Today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball, which means that the season of freshly manicured lawns, peanut-shelled bleachers, and the occasional bench-clearing brawl is upon us. There's no other sport so rooted in American psychology as baseball, and no opening to a sports season like baseball's Opening Day. Spring is finally here (never mind he snow), and every team can still dream of being in the World Series. And every team is still undefeated. (Actually, the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks last week in Australia—but you get the point.)
For such an old game (some argue it dates back as far back as the 11th century), baseball has stuck with the times—most recently through social media.
This year, the MLB will expand its efforts to remain relevant and attract a younger audience by growing its "MLB Fan Cave Program." The Fan Cave—a downtown Manhattan studio where baseball fans, selected as part of the MLB's "Dreamjob" program, are tasked with watching every baseball game in the entire year—is a shrine to baseball and the center of the league's social media strategy.
In 2011, with revenue flatlining and viewership declining, the MLB started its Fan Cave program with two "cave dwellers" who were tasked with recording their season-long experiences through social media, blogs, and videos. Since then, the immersive program has been a massive success, generating more than 10.5 billion earned media impressions, worth some $195 million in paid advertising. The program has attracted the young, tech-savvy fans that the league was looking to reach, spurring both the NBA and NFL to expand their social media efforts as well. And it also won PR News' 2013 Digital PR Award for best Digital Marketing campaign.
This year, the league is growing its Fan Cave operation to include 8 cave dwellers, and it's partnering with MTV2 for a weekly program, "Off the Bat," that will focus on the nexus between baseball and pop culture through spotlighting the off-field interests of MLB stars.
With baseball fans used to seeing staggering salaries paid to their favorite players (the top 10 largest sports contracts ever belong to big leaguers), the Fan Cave gives the MLB an opportunity to humanize its stars and engage the community, all while creating content—a successful confluence that leaves marketers envious.