The best of organizations are the ones that are proactive even on their brightest of days with storytelling and finding niche’s to get exposure. The communications heads don’t get caught up in the moment, they manage up and make sure that even the small outlets get the due they deserve. Sometimes packed press boxes don’t allow for enough seats, or media time for stars is constrained and political, but the best at what they do find the time and make the effort to tell the stories and make everyone feel as welcome as possible. It is not easy, especially when times are good, to balance the requests or take the time, most importantly, to listen to those who some may consider “second tier” and figure out how their outlets can jibe with the opportunities that exist, especially when balancing the multi-faceted demands of stars. However one thing is clear, the way you proactively seek coverage for select events, create coverage that is tied to the news of the day off the field (such as in the community or with brands) and best manage the time of all involved will pay huge dividends when the on-field results inevitably cycle down, and one is looking for getting a little something extra for players, coaches or events when media of any size could be off covering other news of the day.
One of the clubs that looks to be the most proactive in maximizing visibility of the team on the upswing is the Detroit Tigers. Despite their infield success, the national spotlight for a city that has been down on its luck has not come easily or consistently, so the Tigers front office has aggressively taken their messages to the media.
Case in point was this past weekend, when baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, Miguel Cabrera, shot a good luck message to California Chrome and was included along with multiple prominent celebrities as part of a video produced by NBC and aired prior to this past Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. While some may think those things “just happen,” it took a lot of timing and foresight by the team to pull it off, especially since MLB is not a partner of MLB. It exposed Cabrera and the Tigers brand to a completely different demographic.
Then you have star pitcher Justin Verlander continues to gain national notoriety with his relationship with Kate Upton. While again it may be a big assumption that all the off-field work comes naturally, carefully crafting the messages and the opportunities still has to involve an active Tigers staff, to make sure all opportunities are in lock step. Verlander was also put forth by the club and became the first player to participate in a new initiative by MLB and its rights holders and MLB productions whereas a player wears a wireless mic in the field, and provides a behind the scenes tour of his team’s clubhouse. The footage is used during national telecasts and on MLB.com and sets a great example of what stars can do to set the example for others.
While not in big movie towns like Toronto or New York or LA, there are opportunities to get Detroit some national exposure through big budget films, so the team welcomed RoboCop (modern day remake of movie, that was shot recently in Detroit) to throw a first pitch and shoot a video skit with Tigers stolen base leader Rajai Davis. The event exploded on social and got national play for the brand well away from traditional sports coverage. The team also aggressively recruited the Weather Channel (with extensive coverage, Reynolds Wolf live hits) to broadcast live from Comerica Park on Opening Day and to produce a behind the scenes feature with their head grounds keeper complete with radar tracking and how they installed a completely new field (outfield and infield) this past March after hosting Red Wings – Leafs alumni game and multiple minor league, college and high school ice hockey games as part of the Winter Classic Festival. None of it happened in a vacuum, and all brought a casual audience close to the Tigers, their ballpark and their personalities.
Do these opportunities come along if Detroit is in last place instead of first? Maybe. However leveraging the team, its place in the community and its stature atop the standings right now in a way that is more than baseball is key not just for the short-term but for the long-term strength of the club and its brand. While many opportunities may come to marquee clubs, being able to look outside the stadium and find opportunities and bring them into the club communications and marketing plans is really important for teams no matter what the size and success. The best at it rarely look at the results on the field, just the results in the stands, when building relationships and creating buzz, and The Tigers are great example of how to get it done.