, Wintrust Financial and newcomer Loan Depot. The only other team-specific deal to make the top ten was the Chicago Cubs deal with Toyota.
While naming rights deals for large venues can be tricky, MLB Spring Training saw some brands who have taken stadium names in Arizona and Florida perform well. They included Clover Park (Mets), JetBlue Park (Red Sox), and TD Ballpark (Blue Jays). TD Bank will get even more exposure as Toronto will stay in Florida for the first part of the season because of Canadian border restrictions.
Other brands, like Wintrust and Bigelow Tea received their value from in-venue signage appearing in highlights that were featured on Spring Training broadcasts and picked up on social.
As it is with the players, Spring Training is often a tune-up for the business that will take place during the regular season across MLB. That was the case this year, even without the large crowds we customarily see. Some teams used added exposure in ballparks, online and on broadcast, as continued make-goods for the shortened summer of 2020. While other brands, like Loan Depot, used the spring to begin a partnership, which will continue to expand throughout the summer.
This year “rising numbers” will hopefully continue to mean something that we didn’t hear much of last year…attendance, social engagement, broadcast audience sizes.
The spring served as a great litmus test for what will lie ahead, and continued to amplify the innovative growth of last summer, all of which should point to a bright spring and summer of baseball. Not just for players and fans, but for engaged and eager business partners, who are looking, and needing, the welcome bounce of business on the diamond this year.