We are all aware of the explosion, good and bad, of youth sports in America. Every family is scheduled, and too many families it seems are tied to this manic obsession with athletic success. One of, if not the biggest, youth sports event is just on the horizon, the Little League World Series. Little League has always been in rarefied air in terms of media exposure, with its longstanding broadcast every year on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Now early rounds find their way to ESPN and ESPN2, even bumping key soccer matches from the tube (as happened this past week with USA-Mexico) so we can watch the little leaguers take their swings. Little League has been both praised and vilified by media and parents in the never-ending battle for exposure, both good and bad. For every ten or 12 positive stories gracing blogs, newspapers and television, there is the one bad story about age fixing or poor sportsmanship that makes it to the top of the page. Brands have found ways to activate to some degree of success in the space, often times using Little League World Series alums like Fred Lynn to tell the positive stories of their experiences not just in Little League, but with baseball’s life lessons in general.
In addition to the traditional exposure this year will be the social media exposure that the LLWS can generate, either on its own or virally. Although there hasn’t been much controversy in the space thus far, an overexcited or entreprenurial parent out there could take to the social space to post some first hand accounts of the games good and bad…although twitter is not really the messenger of choice for those 18 and under, there could be some brothers and sisters, or coaches, who may find ways to use social media to have fun and share positive experiences from Williamsport. Facebook is a natural to follow the teams moving from regionals to the World Series, since it would not be surprising to see many of the participants online and engaged with their friends at that age. Will LLWS shot off the digital space, will coaches block kids and staff access to the internet on their trip to Williamsport? Will there be a texting controversy over a close call?
Now it doesn’t all have to be about exploitation. There are many, many positive stories that get told through the eyes of the LLWS every year. It is a very difficult road to get to Williamsport. Many groups have huge obstacles to overcome with fundraising and sacrifice, and the digital space can be a great call to action for those stories as well as the great charity and underdog stories we hear about with each team. There is also the great international aspect that does bring together teams from all over to play, and the digital space can be a great common ground there as well. Regardless it will be interesting to see if some new territory can be forged, or will it be avoided, in social media as the baseball eyes turn to the LLWS.