Major League Baseball looks to rekindle interest with new rules, new ad campaign

Major League Baseball has been pushing back against the narrative that “baseball is boring” with a new set or rules for the 2023 season and a brand-new marketing campaign to attract both lapsed and new fans. Last year’s World Series was one of the least watched in the sports’ long history, drawing only about 12 million views on average per game – not an ideal way to close out the 2022 season. Interpret’s New Media Measure® data also shows that MLB followers dipped slightly during the course of the 2022 season, falling to just under 19% of US consumers.

Prior to Opening Day this season, MLB unveiled a set of new rules designed to make the average length of a baseball game considerably shorter while also hopefully injecting a bit more lively play; some of these rules include a pitch clock to reduce downtime, a ban of infield shifts, and larger bases to make it slightly easier for runners to steal. The impact has been noticeable already in the early part of the season, as the average time of a game has been reduced by about 30 minutes and the success rate of stolen base attempts is at an all-time high of 81%.

On the marketing front, MLB executives held fan rallies to spark interest in 10 different markets while launching a new campaign titled “Enjoy the Show,” which was deliberately designed to be flexible so clubs across regional markets could tap into it with their own ad spots for their clubs and star players. The idea is that the campaign generates real-time creative throughout the course of the 162-game season, capitalizing on key moments on the field with various clubs and players. Beyond the sport’s clubs, the goal of the “Enjoy the Show” campaign is to highlight one-of-a-kind ballpark experiences, mascots, music, and other baseball elements. One ad, for example, spotlights the various hot dogs for sale at the ballpark.

“When you think about what the last two years have been… The big opportunity for our season and our sport is that now [post-COVID] people want to be together more than ever,” MLB Exec VP & CMO Karin Timpone told Sports Business Journal.

Importantly, given that baseball has had an ageing fanbase for some time now, MLB is also looking to increase its digital efforts and incentivize its star players to build up their personal brands while engaging more with fans on social media. While one-quarter of Boomers regularly follow MLB, per Interpret data, younger generations have much less interest (17% of Millennials and 11% of Gen Z follow MLB).

The new rules and creative marketing seem to be helping, but we won’t know the real impact of these moves until the season and 2023 World Series are over.