Major League Baseball (MLB) is undergoing a shift in its content strategy as it gears up for the World Series, which is starting on October 27, with a notable focus on diversification and leveraging influencer partnerships.
In a bid to engage a wider and more diverse audience, the league is venturing into new content territories and collaborating with social media influencers to amplify its presence beyond traditional baseball fans, said MLB CMO Karin Timpone.
“Within MLB, its influencer program is called the Creator Class. This program is tailored to establish collaborative partnerships with various influencers [MLB will announce the influencers once the playoffs are over] who boast a significant audience and dedicated following,” she said. “It’s designed to empower these influencers to share their unique stories and fandom experiences with their existing fan base.”
MLB collaborated with influencers for various opening day events held in different cities and plans to bring this strategy to the World Series. This involves partnering with influencers familiar with the specific location of where a game is taking place and leveraging their reach and networks within the region. MLB will tap 12 influencers from different industries ranging from fashion, technology, gaming and travel, who also happend to be MLB fans, for World Series activations. It will also serve as a test for a broader series that will be rolled out across the country for next year.
The World Series in the eyes of influencers
In the case of specific influencers, MLB will give them access to exclusive experiences. Some of these will include taking batting practice and seeing how a field is prepped before games. This will allows them to create content about the overall World Series atmosphere and franchise for fan communities.
“We host them and have them sit with us and talk about emerging storylines,” Timpone said. “What we really want to do is honor their creative take on it because they’re part of the connections of their fan base and that’s a really important thing for the MLB.”
According to Timpone, MLB is aims to convey a sense of brand identity that encompasses the predictable elements of the regular season, which spans 162 games, as well as the unpredictable aspects of the post-season, especially the World Series. Unpredictability relates both to which teams will reach the World Series and to where the championship will be held, cultivating an element of surprise and anticipation among the influencers to plan their content strategy.
“We want to partner with them creatively and hear what their story is so it’s not just like, ‘Let’s go do this to do it,’” said Timpone. “It’s more of where’s the fit and what’s the story that will be the right one to add to the mix.”
Apart from refining its influencer strategy, MLB is also putting a strong emphasis on sharpening its content strategy for the World Series. With a focus on engaging Gen Z and younger audiences, MLB aims to transform traditional highlights into captivating pieces that resonate with the TikTok audience.
Developing content for its TikTok
While MLB will continue its presence on platforms like X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and YouTube, TikTok will be a central focus for delivering short-form, engaging content for the World Series. MLB’s Gregg Klayman, svp of product and content strategy, emphasized the significance of tailoring content for social platforms like TikTok while considering the shorter attention spans of Gen Z.
“The most crucial aspect, I’d emphasize, is our commitment to bringing fans closer to the game. It extends beyond crafting conventional game stories or merely curating game highlights,” he said. “The primary goal is to enhance the impact of those moments, making viewers feel like they’re right there in the midst of the action.”
Klayman highlighted the importance of avoiding lengthy content pieces that are originally designed for TV or YouTube, as TikTok demands more concise content to effectively capture and retain the younger fan attention.
Klayman pointed to a recent instance where MLB showcased Phillies’ Bryce Harper hitting home runs in game three against the Atlanta Braves at the NDLS. In this case, the MLB employed various angles that went beyond what the traditional broadcast offered, creating a more immersive experience for fans.
“The TV angles are obviously great, but we always try to focus on all the angles around the game, not just what the final score was or the result,” he said, adding that traditional game recaps are not what its TikTok audience is looking for.
This strategy for the World Series will also ket on enhancing the fan experience with a humorous tone, incorporating graphics and featuring interactions with team mascots. It will also capture real-time fan reactions, providing viewers with moments not typically seen in traditional broadcasts.
Additionally, MLB is actively pursuing organic human interest content that sheds light on MLB players’ lives beyond the baseball diamond. Klayman pointed to the example of New York Mets’ Francisco Lindor, who brought his daughter to a press conference following a game last year. And they showcased the passion of LA Dodgers’ Mookie Betts for bowling.
“We want people to get a feel for who these players are,” Klayman said. “They’re not just guys putting up stats and numbers and all that; [they’re] humans. That storytelling is really key for us going into next year and understanding how to make content that resonates on every social platform and then potentially with our broadcast and partners as well.”
It is unclear how much of MLB’s advertising budget is allocated to these efforts as Timpone declined to share budget specifics. According to Vivvix, with paid social from Pathmatics, the MLB has spent a little over $6 million on advertising so far in 2023, which includes paid social media, radio ads, linear and connected TV and digital OOH.
As one of the most iconic sports leagues in the United States, MLB recognizes that it must adapt to the changing preferences and attention spans of younger generations, particularly Gen Z, according to Allen Adamson, co-founder and managing partner of the marketing collective, Metaforce.
“MLB can’t control if the World Series games will be exciting or boring, but they can try to enhance the stories around the players and teams, especially on social media so their plan is worth trying,” said Adamson.