Tuesday, April 16, 2019

MLB Teams Slug for Social Media Homers: Battle Beyond the Diamond to Generate Revenue & Engage Fans

In the wake of Major League Baseball’s earliest ever Opening Day, fans are seeing surprising results between the bases: The defending World Champion Boston Red Sox are swooning, the Houston Astros soaring, and the usually meek AL West is feeding on the usually strong AL East. 

Graphic courtesy M
Meanwhile, on the digital diamond, where social media and brand building competition happen throughout the year, baseball’s historically most popular teams have almost insurmountable leads.

Befitting their status as MLB’s winningest team, the New York Yankees set the social media standard, ahead of the Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays and Red Sox.

But success on the field doesn’t necessarily equal social media success, as revealed in Cision’s ”Major League Insights Into Baseball’s Social Media Fans” (free with registration). 

The report goes around the horn, surveying the social media presence of seven MLB teams—the Sox, Yankees, Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and both Chicago teams (Cubs and White Sox). For those keeping score at home, a larger social media following delivers more brand visibility, more fan interaction and more potential monetization opportunities.

As Pat Conroy famously said, “Baseball fans love numbers. They love to swirl them around in their mouths like Bordeaux wine.” For a sport that has long worshipped numbers, pro baseball’s social media analytics are remarkable… and relate directly to annual team revenue (at least in terms of Twitter followers).

Prolific home run hitters on the field (they could break their 2018 record of 267 home runs hit by a team), the Yankees lead the league in team revenue and Twitter followership in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the UK, far outpacing those of the studies’ six other teams.

New York Yankees (@Yankees)
$619 Million (#1)
Chicago Cubs (@Cubs)
$457 Million (#3)
Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays)
$274 Million (#13)
Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers)*
$522 Million (#2)
Boston Red Sox (@RedSox)
$453 Million (#5)
San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants)
$445 Million (#4)
St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals)
$319 Million (#9T)
Chicago White Sox (@WhiteSox)
$266 Million (#14T)

* Not in Cision study (see all 2018 team valuations and revenue here).

While the standard business model in all professional sports is team owners charge premiums for on-field success and fans willingly (and at Fenway and Wrigley Parks, eagerly) pay, Cision’s report opens the bullpen for the likelihood that fans are increasingly paying a premium to help teams build their respective digital and social media branding and visibility.

Chicago Cubs
$58.57 (#1)
Boston Red Sox
$56.97 (#2)
New York Yankees
$47.62 (#3)
Los Angeles Dodgers*
$41.13 (#5)
San Francisco Giants
$38.30 (#7)
St. Louis Cardinals
$35.54 (#10)
Chicago White Sox
$26.73 (#21)
Toronto Blue Jays
$26.07 (#23)
*Not in Cision study (Statista.com)

Beyond baseball, the report underscores the importance of knowing who and where your fans/followers are and what they’re interested in beyond the ballpark. Consider this objective data your “closer”: With it, you can pursue partnerships and implement promotions that are more likely to appeal to your fans—regardless of your brand.
MLB teams are in a digital arms race to capture, energize and 
monetize their respective fan bases.

With some tweaking, what works for MLB can work for any business: Develop “personas” around your customers. Customize your communications to those personas. Communicate and engage consistently with your customers via your digital media—not just social media.

NOTE: If you’re still not convinced of social media’s value as a customer engagement tool—especially among the 18-24 demographic, read this Pew Charitable Trust report.