While many times media-types look to larger market teams as innovation leaders, especially in the digital and social space, the reality is that those in smaller markets are sometimes best at innovation. One of those leaders of the pack for Major League Baseball is the Milwaukee Brewers. No matter what happens on the field, the Brew Crew always seems to be finding new ways to engage their fans year-round, and many of those innovations become best practices for other teams throughout professional sport.
One of those key people with a finger on the pulse of the Brewers digital brand is Director of New Media Caitlin Moyer. Moyer started working for the Brewers as an intern in the Corporate Marketing department in 2003 and has risen through the ranks, now helping lead the outreach in digital and social media and digital advertising. We caught up with Caitlin to hear more about how the Brewers do what they do, and what’s coming up next this winter.
The Brewers have really found ways to engage with fans in the offseason and make it fun; hiding gnomes and doing other unique engagement platforms. How have those non traditional ideas been received?
Non-traditional ideas tend to be received very well by our fans, whether in the offseason or during the season.
Some of our ideas, such as the lawn gnome scavenger hunts and our balloon event, have taken place before sunrise and there’s always a great crowd on hand taking part.
While there is something to be said about valuing tradition in the Midwest, Brewers fans are also always up for something new and exciting. They are the most passionate and loyal fans in all of baseball.
Anything new coming up this winter?
We just finished revealing our “#20in15” 20 All-Fan Giveaways slated for our 2015 promotional schedule. Over the course of a week on our social media platforms, we invited fans to play along and try to “Guess the Giveaway” as we released clues for each of our 20 items. Fans had the opportunity to win tickets to these games as well.
Included in that reveal were two more opportunities for us to engage fans this offseason—1) This year, we’ll have 7 T-Shirt Friday dates where all fans in attendance will receive a free t-shirt, and this year, fans will have the chance to vote on the designs; and 2) We will have one Fan Vote Item, where fans will have a say in the final All-Fan Giveaway item of 2015.
Fan Votes are great ways to listen to feedback and give fans exactly what they want, rather than us simply guessing what they want.
Who are some of the teams or outlets you look to to see what’s new and interesting in the digital space?
In my mind, the San Francisco Giants are the gold standard in the MLB. Aside from the fact that their digital efforts are headed up by the genius that is Bryan Srabian, they are in the fortunate position of being located right in the heart of the tech industry.
Other than that, I consider it an important part of my role to keep up on industry news and trends. I subscribe to many newsletters and check in with certain websites daily to stay updated on the latest trends. Some of my favorites include Mashable, Hashtag Sports, Ad Age and Fast Company. Good ideas can come from anywhere.
Sometimes people question the ROI for digital campaigns what have been some of the best examples you have seen where an idea turned into great business for the club?
Our Countdown to Opening Day campaign has been successful for the last two seasons. There is something special about Opening Day – especially in Milwaukee. Here in Milwaukee, Opening Day is treated like a holiday. Every year, without fail, 45,000+ fans take the day off work and pile into Miller Park to celebrate the return of Brewers Baseball. It is undoubtedly our most popular game of the season. Because of this, for the last number of years we have offered free Opening Day tickets as a major incentive to purchase a 10-Pack.
We attempted to accomplish two very distinct goals with our Countdown to Opening Day social campaign. First, we wanted to build excitement for the upcoming season. It is hard to imagine baseball season in the dead of winter when there is a foot of snow on the ground, so we wanted to find a way to stay relevant to our fans in the offseason and get them excited for the upcoming season. Secondly, we wanted to use this as a platform to promote our 10-Packs message and use the free Opening Day hook to drive 10-Pack sales.
In 2013, we had a very successful Countdown to Opening Day social campaign in which, beginning on January 1, we posted a different photo every day representing the number of days remaining until Opening Day. The campaign was so popular we decided to bring back the Countdown again in 2014, but this time, all of the images were fan-submitted.
For 89 days, fans were encouraged to submit their photos showing how they were counting down to Opening Day. At the end of each day, our team would review all of the submissions and decide which photo would be posted across Brewers social media channels the next morning. Of course, we tried to tie in some sort of clever caption relating to the picture in every post. Every fan that had their image selected was entered into a drawing to win a pair of 10-Packs. Also, each post included a link to our 10-Packs landing page along with the hashtag #SeeUMarch31 and some variation of the message, “Opening Day is in XX days. Go for free with a 10-Pack.” And the end of the campaign, we included all 89 countdown graphics into one full-page Season Kickoff ad that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the day before to Opening Day.
