Monday, April 1, 2013

MLB Fan Cave Hits Home Run

It's April 1- opening day for most Major League Baseball teams- no fooling! The 2013 season gets into full swing as 24 of 30 MLB teams play their first games today. Another place will be a hotbed of activity away from host ballparks- the MLB Fan Cave. Now in its third season, the MLB Fan Cave in New York is a testament to MLB's commitment to be on the forefront of digital marketing and media. The MLB Fan Cave is the season-long home for nine die-hard baseball fans (six men, three women) who will live, eat, and sleep MLB in 2013. The "cave dwellers" are also digital marketing agents for MLB, taking to social media to chronicle their experiences, share MLB happenings, and engage social media users.

MLB's Fan Cave is multiple things- a brand (as the logo suggests), a product that can be consumed digitally or in-person through visitor tours, and an experience for cave dwellers and the people they reach via social media. While the MLB Fan Cave is an innovative means of expanding the reach of the sport beyond traditional media channels, it does more than promote baseball. MLB Fan Cave positions baseball within a broader context of popular culture. This year, the Fan Cave will feature art exhibits and Fan Cave University, a lecture series in which speakers will discuss non-baseball topics.

Sports possess an affinity advantage over other types of products. The passion people have for teams and athletes coupled with inherent drama and story lines make sports interesting and compelling. Despite these distinguishing characteristics of sports, their appeal does not extend to everyone. MLB Fan Cave succeeds in reaching two distinct audiences: 1)high involvement baseball fans and 2) culturally hip social networks. The obvious audience reached is the die-hard MLB fan. After all, what serious MLB fan would not want to live in a "baseball cave" for six months? MLB Fan Cave effectively reaches another audience, social media users (predominantly younger consumers) who may not be accessible through MLB's other communication channels or through its broadcast partners.

The MLB Fan Cave is a great example of how brand extensions can be created to focus on new market segments. New products are the lifeblood of a business; they spur growth and customer interest. Sports marketers are fortunate to have interesting and liked core products. The challenge is how to leverage their core brand assets to create new products that have added value for customers and the firm. MLB Fan Cave can be looked to as a template for doing just that.

The Business of Sports - "What's New at the 2013 MLB Fan Cave"