For all the talk about baseball needing to catch up with the times, the traditions of how the game is played remain hallowed ground, and one of those traditional points of execution is the sacrifice; literally giving your chance at glory up to move a runner along. Sometimes as we focus on the glory of the big hit or the big strikeout, those little nuances get lost.
During the World Series, sacrifice is not only something that is part of the game on their field. As Commissioner Bud Selig puts a ribbon on his time as commissioner, he has helped lead the charge to do something few sports entities would ever do in the scramble to get out every last dollar; he had baseball, on each of the first four game of the World Series; sacrifice airtime that could be sold, to highlight four key causes. Now this is not to say that every sport doesn’t do its part with community programs; the NFL’s work with breast cancer awareness is seen front and center every October, and the NBA just completed a huge cross-league community service project. However for MLB to give up signage and large tracts of airtime for a cause in each of the first four games of the World Series was certainly different and worthy of a best practice shout out.
It reinforces the message, from the top, that sport, in this case baseball, has a mantra that should be much more about community and positive messaging than about commercialism, at least for a short time.
The four causes that drew the massive outreach on FOX and in stadium were: veterans and military families, ALS awareness, Cancer prevention and research and Youth outreach initiatives. The causes certainly are not unusual to sport at all, and all four are routinely highlighted and supported throughout the season locally and nationally in MLB. However the sport went above and beyond in driving attention and celebration to each of these four carefully-selected initiatives with events away from the field and then throughout the night during Games one to four. Players, young people, coaches, celebrities and broadcasters all took part in the constant celebration and call to action. Signage behind home plate and in broadcast, which is usually part of high impact sponsorships, were dedicated to the initiatives, each of which used the night as a culmination of all the activity that took place during the season.
Now baseball has a great deal of advantages in pulling off such events over other sports. The natural breaks in the game, the lack of a clock, and the ample time announcers can discuss the initiatives all play in baseball’s favor to carefully execute a wide-ranging plan throughout the course of a game. Trying to pull off such a multi-faceted activation in other sports which have constant action, like soccer or hoops or hockey, or another one with a clock and a full focus just on the field, like football, would be very difficult to do.
However even with that advantage, baseball took the time to carefully identify, then plan out and execute these community and charitable plans game by game, which scored tons of goodwill and positive reinforcement around the action itself. Are there drawbacks? Sure. The cynical will say the first four games are traditionally the lowest rated, and the lack of being able to predict any series going beyond four limits such a multi-level execution to just the first four games, but in the end, the planning and the placement is a wonderful execution for baseball, and puts a very positive cap on all that these four causes have done for the year.
Say what you want about late times and lower ratings, but from an execution standpoint it’s hard to argue that the charity initiatives hit a homer with MLB on a massive scale.