MiLB'S HISPANIC MARKETING STRATEGY
Updated: Apr 16
This article was originally published on April 22nd, 2020.
This week would have been the 2020 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) season opener, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic all baseball has been delayed.
Therefore, instead of a brew and brat at the ballpark, Minor League fans were asked to celebrate virtually through the #MiLBAtHomeOpener campaign, due to the stay-at-home orders.
The At Home Opener became one of MiLB's most successful recent initiatives, from a number of notable efforts.
At Home Opener
MiLB Senior Dir of Communications Jeff Lantz (@Jeff_Lantz) said, "We will not play in front of no fans. It's a business model issue, really. If they send the players to us, we have to have fans. Otherwise, everything is in the red."
Therefore, the MiLB doesn't plan to play any games until fans are permitted back in ballparks, the league chose to celebrate opening day online.
As part of the initiative, MiLB created a daylong interactive set of online activities, to engage with fans on the league's website and social media channels. The nine virtual activities were broken down with an inning-by-inning timeline, representing the nine innings of a game:
1st Inning: #MiLBAtHomeOpener Ceremonies 10–11am EDT
2nd Inning: MiLB Kids Zone featuring Guardian Protection 11 am – Noon EDT
3rd Inning: MiLB: The Road to the Show featuring Nationwide Noon–1 pm EDT
4th Inning: MiLB Lunch Bites featuring Applegate and Stouffer’s 1–2 pm EDT
5th Inning: MiLB CommUNITY Celebration 2–3 pm EDT
6th Inning: MiLB is Fun! 3–4 pm EDT
7th Inning: MiLB Fan Apparel/Seventh-Inning Stretch featuring ECHO Inc 4–5 pm EDT
8th Inning: MiLB Happy Hour (Best of Series) featuring Nationwide and Uncle Ray's 5–6 pm EDT
9th Inning: 2019 MiLB Season Rewind/Post-Game Fireworks featuring Baseball America 6–9 pm EDT
“MiLB teams have always been there for their fans and communities, and today is no different,” said MiLB’s Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer David Wright. “The MiLB At Home Opener celebration will bring the fun of MiLB to millions of fans in their homes and create an experience like no other before it.”
The At Home Opener proved to be a success with the campaign becoming the number two trending topic on Twitter, reaching over 78 million fans. MiLB would see a 333% increase in engagement compared to the MiLB 2019 Season Opener, which included actual games.
The MiLB website would see a 182% increase in new unique users, helping the league reach a number of new fans.
Another marketing home run that the MiLB has seen in recent years is the Copa de la Diversión initiative, which translates to “The Fun Cup.”
Having initially started in 2018 with 33 teams, the initiative was set to expand to 92 teams during the 2020 season. The initiative is a season-long competition between the MiLB teams to engage and impact their local Hispanic and Latinx communities, through rebranding and hosting events.
During the initiative, teams rebrand and adopt a culturally-relevant moniker. Creating new uniforms, caps for the games, while also introducing innovative food, and entertainment options to engage with fans, that would go beyond the scope of a single “Hispanic Heritage” night.
The Albuquerque Isotopes would win the Copa de la Diversión on the first two occasions. The Triple-A Colorado Rockies affiliate who played their games as the Mariachis de Nuevo México, were selected by the MiLB's Latinx Advisory Committee, based on criteria such as attendance, marketing dollars invested, revenue gains and relevant community partnerships.
"Since no other sports property attempted what we planned for Copa de la Diversión, we did not have a baseline to judge success," MiLB vice president of marketing strategy and research Kurt Hunzeker (@khunzeker) said. "We [MiLB and participating teams] worked for three-plus years researching and developing the Copa platform, and we knew that if we built an authentic, culturally relevant campaign, our entire fan base -- not just Latinx fans -- would embrace it."
In 2019, the MiLB would see over 1.8 million fans attend the nearly 400 games involved in the Copa de la Diversión initiative. These games have also seen teams' average attendance increase by 20%, compared to other games throughout the season.
“We are driving revenue, we are reaching new fans and existing fans, but we’re very much looking at it from a long-term view as well, understanding the changing dynamics of the country,” said Cory Bernstine, MiLB director of marketing and business strategy. “We view it as an opportunity – even a responsibility – to be better in this space, to make it inclusive, to make it accessible and to make it fun.”
Outwith ticket sales, MiLB teams would also see a massive uptake in licensed products, with some teams seeing an increase of over 700%. Sales of New Era caps alone generated 300% of teams start of the season merchandise sales goals.
The Copa de la Diversión has been a truly great success story for Minor League Baseball, doing great work in the markets that partake in the initiative. According to MiLB, in 2019, teams have donated more than $400,000 in cash donations or gifts-in-kind to their local communities. The program is clearly a solid inclusion builder for the communities that host minor league clubs.