Tuesday, July 17, 2018

An Exhibition Game

It seems to me that Super Bowl commercials aren’t the “thing” they used to be. I might be paying as close attention, but I don’t
remember as many people scheduling their Sunday around the commercials, or talking about them the next day. I’m not sure this is by accident. Super Bowl commercials were the pinnacle of advertising because they brought the most viewers. More eyes on a really good commercial meant mor eyes liking and talking about what you had to say. So, companies brought out their best, most innovative ideas. But, the downside was that the more eyes on an ad, the more that was charged. After a while, though, it seemed that advertisers weren’t willing to fork over the big bucks. Especially with the advent of YouTube and social media, advertisers realized they didn’t need to pay the money to get people to look at their best ads. If the ads were good enough, they could simply post them online and people would actually come on their own to see them. So, why waste quality on something people were going to see either way? And why pay for eyeballs you could get for free on your own?

The NFL itself has always had a similar marketing strategy. The worst time for a television show is Sunday afternoon. If you were trying to get your show in front of people’s faces, that’s the last time of day you’d pick. But, the NFL didn’t care. Why try to pay the money for prime time TV? Take the Sunday afternoons. But, make the show good enough that people seek you out. Sure, they’ve added some prime time games. But, by that point it was the networks looking to fill their prime slots, not the other way around.

What does that have to do with anything?

Baseball has an opportunity. But they haven’t learned anything from those examples.

Tonight, Major League Baseball will hold its All-Star Game. It should very well be the pinnacle event of the summer. A mid-summer classic, perhaps. They have the sports landscape all to themselves. This is their chance to show the world what a quality product they have.

But they’ll blow it.

When people lament the marketability of MLB, they usually point to the star problem. Oh, sure, baseball has star players. They have personalities. The tricky part is marketing them in a regular game. Hard to really draw in viewers with a “Mike Trout vs Chris Sale” tagline for a game in June because Trout will only face Sale two or three times. Spaced out about an hour from each other. That’s not going to draw in viewers. If the NBA hypes Kyrie Irving vs. LeBron James, those two players will be on the court together at least 80% of the game. If you’re trying to draw in the more casual fans, that’s a much easier sell.

But, not tonight. Today, the game features line-ups full of stars to promote. Sure, Mookie Betts might only face Max Scherzer once, but there are plenty of other star pitchers for him to match up against. Same goes for Mike Trout. Or JD Martinez. They should each get three, maybe four at-bats against a quality pitcher. They should demonstrate the very best baseball has to offer.

But they won’t.

None of those three all-stars will get three at bats. They might get two. After that, baseball will replace them with lesser known and less talented stars facing lesser known and less talented pitchers. After an hour, even if it’s an all-star game, most fans won’t have heard of all the players in the game.

How does this make sense to anyone?

But, it won't stop there!

This would seem to be a really good chance to focus on how wonderful baseball can be. Last night, they had their fun. The home run derby tried not to be a snooze-fest by injecting some laughs and personality. They made a nothing into an event as a way to really enhance the players themselves. Tonight, with the amount of talent on the field, MLB can show you how incredibly a well played game can be. How it looks when you have the best facing the best.

They won't do that either.

They'll have players miked. They'll be talking to them between innings. They'll be talking to them in the middle of the inning. 


This isn't the Pro Bowl. Players can actually play the game the way it's supposed to be played. They can put everything they usually do into their performance. It doesn't need to be a circus.

But they'll make it one.

If MLB keeps telling people that the sideshow is more entertaining than the game itself, people are going to start believing them.

They need to cut it out.

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