Tuesday night the sport of baseball gets what is perhaps the rarest of rare opportunities in a cluttered 24/7 sports and entertainment world…a night virtually free of competition to show off its best and its brightest. Maybe there is a little World TeamTennis, a dab of NBA Summer League and free agent movement, some minor league baseball here and there but there are no movie openings, no TV originals, no global soccer, no tennis, no golf, no football news, no NASCAR, IRL or Formula One, no Olympic trials, no hockey free agency, not even any WWE or MMA. Nothing. Nada to compete with for the causal fan, except the All-Star Game, live from Kansas City. While some may still feel that MLB is caught still trying to catch up to engage with younger audiences, having that niche of about 48 hours almost alone to promote the sport, its athletes and its brands is perhaps the greatest single advantage baseball has over anyone else in the marketplace. Every other team sport, for all the great platforms that can be created, always has something else to draw eyeballs. Every championship still has other elements to compete with. Baseball, on a Tuesday in mid-July is all to itself.
Does baseball take adequate advantage of that platform? Let’s see. The league has fully invoked social media to get the fans up close and personal to everything going on in and around the game, even publishing a comprehensive guide as to who and what to follow from Sunday through Wednesday morning. They have a good celebrity presence with softball and others attending the games, they have found their way into Late Night shows with their stars, from Letterman’s Top 10 list to RA Dickey joining Dave on Wednesday post-game. They recognize their global presence with the Future’s Game, a format which may make even more sense for All-Star going forward as the upcoming World Baseball Classic takes hold, and they have tried to take the challenge of the game having no meaning head on by rewarding home field advantage to the winning league. Whether the last piece works or not is anyone’s guess, but it did and still does cause considerable debate and it does draw casual attention to the game.
As far as sponsors go, the game and the surrounding activities are all about the brands who spend huge sums to be part of “America’s Pastime.” From State Farm‘s involvement in the Home Run Derby to Sirius XM’s partnership with the Futures Game to Head and Shoulders fun “Man Man Competition with Nick Swisher and other former players having fun with their hair, every brand partner using every platform possible, will try and find a way to get the best ROI out of all things All-Star. While there may be some clamor as to who gets the best exposure and how the greatest programs are executed, the multiple days give the better programs the best chances to shine not just at the game, but on the web, on mobile, in video and at every ancillary event. Market size for such a platform, with the game being in Kansas City this year, isn’t even the factor that it used to be, with so many brands able to use new and digital media to pull in activation from fans around the world like never before.
While millions will cast their eyes in a few weeks time to the Olympics as the grand daddy of activation for 2012, there will still be competition every day for casual fans attention and dollars. NFL will be starting, college sports kicking up, baseball in full swing, MLS and the various soccer “friendlies” will be moving along, NASCAR hits its stride and more people will be on holiday as August beckons. MLB has the clear stage to test and activate like no one else, with a prime time window to showcase all their wares on Tuesday. It should be the envy of all events, not just for the window but for what the sport is doing to grow and show off their work with little to battle against.