Brand USA and Baseball…A Good Global Fit

If you are a baseball fan living in the United States and watching or attending the World Baseball Classic, you may see an ad with former Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine and others urging you to travel and explore the United States. Why would a company take out ads and preach to the converted you may say. The answer is actually pretty simple…the ads really aren’t for you.

The partnership was created by The Corporation for Travel Promotion, now doing business as Brand USA. It was founded in 2010 to encourage travelers from all over the world to visit the United States of America. The public-private marketing entity works in close partnership with the travel industry to maximize the economic and social benefits of travel in communities around the country. Through its website, Discover America, Brand USA will inspire travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities. So what’s the deal?

Simple. The program is designed to capture the interest of non-Americans in areas OUTSIDE of the US to come and visit, and the feeling is that the WBC, with its global appeal early in the spring, is the right platform. It is the first time that Brand USA has ventured into the sports waters to try and get the attention of the casual tourist, and if it works it will probably lead to other spends where the audience is global but the target is tourists who would have an interest in coming to the US. Now even with its slow start for casual acceptance here in the US this spring, the WBC and its country vs. country concept has done really well in other host cities and in broadcasts. The promotion actually had more activation points in stadia outside the US than it did in Phoenix, Miami or San Francisco, for the obvious reason that that is where passionate local fans are consuming their baseball. The same goes for local broadcast vs. American broadcast. Push heavy with those following Japan or Chinese Taipei or the Netherlands…they love baseball, they are intrigued about the WBC and maybe you can strike a chord and get them to make travel plans to the States this summer.

Using Valentine, a baseball figure with great international appeal who is multilingual, also makes great sense in trying to engage media and fans who are not just around to cover team USA. Does it hurt at all to engage and remind Americans about seeing their country? Of course not. But the main focus is to get people to come to the States to visit and spend those disposable dollars, and baseball and the WBC seem to be a great litmus test for the corporation.

The WBC seems to have been a great test spot for Brand USA. They got their message in front of millions in a setting where people were watching not for seconds but for a good period of time. Baseball has natural breaks in the action which can lead to longer discussion points, and the ties to baseball and an American experience for a consumer are obvious. So while it wasn’t the hard sell of a consumer product, Brand USA has chosen an interesting forum to get out their tourism message. If it works it could be a home run for future partnerships, especially as American sports look more globally for consumers, and teams with global appeal look to access the American marketplace.