Not only did this campaign help drive 10-Pack sales and create brand awareness during the offseason, it spawned increased excitement for OpeningDay and engaged our fan base.
We have also held several special one-day , online-only sales. The offers were promoted solely online and codes were disseminated via our various social media platforms. Through these types of offers, with little to no paid advertising, we’ve been successful in selling over 20,000 tickets on a single date.
The club has a number of players who like to engage in the digital space. Does the team help with such engagements and who are some of the players who have done a good job?
Looking back at 2011, I can name two players on our roster who were on Twitter. One was pitcher John Axford. We were fortunate in that he was a natural (and still is) at engaging with fans, and at the time, we were able to work with him to develop a special ticket offer that was quite successful.
Now we are seeing more and more players joining sites like Twitter and Instagram each year. As these athletes “grow up” with the technology and have an innate understanding of how to use it, they are more comfortable with the platforms and more open to working with us on specific initiatives and ideas.
On our current roster we have probably 15 players that are on social media in some way, shape or form, and they vary in levels of frequency and engagement. However, Carlos Gomez literally is the Brewers Most Valuable Tweeter because he does a great job of interacting with fans on both Twitter and Instagram.
In addition, this past season, one of my greatest successes was “helping” one of our veterans, Kyle Lohse, get on Twitter. Turns out he is a natural.
Obviously there has been some change in the marketplace with the Bucks new owners. Do you work with the other teams in the marketplace to share best practices and see how you can work together?
Absolutely. Especially in a market our size. We may not all get together and meet regularly, but I know all of my counterparts at the different sports organizations from collegiate to NBA and NFL.
For example, we hosted a “Social Media in Sports Night” at Miller Park in 2012 that brought together most of the teams and we have no problem reaching out to each other if an idea presents itself.
Which brands do you think do a great, innovative job of fan activation in general? Are there people outside of baseball that you follow and try to adapt ideas from?
I wouldn’t say there is one company, brand or person that is my go-to resource.
Starbucks is an amazing passion brand that carries that over well to digital, Oreo set a standard for “real-time marketing,” I really admire the stuff that Callaway Golf has done with drones. The #ShareACoke campaign was really creative, McDonald’s is taking an interesting approach to transparency….
Like I said, good ideas can come from anywhere. I definitely keep an eye on what’s happening outside of baseball and outside of sports, but there’s a bigger part of us that likes to be innovative and leaders on our own.
So much emphasis is on winning, how do the Brewers keep fans engaged when success on the field is not always there?
After the World Series, there are always 29 teams with disappointed fans. Whether a team doesn’t make the Postseason or comes within a game of winning the World Series,, our task remains the same: keep fans engaged in the offseason.
One of our primary goals in the offseason is building hope and excitement for the coming season. We focus on what we are doing to improve the team (trades, acquisitions, etc.) We remind them of the star talent already on the roster and of past triumphs. We focus on key series/matchups for the next season, we get fans excited with fun, new promotions, and we are out there in the community reconnecting with fans—whether it is a Thanksgiving Food Drive or our Fan Fest.
When Opening Day rolls around, you’re not selling tickets—you’re selling hope. Hope that this year will be your team’s year to win it all. That’s really all you can do, is give your fans a reason to hope and believe. Baseball is such a romantic sport when you think about it.
During the season, it can be a little tougher to keep fans engaged in a tough season. We went through a really tough time in 2013, and we made a concerted effort to reach out to our fans with several different “Fans First” initiatives. That didn’t come from social/digital. That message came from the top and was executed across the board. It takes an owner and team leaders committed to their fan base and a standard of excellence to pull you through those tough times.
How important is the mobile space for the club? Any new initiatives that you are following or the Brewers will be adapting in the winter or spring?
Mobile is a huge initiative for Major League Baseball in general ,and as a League, we’ve been a leader in this space. We work closely with the folks at MLBAM on the MLB At Bat and At the Ballpark Apps. This past year, we added iBeacons to Miller Park -fans receive special offers just from “checking in” at Miller Park-and we look to expand our use of them in 2015. There is a lot of potential there.