It is always amazing to see that no matter how big the NFL brand gets, that baseball can still cut through the clutter in the darkest of winters and find a way to engage fans like no other sport. From the myriad of fan fests that will draw thousands in cities like Detroit. to the Hall of Fame announcements and various autograph shows, baseball fans stay engaged and in the media no matter what else is going on around. Latest case in point is MLB and the San Francisco Giants, who have taken the Stanley Cup approach with the MLB Championship trophy (as other teams have done recently as well) and captured of all cities, New York, the last few days. The New York Times ran not one, but two stories, including a great one on Willie Mays’ return to an elementary school in upper Manhattan, this week when the rest of the headlines were all about Jets hype and matchups for the NFL Championship games this Sunday. Even the Mets, with an albeit ill-timed media tour (with the Jets all over the news) managed to steal a story or two by taking their players to places like the New York City Fire Academy to draw some attention.
However the jewel of the Hot Stove season remains the Giants. Their work, city by city, to really grow their brand, gain awareness for their players outside of the Bay Area, and re-position themselves as a team with a nationwide following with their World Championship, has been very well done. Their players and coaching staff have found ways into stories off the sports pages, from hometown appearances to video game promotions, and they will be engaged in a Showtime production following the team behind the scenes this spring. Coming east to celebrate their World Championship may not have gone well if it was positioned as gloating or even righting a wrong for when the team left town with the Dodgers in the late 1950's. It was positioned as being very inclusive not just of those fans from decades ago, but also for young people today to learn more about a trailblazer like Mays as well the stars of today. Many of those young people may only know of the Giants from Barry Bonds and steroids, and now may be able to look at the team, and even the sport, in a different light. While it is true that engaging fans on a national basis is certainly a bit easier today with the use of digital and social media and of course broiadcast television, the fact that the Giants really have not rested in their caravan and have expanded their brand with personal visits speaks loudly for how they, and baseball, feel about what fans want and how they want to be involved. It is much more personal, the traditions of baseball, than perhaps any other sport. Quain. Maybe. Archai. Not really. Smar. Absolutely.
The only thing perhaps missing from the Giants Hot Stove tour, especially coming east, would be a larger scale activation around some team or MLB partners. Engaging consumers and casual fans, not just those in Harlem, may have been seen as obtrusive to the Mets or Yankees brands, or may have ruined the simplicity of the effort, but it may have also helped baseball again engage even more fans during a snow covered January.
Regardless, the Giants as ambassadors of baseball, have done great work in the offseason. Work certainly worthy of a championship and all that goes with it.