For a sport desperate to replenish its customer base with younger and newer fans, the Dodgers-Giants NLDS Game 5 on Thursday night is an unprecedented marketing opportunity.
For baseball, this is a dream October. For the casual fan, the one attracted by marquee teams and historic rivalries and the drama of a knockout game, this is as good as it gets.
The first game of the 2021 postseason: a winner-take-all wild-card game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The latest game, coming Thursday: a winner-take-all finale to the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
“It’s what baseball wants,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
The Red Sox and Yankees played on a night with no other ballgames. The Dodgers and Giants will do the same.
For a sport desperate to replenish its customer base with younger and newer fans, this is a golden ticket, an unprecedented marketing opportunity.
“Really, pounding home the idea that this a must-watch game,” Arizona Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall said Wednesday, on the eve of the Dodgers-Giants game.
“I do believe that, if you can catch the attention of the younger fan, or the casual fan, to commit to one game, it will lead to more. It’s up to us to make sure they understand the significance of this game, the fact that they have never played in the postseason, and the huge history between these two teams that have the greatest rivalry in baseball.”
No sport binds generations like baseball, from Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, to Mookie Betts and Buster Posey and Clayton Kershaw. History should be a selling point, not a sacrifice at the altar of the TikTok generation.
“When you’ve got generational rivalries playing a meaningful series, and in this case, a very meaningful game,” Roberts said Wednesday, “it just brings the old, the new, the rivalries, and all that kind of talk back to life. …Those generational rivalries are kind of the foundation of this sport and what made it America’s pastime.
“So I think that, on both sides, there’s just tremendous men, tremendous ballplayers, and for us as an industry not to leverage these guys, it’s just a missed opportunity.”
Neither Major League Baseball nor TBS, which is broadcasting the Dodgers-Giants game, would say whether there would be any extraordinary promotional pizzazz in advance of the game, or during it. The league did cite its successes in reaching younger fans: 57 million views of videos from an 11-person “TikTok Creator Class;” an audience almost exclusively in the 13-34 age range for an “MLB Originals” series on YouTube; 500 million engagements this season among MLB accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“This historic Game 5 will allow us to build on this momentum by continuing to tell the story on various platforms,” MLB chief marketing officer Karin Timpone said in a statement, “though social media is particularly powerful in reaching new fans because of its shareability. We love the idea that fans are co-creating their experience, highlighting what makes October baseball so special. Together, we’re broadening our baseball community through a cadence of stories that invite everyone in.”
It is unfair, perhaps, to expect a marketing campaign for a Game 5 that the league did not know would happen until late Tuesday night. From the sports marketing community, however, there was no shortage of suggestions.
Andy Dolich, a Bay Area consultant and former marketing chief for the Oakland Athletics, said MLB could leverage its broadcast partnership with ESPN to access the movie, TV and cartoon assets of Disney for use in promotional spots. Disney is the parent company of ESPN.
In July, the “Field of Dreams” game attracted the highest television audience for a regular-season game since 1988. Before that game, the players emerged from a cornfield, and Dolich suggested a similar cinematic introduction in San Francisco, whether real or virtual.
“They could come out of the fog,” he said.
And, given the league’s embrace of gambling, Dolich proposed a free-to-play daily fantasy game just for this day, perhaps nicknamed for the colors of the teams.
“The Black and Blue Battle,” he said.
Jason Klein, partner at the San Diego-based Brandiose, the firm best known for designing creative and inventive minor league logos, suggested the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco dispense with the usual sporting bet and engage in arm wrestling, via live stream.
Klein also said he would have proposed a 24-hour flash sale of Dodgers and Giants merchandise on the league’s website, energizing the fan bases, with a portion of the proceeds donated to charity.
“The Golden State Showdown for St. Jude,” Klein said. “Everybody loves alliteration. If it rhymes or alliterates, you can sell that idea.”
What is good for the Dodgers and Giants is good for the entire league, the Diamondbacks included.
“We’re going to be telling the story of the Dodgers-Giants game too,” Hall said. “We’ve got them coming in next year, and we want to sell tickets.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.