While the NFL tries more ways to keep the Pro Bowl relevant, fun and brand-worthy during the week before the Super Bowl by having it in Orlando, it is baseball that will play the Hot Stove card next week to make that first concerted relevant push to warm the pocketbooks and hearts of fans young and old.
For baseball, the push of interest this weekend is not from games, but from the celebration of both the past and the future. From the Hall of Fame announcements to the Baseball Assistance Fund (BAT) Dinner to the Baseball Writers Dinner this coming week and weekend, media and casual fans get a reminder of all the celebratory points of the game, brought together on one stage. The 2017 award winners, all will shine bright on a cold winter night while luminaries of the past, like Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax, also take the stage next Sunday night in New York. Ironically for such a bright night, the event is not covered by any outlets live, a lost opportunity in the digital age, but the two major January functions always get ample coverage and talk going around baseball’s hot stove.
In addition to the awards and hoopla with the game’s biggest stars, the late January timeframe will also see teams from the Dodgers to the Tigers, Rangers and A’s, and fans of baseball engaging in the grassroots across the country. Several teams host their annual Fan Fests, to remind everyone how great baseball is, and to provide a sneak peek toward spring on a cold winter weekend. Fan fests have always provided great engagement points for baseball teams, and although some teams in major markets look at the benefits as almost being cost prohibitive, those teams in secondary or teams on the rebound effectively use the cost associated to engage at a key buying time with their partners, and with all they need to come through the gates during the long spring and summer months. The other grassroots push unique to baseball is the annual kickoff by the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), with their SABR Day. Always planned late in January, this year on January 27, SABR Day used to be a quaint little activity which self-proclaimed “stats nerds” used to start their fantasy baseball talk. Today, with the explosion of analytics in sport, SABR Day has grown with hundreds of local events all connected through social media. From New York to Nashville, Phoenix to Florida, SABR Day serves as a great link for avid baseball fans looking to gather and discuss their favorite sport, with a host of guest speakers planned to add to the mix.
With the constant movement of players and staff, the growth of social and the push toward analytics, baseball never really totally leaves the public consciousness. However as football sets its sites in Minneapolis and has a bit of a mid-January pause, and the NHL and NBA are not yet at All-Star stops, the strategic, and traditional play MLB makes to get back in the daily swinging this coming week is smart and effective, and for most of the country being in the deep freeze, more than welcomed, for casual and diehard fans as well as for the brands and businesses that activate against the game year round.